Let me tell you people something about Dool and myself. When the news of their debut album, namely “Here Now, There Then,” started to seep out in 2016-2017, I was not exactly jumping up and down in excitement. Over the past ten years, the female fronted Occult Rock boom had lived a short, but impressive life, and the sound had become saturated and copied many times already several years before there was Dool. As they were largely promoted as a band ‘featuring former members of Devil’s Blood‘ and they had a female vocalist (Ryanne Van Dorst, more of her later), the news was greeted in the ProgCave with a yawn. But how wrong was I?! When the first notes on the album started to play, Dool quickly grabbed my full attention. It was not a half-arsed Devil’s Blood, or Blood Ceremony re-run, as I had expected, but potent, charming, deeply magical and strangely dark Rock Music. I listened to “Here Now, There Then” so much that Spotify stated Dool at the end of the year was the most played artist in my account. That is pretty strong going, considering they had only one album at the point. In the light of these events, it is safe to say that their debut is one of my very favourite albums from over the last decade.
And now we are about to hear the all-important follow up to it. Oh my, oh my. Receiving my promotional copy from The Great Mackintosh was almost like sitting on the bus as a teenager, travelling home from a nearby town and holding a brand new album I had just bought in my hands. Waiting desperately to get back home to play it. I slammed the headphones on faster than you can say “Deep, cosmic mysteries, Batman” and… was perplexed.
The first two songs on the album, “Sulphur Starlight” and “Wolf Moon,” start off in that perfect Dool fashion. Sporting those minimalistic, but at the same time wonderfully huge choruses along with the carefully arranged music, played by a musically smart band who all but underline the beauty of Ryanne Van Dorst’s vocals. One of the very best front women out there, at the moment. She has that Patti Smith kind of a quality to nail you where you stand, grab you by the sleeve of your jacket and completely get your attention. She is one of those vocalists, you actually listen to what they have to say. Or to sing, to be precise. She never says it in a blunt or straightforward fashion either, but after the album is through, one often sits and ponders on the stories just heard.
“A Glass Forest” offers a slightly 60’s type of take on the Dool thing. Not exactly psychedelic, but definitely leaning in the direction of how things were in 1968 with sound. “The Well’s Run Dry” turns the ship completely around and takes us on a route often travelled by bands like Sisters of Mercy instead. Gothic Rock. Somehow these sudden twists and turns in the story line, about the half-way through the album, start to fluster the listener, instead of spellbinding them. And behold, it goes on, “Ode to the Future” comes with a big shadow of Alice in Chains looming in the background. The images of Grunge dudes and flanell shirts are summoned like the royal ghosts of bygone kings. Yikes.
“Be Your Sins” is the most Devil’s Blood sounding track Dool has ever made, but it feels like a return to the starting point after the detour of the middle-parts of the record. And when the album fades out with “Dust & Shadow,” you are indeed perplexed. Even after twenty or thirty spins, I’m still not sure if “Summerland” is that much spoken of “greater art” or just a disappointment. I still have not made up my mind. I need to say here also that my judgement on this one is HUGELY biased. This is the follow up to one of my all-time favourite albums and has my huge expectations as a burden, making me see this record maybe a bit differently than somebody who is completely new to the band. “Summerland“ is definitely not like the debut album was. It is not that more straightforward, magical ride through obsidian black stardust. Hit song one after another. A record you can spin three, or four times in a row and every time feel uplifted and re-energized. This is not that. Rather, “Summerland” is like holding the hand of one’s first boyfriend/girlfriend, back in the day. It has that awkward, nervous kind of beauty to it. This album does not definitely make you feel relaxed. Not at all.
Yet, there is a new kind of spell in these chords here. I’m returning to it like an unsolved puzzle, or Sudoku. There is a great urge inside of me to know and to understand. There sure is an underlying shadow of that world famous difficult second album here. It sounds like Dool are keen to try out new things and NOT to repeat the formula of the debut album, but at the same time they come across as less self-assured. Like a band who are going somewhere, but are not exactly sure where they are heading. Here now, there then, where next?
At the same time, they have created an album that will probably be a lot stronger than the vast majority of Rock Music that comes out this year. Very few can sport a band this tight and a singer who is nothing but the pure embodiment of potential. Very few, if any, can write songs like “God Particle,” for example. Yet, like I have said, when comparing “Summerland” (yes, I know, maybe a bit unfairly) to the debut, I can only say that even though this album is nothing short of solid, my expectations are not exactly met either. After the first half of the record, the material starts to simply drift too much to paint a perfect picture.
Rating – 3.5/5