DRYAD "The Abyssal Plain"    

By Dr. Abner Mality

Here we have a black metal band obsessed with the deepest reaches of the ocean hailing from the coastal state of...Iowa??? I could hardly think of a more land-locked place, but then, the Good Doctor lives next door in Illinois and I, too, am fascinated by the strange lightless world of the pelagic abyss. It is a novel and rather appropriate subject for a black metal band.

DRYAD try extremely hard on "The Abyssal Plain" and there are certainly some worthy moments here, but the album just doesn't really click as a whole. For one thing, they've got a penchant for dungeon synth types interludes, a characteristic that seems to increase as the album goes on, and it is pretty unremarkable stuff. That genre needs to be at the absolute highest level to keep my interest and the tracks here aren't anywhere close to that. Elsewhere, I will give DRYAD credit for trying their hand at a varied sound that doesn't rest in any particular niche for long. First proper track "Bottom Feeder" is low-fi roaring death metal with super guttural male vocals that really do sound like something from the depths. But the track itself is not particularly memorable despite it's barbarity. "Brine Pool Aberration" is much more "black metal" sounding and the riffing is more discrete. This time the lead vocals are horrendous high and harsh rasping, courtesy of female Claire Nunez. Sometimes the low gutturals and harsh screams combine.

The band takes divergent approaches to their music. "Pompeii Worm" and the title track are the album stand-outs, with strong, almost majestic riffs that register more fully. That's the direction that DRYAD should favor in the future. But after the fast and furious "Black Smoke", the last three tracks plod aimlessly, combining synth soundscapes with anemic metallic moments. At the end of the day, I can't describe "The Abyssal Plain" as a great album, but nestled within is the seed of something that could be really interesting in the future.