Delvoid‘s Serene is the first of the leftovers for me – the albums released in 2015 that I just completely missed for my album of the year lists. Admittedly, the band did leave it a bit late by releasing this in November, but had this reached my ears before January, I am certain this would have easily graced my top 15 albums of the year. The sound on this album is almost a perfect merger between a band like Karnivool, most notably in the Tool-worshipping days of Sound Awake, and post-metal group Isis. There’s the melodic alternative rock song centre in a lot of the shorter pieces that calls to mind the grunge and alt-metal influence Karnivool have always had, and there’s even some Keenan-esque vocal parts to add on. But on the other side of the record there are massive monoliths of crescendocore post-rock builds and pummelling riffs. There isn’t quite the ruthless heaviness that Isis were famous for, but the way that Delvoid utilise standard post-rock builds with some heavier riffs is reminiscent of the softer moments on an album like Panopticon.
The combination of these styles is one that works surprisingly well, and although there are a few hiccups in their execution it has given Delvoid a very easily distinguishable style in only second album, something that few bands are able to achieve. The more accessible songs that bring out the standard atmospheric croons over tight grooves and have hooks and melodies that can pull anyone in, but the band expand these out into massive instrumental sections for the more progressively inclined. A song like “Dissembler” is a perfect example of the accessible side of this album – combining great melodies, gorgeous atmospheres and smooth production to good effect. These moments actually remind me most of another Australian band, Quiet Child, to the point where I’m still surprised Delvoid themselves aren’t Australian but in fact Norwegian. While “Dissembler” is a softer song, “Carrier” exerts the riffier and heavier side of their accessible material, breaking into some fantastic riffs and grooves reminiscent of Sound Awake-era Karnivool’s big hits like “Set Fire to the Hive”.
The title track is probably the best of the more progressive songs, despite being almost impenetrably long, because it manages to pair up the alt-rock tendencies of the shorter tracks with the crescendocore post-rock of a song like “Cocoon”. The builds are excellently placed and although it does mull around in certain segments for a touch long, it perfectly encapsulates all the styles and moods of the album into a single piece. To compare to Karnivool again, it reminds me of a song like “Deadman”, combined with the long-form builds of a group like We Lost the Sea or Godspeed You Black Emperor. Epic in its composition but never feeling like a bunch of material flung together, because the tension in the mood glues every segment brilliantly to the next, ending in an absolutely explosive crescendo.
There are a few drawbacks on Serene, but fortunately they are the sort of things that I expect the band will be able to iron out in future albums. I talked about how this sounds like a pure merger of Karnivool/Tool and Isis, but there are plenty of times in which it sounds like far more than just that. For much of the record it feels like I actually am listening to Panopticon, and the vocal melodies are a little bit too close to Keenan for comfort at times. And it’s not just those bands either – parts of this remind me directly of Oceansize (whenever the vocalist isn’t channeling Keenan or Kenny he’s channeling Vennart) or Quiet Child or Aoria or even Porcupine Tree. Even the parts that are totally out of that sphere of influence like the ethnic and droning “Tribe” feels like something Tool would do.
The band evidently have their influences cut out, and sounding like three different bands at once is obviously better than sounding like a direct clone of one, but for the majority of the time this does sound like snippets of clone music from a variety of different bands sewn together. Good snippets, mind you, but it does bring it down. The other problem with this is the length, which is a touch overwhelming, particularly when a lot of it is down to several ginormous crescendos. I enjoy them, don’t get me wrong, but there are three ten-minute plus songs here, and none of them really achieve anything that the others don’t. They’re all good in themselves, but put them back to back and they’re a bit draining.
But as I said, those problems are the sort of thing that I could see Delvoid moving past even by their next record, as they find their feet compositionally and stylistically, and for that reason this is a very exciting album. It showcases an undeniable passion and compositional skill, if the band can find a way to stop themselves from sounding like their influences and maybe cut back on the length a bit, they could become legendary. Warmly recommended for fans of any of the artists I’ve mentioned before, as well as those who love huge, dark atmospheres and long builds. The atmosphere across this record is one that we’ve heard before on many other albums, but the inclusion of the post-metal sections gives it an extra punch and some extra uniqueness, and the execution is nearly flawless. A very good album in itself but what it promises for the future of this band should they continue their development is incredibly exciting.