This year as it stands has certainly offered more than most were expecting, constant turmoil and an almost never ending sense of dread. But through all the despair and need for reprieve has come music that captures the time and feeling of the moment. One of the latest supplements to that need comes in the form of Nothing’s The Great Dismal. The follow up to 2018’s Dance On The Blacktop sees the band take on themes of isolation, existentialism and extinction. With the result being perhaps Nothing’s most expansive and yet simultaneously closely worked album to date.
The sound of this album closely follows the themes buried in the lyrics, with this being one of Nothing’s most sonically diverse albums yet. The heavy hitting cathartic sounds are spliced all over this album. “Say Less” takes their heavy and explosive sounds to new boundaries. The huge overdriven guitars drop in over every chorus, punching you from either side. All whilst the wailing guitar leads seer and slide over the dreamy and huge sonic soundscape; almost siren like as if to signal the “Noisy world” that lead singer Dominic Palermo is singing about. The huge walls of sound continue through on “April Ha Ha” and explode furiously on “Famine Asylum” as the mammoth like guitars roar with a powerful intent. These huge walls of sound that are created perfectly capture that feeling of isolation and overbearing that many of us have been feeling this year, as we watch the world burn and tear itself apart from home we can feel these huge bursts of worry take over us.
There’s also a certain subtlety to Nothing’s sound on this album as well. Opener “A Fabricated Life” is 6 minutes of pure shoegaze downplayed bliss. Reminiscing in that slow burning, spacious sound that can be found all over Slowdive’s Pygmalion. The steady addition of ambient synthesisers and harp plucks, coming from Mary Lattimore who recently released her shoegaze induced album Silver Ladders, swirl and culminate to luscious harmonies that almost give a false sense of hope to an album based around the feeling of lost hope; once again much like the way this year has played out. This fine-drawn sound returns in parts and places throughout the rest of the album, acting more as leading passages or turning points. The lead in from “In Blueberry Memories” to “Blue Mecca” has that similar sounding bending ethereal landscape that was found on bdrmm’s “The Silence” from their debut album bedroom. But as with a lot of things Nothing do they take it to the next level, the blistering guitars and driving drums create a huge sense of despair as Palermo describes the nightmarish scene of being eaten by a “Leviathan”.
These disturbing images populate the lyrics throughout The Great Dismal. “Send the bombs, We’ve had enough of us, Face the facts, Existence hurts existence” declares Palermo on “Famine Asylum”. Declaring that the human race is doomed to continually endanger itself almost in a cyclical fashion. Sometimes these images can be hidden through vague lyricism but when unpicked paint a bleak, rather dismal picture of the human condition. “Sleep, Awake, Infinite, Mistake, Dreams, In orange, Tormenting, Farewells”. A short summary of the derelict motion of life that can often at times feel as if its just moving to never reach anywhere. Over the chugging riffs, melancholic arpeggios and marching drums the sound of “Ask The Rust” feels bittersweet. There are moments that feel uplifting and motivating, just to be interrupted by huge explosions of distortion and menacing guitar lines. Just when you thought all was going well, the horror still finds its way in.
There might not be a better representation of the bleakness that many of us have felt this year than The Great Dismal. Nothing have taken their already dystopian sound and expanded and refined it to soundtrack the current dystopia that we are all living in. Through the use of huge soundscapes and deceptively upbeat riffs that crash into some of the harshest sounds Nothing have ever created they have, more intricately than would first seem, captured the emotion of a dire time in human existence.