Occult rock is a thing, or so I’m led to believe. It seems to be a catch-all for any ‘60s and ‘70s inspired, psychedelic, progressive rock with radio friendly melodies, and many of the groups that play it seem to be fronted by a woman. But the many groups labelled such really don’t sound that alike, and I’m not at all convinced there is a homogeneous enough sound to define the genre. I love, for example, Jess and the Ancient Ones, but they sound nothing at all like Dutch band Dool, who have released their sophomore album this year, Summerland. Melodic and dark, heavy (in both the psychedelic and metal senses) and Gothic, Summerland remind me of all manner of disparate bands: Rush, Kings X, Killing Joke, Alice in Chains, Heart, Katatonia, Opeth, Placebo and the Cure, while not sounding like any of those. Rather, it is the aesthetics of those bands that Dool evoke. And this second album is a doozy! While it’s not as accessible as their debut, it’s ultimately more interesting and enjoyable.
The album starts with the catchy and hooky Sulphur and Starlight, immediately drawing me in. It’s a heady mix of woozy, thudding doomy Goth and swaggering, psychedelic desert rock, mixed with a healthy melodic pop sheen, and Ryanne Van Dorst’s strong and unique vocals. The hook of the chorus is an ear-worm that has stuck with me. It’s a perfect example of the gorgeous tapestry of various sounds that Dool weave together. Cult chants and carnal conjurations never sounded so pleasant and inviting. Can I mention that chorus again? Dool are masters of simple, memorable hooks that can soar over even the heaviest and darkest of music. Sulphur and Starlight is neither particularly heavy or dark, but it’s definitely soaring.
Actually, for an occult rock band, Summerland is particularly missing much of the expected darkness, but given that, the title of the album refers to the ‘Summerland’ that to many pagans and Wiccans represents the highest spiritual level that can be achieved. So, apart from the idea of death and afterlife, not an entirely dark concept. Wolf Moon has another characteristically huge chorus, which almost crashes in after the more minimalist start. Over some particularly tasty and macabre guitar soundscapes, Ryanne Van Dorst demands attention once more with her vocals.
God Particle begins with an Indian sound which is entirely appropriate given both the title of the band and the album, for ‘Dool’ comes from a term for wandering, that can be equated to Samsara, as ‘Summerland’ can be equated to Moksha. (That Indian sound can be found throughout the album, but it is most overt here.) The rhythm section of JB Van Der Wal (bass) and Micha Haring (drums) really shine on this song, along with some very interesting guitar tones, and some very compelling and demanding vocals. I love the way this song swings between passages of serenity, and others bursting with energy. This is the first stand out song on the album, and I can’t help but groove along with the bass and drums. When it ends after six-and-a-half minutes, it’s too soon. Some say music is a journey, well God Particle is a trip I never want to end…
But hey, when it’s followed by a magnificent song such as the title track, I can’t really complain. The tempo is slowed right down, and after the winding and wandering of God Particle, this could come dangerously close to a ponderous plodding that derails the album. However, somehow Dool play it just right, and Summerland provides a surprisingly great track that transcends the monotonous slog it could so easily have been. Of course, once again, Ryanne Van Dorst’s vocals are one very obvious aspect that lifts this song. The song does pick up in tempo as it goes along, and by the final two minutes is actually powering along at a pace completely belied by the beginning of the song.
The grungy, doom ballad A Glass Highlight surprised me, as I’m not normally one for ballads. But I love the way vocal lines are traded, and there are some very pleasant guitar solos. The following The Well’s Run Dry is far more to my liking, though – with another addictive groove set by the rhythm section of Van Der Wal and Haring. The song almost flirts with post metal, and provides some quite interesting passages within it. The instrumental coda is quite glorious, and I love the tone of the guitar in this section.
Ode to the Future sounds more like an ode from the past, and it’s great. I want to say I love it, but I’m aware that I could say that for almost every track on this album. The love continues as Be Your Sins chugs into existence. Another tremendous chorus, that sticks in my head long after the song has ended. And there’s no way I can’t mention the Hammond solo from guest musicians, Per Wiberg – simply lovely.
The music box introduction to Dust and Shadows heralds an eight-minute melancholic doom masterpiece. None of the driving groove of the preceding song here. Within this near impenetrable wall of sound, there are moments of fragile beauty. It’s a tremendous closing number, full of passion. With Summerland, Dool have not only given us a strong second release that reinforces the unique sonic identity they carved with their debut, but that shows tremendous growth, and hints at even greater potential yet to be achieved. Dool are a great band, that sound as if they’re only going to become greater. Keep on wandering – we’ve not reached the Summerland yet!
01. Sulphur & Starlight (6:42)
02. Wolf Moon (4:56)
03. God Particle (6:40)
04. Summerland (8:24)
05. A Glass Forest (4:44)
06. The Well’s Run Dry (4:53)
07. Ode to the Future (4:17)
08. Be Your Sims (5:53)
09. Dust & Shadow (8:01)
Total Time – 54:30
Ryanne Van Dorst – Vocals, Guitar
Nick Polak – Guitar
Omar Iskandr- Guitar
JB Van Der Wal – Bass
Micha Haring – Drums
Per Wiberg – Hammond Organ
Farida Lemouchi – Backing Vocals
Okoi Jones – Spoken Word
Record Label: Prophecy
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Date of Release: 10 April 2020