Dream the Electric Sleep return with their third album Beneath the Dark Wide Sky following the highly acclaimed Heretics – an album which was commended for bridging the gap between modern prog and accessibility. However, here we see the American trio leaping over to the poppier side of nu-prog and burning this bridge behind them, ditching experimentation for a safe, arena rock record.
Instrumentally, the band remain solid as a three-piece rock group with Matt Page’s powerful vocals remaining at the helm, though his voice has been toned down where exciting inflections and high notes are seldom seen. Speaking of which, pretty much everything has been toned down in this album – progressions, complex riffs and adventurous rhythms are few and far between in this collection of single-esque tracks. Most of the album feels so accessible and safe that it’s stiflingly sterile; the band’s self-declaration of being ‘progressive’ comes heavily into question whist listening to any part of Beneath the Dark Wide Sky.
Though most songs are at around five minutes in length, this is largely due to the near endless repetition of choruses. Sometimes it’s infectiously charming like in ‘Flight’, other times it inflicts utter boredom and impatience like in ‘Let The Light Flood In’ and ‘The Good Night Sky’, but every time I find myself thinking that it’s unnecessary extension that stagnates in most of the tracks. Thankfully ‘Last Psalm To Silence’ breaks the album’s cookie-cutter formula with a short and sweet instrumental interlude, and the final two tracks ‘Black Wind’ and ‘All Good Things’ ends the record on a high with heavy chugging riffs, distorted vocals, an impressive segue and the most exciting inflections we see Matt Page dare.
If we take Beneath the Dark Wide Sky out of the context of Dream the Electric Sleep‘s discography, it’s an acceptable alternative rock album. That’s it. The production and songwriting are solid, but it’s so inoffensive and predictable that this accessible approach ironically makes this album generic and pretty forgettable. It’s a shame to see a band not reach their potential, but when they’ve already reached it and choose to step down from that, it’s even more disappointing. Oh well, at least we still have Heretics.