Time by Dystopian Future MoviesRelease date: June 2, 2017
Label: Oak Island Records / Cargo Records Germany / Cargo Records UK
The debut full-length album by Dystopian Future Movies, Time, starts with the unsettling ‘Wasteland’, a spare piece that sets the tone for the whole album – despair, sorrow, loss, perhaps, most definitely defiance – laid out with just Caroline Cawley’s exquisite vocal and a haunting lone picked guitar melody. It nails the power of this album succinctly and superbly: Caroline’s voice. As the music gets heavier throughout the album her captivating sound is the constant – clear, wavering, beautiful.
Dystopian Future Movies describe themselves as ‘post-rock, post-metal, experimental band’ with a sound somewhere ‘between Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe’. Personally, I’m not sure about the Neurosis reference, and I don’t get any post-metal either. It’s heavy at times in a rumbly, distorted guitar sort of way, but not metal, and reading the Neurosis link I expected a darn sight more edge. Comparisons with Chelsea Wolfe are favourable – think Pain of Beauty era rather than her later material – drawing on the power of a lone female vocal to lift and transform dark music to create beauty.
But pigeon-holing is unfair, and dismissal just because of a poor comparison short-sighted: such diversions detract from the music itself, and the creation of atmosphere. Following taster ‘Wasteland’ the template for the rest of the album is set with ‘Dulled Gilt’, introducing heavy distorted guitar to underpin a swirling rise in successive loud-quiet-loud passages deliciously topped with Caroline’s vocals. The tone of ‘Pieces’, the video for which was previewed exclusively elsewhere on this very site, is unnerving, making the listener feel slightly off kilter. It picks up, building to a shimmering conclusion in which the vocal is brought to the fore (it’s a little low in the mix elsewhere).
‘Inertia’, with an intro reminiscent of Nirvana, continues to add to the mood. At first the album takes its time. The pace is leisurely. The atmosphere is almost dreamy, the melody allowed to take hold, not be rushed. The sound is deceptively simple: a perfectly pitched riff repeated, allowing itself to embed in your brain, until the crash and draw of the loud-quiet dynamic builds to a crescendo. All the time the soaring vocal adds depth and feeling. The end of ‘Inertia’ is much heavier and ‘Dissonant Aggressors’ takes a similar form but shows more teeth: the song’s second half builds into a gorgeous heavy drone, the riffs surging up, rolling back, reminding me of The God Machine’s Scenes from the Second Storey in full flow. There is still a firm undercurrent of restraint, however: this ain’t no metal album.
Final tracks ‘Fortunate Ones’ and ‘Fugitive Mind’ take their lead from the previous heavier tracks: the urgency is increased while retaining the signature guitar sound of repeated melody, layering and letting the tune get its hooks in you.
The power of the singing holds this album together and combines with the understated guitar tone to create a very cohesive whole. I look forward to seeing how the band use their debut to springboard to the next level: there’s a restrained heaviness lurking in this album that could be unleashed more fully to great effect.