Dryland – Dances With Waves EP (2020)
By Nicholas Anderson
There’s a moment about thirty seconds into the first track, “No Celestial Hope,” on Dryland’s new EP Dances With Waves, where vocalist Bradley Lockhart howls the song’s title. If it’s not a concise thesis statement for the work that follows, as well as a succinctly accurate representation of our current predicament, I don’t know what is. The song begins with an almost stately march, metronomic as lemmings, before erupting into a swirling cacophony of guitars and drums that would seem wildly unhinged if it weren’t for the bass anchoring the low-end with all the subtlety of an undertow. This is not music for saviors, heroes, or messiahs come shining from the heavens. This is music for tree roots coldly embracing a rib cage; for coral growing hard and sharp in dark water, offering comfort only to eels.
Bellingham has always excelled at music like this. The city possesses a fecundity for producing punk and metal groups with a particularly naturalistic bent, and Dryland is no exception. Boasting a collective resume that features such local legends like Black Eyes & Neckties and Leatherhorn, they’ve been steadily playing together since 2014, released their first LP in 2017 and stand ready to follow it up with this new EP, dropping it amongst the current social climate like a fresh kill from a hard hunt.
The four songs on Dances With Waves are absolute beasts. Shaggy but fully formed, they tread in subconscious darkness before exploding into forthright violence. “No Celestial Hope” sets the tone right away, providing an effective framework of what’s to come. A heavy but restrained guitar riff kicks it off, with the rest of the instruments following suit, allowing for Lockhart’s vocals to grow increasingly more unhinged until the song devolves into a sonic avalanche. “Exalted Mystics” creeps in next, it’s slithering bass and dirge-like lyrics doing a Joy Division-by-way-of metal strut before the guitars throw in some early ‘00’s Southeast hardcore builds ala pg.99 and Circle Takes the Square. Following closely is the sheer classical metal of “The Sound a Sword Adores,” all sinewy muscle and galvanizing lyrics. Closing out the record is “Between the Testaments,” a pounding demonstration of the bands breadth and scope, running a gauntlet of influences like the Birthday Party, Sunn O))), and Motorhead.
It would be easy to dismiss this release as rote nihilism, especially in light of the current pandemic, but that would be missing out on the fierce meaning that lies beneath the music and lyrics. Dryland is not here to remind anyone of what makes life easy, but rather as a stark embodiment of what gives it meaning. There is no sun-dappled surface of the ocean without the roiling currents below.. Embrace the power below the waves. Grow, and dance with it.