4 out of 5
Label: Good Life Recordings
Produced by: Chris Common
A fascinating blend of death-metal, post-hardcore, melodic hardcore, and… I dunno, probably some other sub-sub-genres, Dead Blue Sky’s single full album still sounds fresh when listening to it stacked next to a bevy of mindblowing heavy bands that are out and about nowadays, making the 2001 release date of the disc quite shocking. Part of the disc’s enduring appeal is also part of what holds it back, though: that it never quite feels settled on what the intention of the band was; so the sound remains this unidentifiable blend of all of the above, which is exciting… while the effect is also moderately dampening, like we‘re always a half-step away from some wholly realized moment when emotions will break through.
All of which kind of matches the group’s name and the album title, both of which are suggestive of dimmed hope, and depression, qualities which are likely in the lyrics as well, but which can only be picked out from the cleanly sung moments, and those aren’t quite pointed enough to stand out. The application of those moments against the black metal growls and switchups between acoustic plucking and grindcore / hardcore guitars is perfection, though, as-is Chris Common’s recording and mix, which juggles the reverb sound of death- / black-metal stuff with a crisper style that highlights the sharp percussion and math-y guitar chops. Again, though, it’s not one or the other for very long: it keeps changing, adding to that plus / minus nature of the disc, though I’ll keep repeating that the overall originality of the combinations far exceeds the downside of this.
Dead Blue Sky, though formed from members who’d been around in the hardcore scene, benefits from the kind of try-anything approach of a young band, allowing Symptoms of an Unwanted Emotion to still sound raw, and vital, even after a couple decades on. Perhaps that same youth also prevented the group from taking a final step towards sharpening their sound into something slightly more defined, which could’ve made for a killer followup album.