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It’s somewhat ironic that Night Verses‘ newest LP, the incredible ‘From The Gallery Of Sleep‘, begins with a vocal sample of “we don’t know who we are, we don’t know where we are“. As this American post-rock/prog-metal act have never sounded this confident, this expansive, nor this goddamned impressive as a collective until now. Any kind of anxiety I may have had about this three-piece’s full transition into the instrumental realm have been completely dashed. As this record is the perfect bridge between 2016’s ‘Into The Vanishing Light‘, and earlier , right into the new present of this band’s existence.
In a very similar fashion to what Tides Of Man experienced and underwent eight years ago, Night Verses parting ways with longtime frontman Douglas Robinson in late 2017 was actually a blessing in disguise. For the group’s song-writing and musical output has developed tenfold since his departure – no disrespect at all to the guy. Of course, with such a drastic line-up change has come with it a crucial period in this band’s career; a weight upon their shoulders to deliver. As now there was something to be proved to not just themselves, but also to their fans and critics alike. Unsurprisingly, given their sheer talent and musical proficiency, Night Verses have without a doubt proved they can stand tall and strong as a solely instrumental act on their stunning third LP.
‘From The Gallery Of Sleep‘ is as spiritual a listen as it is a cerebral one. It’s a push and pull between the band’s previous and current identity; getting to the core of who they are as musicians in reality versus the illusion or perception of what they or another party think the band could be. After all, it’s no accident that the cover of ‘From The Gallery Of Sleep‘ sees three individuals with warped and distorted faces; posing the question of who and what Night Verses is musically. Yet the answer isn’t just one thing it seems, and this isn’t some miss-guided, identity crisis record either. No sir, it’s a powerhouse release of alternative and progressive metal with brilliant post-rock flourishes, electronic subtleties, and engaging experimental moments found throughout; backed up by three fuckin’ incredible performers giving it their all.
Guitarist Nick DePirro unloads some amazing guitar melodies and arpeggios across this record; with plenty of lavish chord voicings, intricate tapping sections, balls-out heavy riffs, sick tones, well-used pedal affects, and a wicked picking technique to boot. Whether he’s experimenting with different tones or genres, and whether he’s playing electric or acoustic guitar, his widescreen sonic vision is a huge part about why this album works so well. (He also never goes into full djent territory, so if that’s not your thing, you’re in luck). Next to Nick, bassist Reilly Herrera is the real running legs of this operation, creating a strong under-current for the rest of the band to launch off from into some utterly dazzling soundscapes. His solid bass tone and driving, weighty low-end will mostly be over-looked by many, given the more attention-grabbing performances of his two band mates. But please make no mistake, he’s down right integral to the complex yet dance-able and all-round astonishing sound that Night Verses are cultivating currently.
Of course, let’s not kid ourselves though, the real star of this album’s show is the band’s awe-inspiring drummer, Aric Improta. This guy isn’t just a crazy talented and innovative drummer, but he’s an incredibly musical one too. As a drummer myself, I do often loathe the idea that drummer’s can never be “musical” due to our main rhythmic and time-keeping roles, but Aric captures that essence incredibly well then and succeeds with it too. More so than most other drummers in heavy music of late. The drums really are an extension of his body and mind. And it’s safe to say that ‘From The Gallery Of Sleep‘ would not be half as good without his playing behind the kit.
His well-placed rim clicks give added character to these songs, and his tectonic fills are as surgical as they are bombastic. His truly awesome dynamic control is rivaled only by how damned hard he slams his skins during the heavier, metal-focused sections here. And the dude’s flowing double-kick patterns are what drum cover videos were made for. More specifically, Aric’s bongo playing at the start of ‘Vantablonde‘ is a nice change-up, and his thundering polyrhythmic drumming there afterwards is stunning. His multi-limbed sounding solo section come the end of ‘Trading Shadows‘ is jaw-dropping stuff. Sometimes, he opts for more straight-forward metal/rock drumming to better service a certain movement that feels like the Night Verses of old sans vocals. In these cases, he knows just when to play for the song rather than against it, as proven by the end of ‘Phoenix IV: Levitation‘, or his softer yet nonetheless interesting performances on ‘Lira‘ or ‘Balboa‘. And I just love how he keeps the wires of his snare drum off during the sluggish, ever-building tom fills in ‘No Moon‘ to suitably add to darker tone of that particular piece.
What I’m saying is that Night Verses sound the way they do because of Nick, Reilly and Aric. It wouldn’t be the same if just one of them wasn’t present. Given Will Putney also worked on this record too, his crisp and clean production here is a testament to why he’s become one of heavy music’s top producers and engineers. Putney also seems to fully understand what Night Verses are going for sonically, bringing out the inner-beauty of their sound even more so in the process. It’s a match made in heaven, for sure.
Loud, quiet, heavy or soft, this LP has such an engrossing and consistent atmosphere. A big part of that comes from the fact Night Verses created all of these sounds live; triggering any samples or electronics right there in the moment. Which makes for one hell of an authentic listen too.
Another aspect about it’s gripping atmosphere comes from the other sounds the trio hand-picked to decorate the album with. As while Night Verses don’t have a vocalist, you still hear “voices”. These voices are samples, of which are heavily applied to these 13 compositions. This is something Aric’s experimented with in his solo work, using samples to reinforce the mood of a certain section or to add another dynamic layer over his percussion. And it’s a major element here. This application of samples actually reminds me of something DJ Shadow would’ve done on his older records, or like something straight out of a Lost In Kiev prog-rock masterpiece. Paying close attention to the strategic use and placing of samples within a given song, you’ll see they act as “sign posts” to the wider meaning(s) behind each track. They’re more or less thematic guides adding to the intent of each piece, in a very artsy way.
For instance, take ‘No Moon‘ and it’s introduction sample of “what do you think will happen to you when you die?“. It sets the tone for a gloomy, dark track about a night void of any real light or hope, much like the lack of an afterlife beyond death. In ‘Phoenix IV: Levitation‘ – a continuation of the band’s limitation-pushing song series that appears on each release – the sample “I’d like to find out what reality I’m in” hints to the the larger album’s discussion of where reality and dreams blur. Perhaps also about how we separate (or refuse to separate) the pair as well.
“Her eyes are always open, she does not let me sleep” heard at the end of the riff-heavy and enfilade-inducing ‘Vice Wave‘ indicates fear and paranoia, leading right into the short ‘Vantablonde‘. Then, the closing sample of “We don’t believe in pure illusionism” in ‘Vantablonde‘ itself harkens back to the MO of Night Verses writing with the full intent to recreate these songs accurately in a live setting as a three-piece. Settling for a backing track, these guys sure fuckin’ won’t! Fitting that such a sample also features on a track that rolls from hand percussion, to reverb-heavy post-rock, to brutal mosh-heavy prog-metal, and over to swelling guitar feedback too.
When the peaceful ‘Balboa‘ wraps up with the sample “I love diving and I love the sound of when you breathe in and out underwater” – with this person adding that “It’s almost like a feeling more than a sound” – it’s clear that Night Verses want that reaction from listeners. Pure feelings and honest thoughts over anything else, whether the person likes the record or not. The woman’s voice that begins ‘Infinity Beach‘ is also advice from the band too. When she says “…it doesn’t really matter where you are, because you go within the infrastructure of your mind and your imagination” in regards to making and consuming music, Night Verses are telling all us of their work-process. Of letting their minds wander when creating and how we too should let our minds go wherever their amazing music pulls us in. Like radiant beams of light breaking off in any direction necessary.
Samples and my over-the-top analysis aside, the songs themselves here are just other-worldly. The first three tracks of the album come from the ‘Copper Wasp’ EP, which was released earlier in 2018. This opening one-two-three of ‘Copper Wasp‘, ‘Trading Shadows‘, and ‘Vice Wave‘ wastes zero time ushering in the new era of Night Verses. This trio of songs showcase exactly what kind of beast Night Verses have evolved into now; an expert merging of alt-metal, electronica, prog, post-rock, experimental, and ambient.
Fifth song, the shimmering ‘Lira‘, is a melodic and spacious post-rock gem in the vein of sleepmakeswaves or Collapse Under The Empire, just with the jagged, techy and proficient vision of Night Verses sitting at the helm. The album’s breath-catching interlude is the surreal and mirage-like ‘Glitch In The You I Thought I Knew‘. A lovely break where watery guitar chords wash over calming electronics and booming bass drums that underpin Aric’s snappy snare rim hits. It’s a gorgeous little piece that I wish just went on forever, honestly.
Nick’s dense and proggy guitar runs on the screaming and dynamic ‘No.0‘ gives way to a rock solid prog-metal-meets-hip-hop groove from Aric, with Reilly’s propulsive bass lines leading the charge. ‘No.0‘ is also one of the best examples of how varied, insanely heavy, and also how wonderfully serene Night Verses can get; shifting through starkly contrasting movements to keep you on the very edge of your seat. Another song that also takes this idea to the furthest extreme is the envelope-pushing ‘Phoenix IV: Levitation’; a song that still blows my mind, even weeks after it’s first release unto the world. This song proves that Night Verses are human and inhuman at the same time. Just… wow.
‘Balboa‘ isn’t some blood-rushing, adrenaline pumping anthem like what you’d expect from it’s Rocky inspired name. Rather, it’s a light-hearted and cinematic romp that gets deeper into the zen-like vibe of this record; what with it’s the use of reverse effects, restrained bass lines, distant guitar tremolo, clanking percussion, and locked-in snare-click/bass/hi-hat drum grooves. It’s like a relishing in defeat and learning from one’s setbacks; probably indicative of the uncertainty facing the band amidst Douglas’s initial exit. On the flip side to this, the guitar gymnastics of ‘Earthless‘ from Nick just straight up assault you with reckoning force; as he and the rest of the band catapult you through a cosmos of sounds and moods that are filled with the thematic absence of a home. Eventually left to drift off into nowhere. ‘Powerful’ doesn’t even begin to cut it, my friends.
This album’s up-down/loud-quiet tracklisting dynamic appears again right after ‘Earthless with the brief yet chilling and immersive ‘Harmonic Sleep Engine‘. This acoustic-guitar reverie, coupled with subtle bass playing and hand percussion, is as harmonious as it is relaxing to the mind. Whereas the swelling album closer ‘Infinity Beach‘ sounds like you’re walking right into the oncoming waves of some oceanic mass. This guitar-driven finisher sees Nick’s lighter chords float over Aric’s dry, swaying drum beats. After the return of some bongos and busier fills, like all good post-rock songs, the instrumentals build towards an emotional outro; like you’re slowly coming to consciousness after a long, deep sleep. In fact, this record is by-design a wonderful sleeping stimulant, and that’s not at all insult. Cause you’d have to be pulling from your dreams and nightmares to create the kind of stellar music that Night Verses do.
‘From The Gallery Of Sleep’ strikes a terrific happy-medium. If you’re a fan of experimental and progressive music, this record should scratch any itch you have in that sense. If you’re more about the emotional depth and wide-eyed atmosphere of instrumental post-rock, then this record is layered, emotive and dynamic enough in said elements to suck you right in. If you’re a fan of the prog-metal/metalcore-tinged era of Night Verses and other such bands – vocals included – then you’ll find the strong lingering bones of what was and what shall be. Hell, even if you just want really interesting music to listen to, you cannot pass this album up.
Sure, there’s a few parts here where the trio merely revert back to their previous two records, and you can clearly tell where the vocals would’ve once fit into the mix just a couple years ago in some songs. But those are all incredibly minor “criticisms” given the staggering volume of what this monolithic record achieves. So close your eyes and listen in-close to the reverberant energy being cast out by ‘From The Gallery Of Sleep’.
Glitch in the You I Thought I Knew
Harmonic Sleep Engine
Phoenix IV: Levitation
‘From The Gallery Of Sleep’ is out now through Equal Vision Records!