...

Imagine a plane of existence beyond mortal worries, where all is sublime and the sun (or its astral equivalent) shines forever -- sounds nice, but does it make for good song material? Fundamentally, Dool's new album Summerland is focused on the philosophical concept it takes its name from: the Summerland, akin to Nirvana, originating from paganism and later incorporated into other religions like Theosophy. It doesn't so much focus on the spiritual fulfillment aspect as it does on the harsh divide between that and our current reality -- it's more about the journey, as tortuous as it is, than the destination, and that has yielded an impressive dearth of powerful music.

Summerland explores struggle, desire, and sorrow both brief-lived and eternal through brooding rock that surges right up to the boundaries of the joyous domain from which it draws its name. It can't take you there, but it's a pretty good soundtrack for the search.

...

...

Based in the Netherlands, Dool plays "dark rock," a mix of classic hard rock and heavy metal that inspires thoughts of the glum, luxurious, chambers of gothic rock. As much as the bright flourishes of the guitar and weighty atmosphere resemble late-era Tiamat or The 69 Eyes, Summerland incorporates much more than that -- Ryanne van Dorst's delivery (and clever use of backing vocals) can't be pinned to any one genre, and the atmosphere isn't quite as self-indulgent as more diehard gothic acts employ. It's still a dark, emotional proceeding, but with the various stylings wielded as tools to achieve their goals. Lyrically, Dool deals in symbolism and hidden meaning, seemingly encoding messages into verses that please the ear but leave some questions behind -- they're a puzzle to pry at with your brain while you listen.

Each song on Summerland focuses on nuanced melodies that interweave with vocals to develop a groove with an ambiance of mystery, often tinged by Middle Eastern flair that thickens the haze. It evokes an unusual yearning -- an ode to shadowy, far-off lands promising danger -- that further detaches the album from the mundane. The odd-timed "God Particle" stokes this desire, starting with a quiet, tambourine-driven introduction before adding in smoky guitars and bass that reinforces the lilting rhythm. That cadence never seems to fully resolve, apart from a solo passage or two, adding to the feeling of futile pursuit that plays against the sparkling, foreign wonder of the sounds that construct it.

There's no dominant tonality or primary instrument within the dreamlike sounds -- although leads abundant drive songs like "Wolf Moon" for lengthy stretches, sometimes they recede to let the rhythm section's grit pierce the mists and grant the vocals additional headroom to shine. On opener "Sulphur & Starlight," where the chorus finds the guitars clean and unassuming (and the bassline as robust as can be), this works all the better to have the catchy refrain drive deep into the listener's psyche. Burly riffs are still in attendance, kicking off "Be Your Sins" and elsewhere with strings and backup vocals applied ever so gently in support, but it's not the only tactic employed.

Set for a 2LP release, this is a long listen, but structured and paced to account for it -- the thoughtful title track might be one of the slowest on the record, and it's neatly placed in the middle before a passage of faster tracks clears the way to the dynamic closer, "Dust & Shadow." Had Summerland been created with less variety, it might drag, but every track holds a fresh interpretation of the band's talents. Even the closing song has new sounds to show off, symphonic textures that bring out the most interesting parts of the vocals with barely any guitar needed to make it work.

While happiness, eternally speaking, isn't a particularly interesting topic for me, the trials of finding a mystical, pagan afterlife to achieve it have proven themselves a strong pigment when applied by the capable hands of Dool. Pushing their exceptional blend of influences and approaches even farther with their sophomore album, the band has captured a turbulent journey towards an ultimate, unknown infinity with surprising insight and enthralling depth.

...

Summerland released today via Prophecy Productions.

...

Support Invisible Oranges on Patreon and check out our merch.

...