Permit this review to open with complete frankness: ‘Be Your Sins’, track eight of nine on ‘Summerland’, sounds exactly like Ghost. Every bit of it. The staccato riffs, keep-it-simple-stupid drumming, ethereal tone, shrill vocals and yes, a keyboard solo – all of this sounds like a prime beefy cut from the ‘Meliora’ sessions, carelessly dropped by one band and picked up by another years down the line.
Only the “Satanic” sheen is missing, and how much that matters to you, dear reader, is down to your own aesthetic, your personal taste for a little goofiness and camp. Because make no mistake, ‘Be Your Sins’ is a darkly fantastic rock song in its own right, easily the best track on the album and the reason to finally discover Dool if you’ve not already done so. You see, this album doesn’t actually sound like Ghost. That sound and subgenre are not new creations; Dool, alongside the likes of Ghost, Then Comes Silence and Tribulation are all drawing from an old and plentiful well. Most rock and metal music since 1970 has grown out, evolved, layered upon itself as new technologies develop and one element grows from inspiration into a whole genre, as with doom metal and its slow transformation into music concerned almost entirely with sonically crushing the listener. These bands, on the other hand, are having far more fun with the expansive possibilities of ‘classic’ heavy metal; they cut away the layers and polish offered by the digital age, and go full bore for atmosphere.
‘Summerland’ is evidence of the pleasures and drawbacks alike of this approach. There is a great deal going on here – the opening track ‘Sulphur & Starlight’ is a seven-minute-long litmus test for how you might take the album as a whole. Full to bursting with ideas, riffs, and sometimes clashing psychedelic tones, it’s both a slow burner and a headbanger. If you can groove to this – to the schizophrenic weirdness of it all – then you can probably keep going, into the even weirder territory through which the album steadily wanders. ‘Be Your Sins’ might be a straightforwardly excellent rock track, but there is variety besides; ‘Summerland’ and ‘Wolf Moon’ are two doom-tinged anthems with a soaring lead vocal line each between them, and ‘God Particle’ is a trove of prog-driven strangeness and, texturally speaking, one of the lightest things you’ll ever hear covered by this webzine.
Some of this just doesn’t work. Music this broad (and sometimes lightweight) in tone often needs a hook to help it fully strike home, and Dool, from their peculiar name to their grab-bag style, have no such hook. They aren’t as solid with songwriting as Tribulation, and nothing in their lyrics, attitude or look comes close to the sheer confidence of Ghost. There is so much being attempted that no real mood is settled on, and ‘Summerland’ never manages to truly unsettle or uplift, even if it is plainly trying to amongst all the experimentation. But the good tracks are too imaginative to ignore, and this wave of strange new dark rock bands can add another act to their growing. A little stronger sense of identity, and Dool will be absolutely essential listening.
'Summerland’ is out now on Prophecy Productions