I first came across Pakistan’s The D/A Method, as I suspect did many, via Bruce Soord on Facebook: he co-produced their second album, The Desert Road, as well as contributing additional vocals and guitars. I guess this was realistically their ‘make or break’ moment, and even with a (relatively) big name in prog behind them, they never did become the next big thing. I guess there were the few like myself who found themselves so enamoured with The Desert Road that they went and bought debut The Great Disillusion, and then followed the band, eagerly awaiting a third instalment, but we were just a few. And that is a real shame, because all three of their albums are very good, and I imagine if they were more widely picked up the band would have done very well, and become very popular. It’s also a real shame in the way the band have finally released their long-awaited third album, as they have done so at the same time as announcing that they’ve broken up. It might seem odd to put the time and effort into reviewing an album for a band that is no longer around to reap the rewards, but honestly, it’s so sad to me that the band never received the attention and acclaim I feel they deserved at the time, and even sadder to think this latest (and last) album might be ignored by many sites because the band is no more. Well, not by me.
I sometimes wonder if maybe the reason The D/A Method were not the next big thing in prog is because they very much draw upon a sound that was not so accepted and prevalent in prog at the time. The D/A Method have what I guess is now called an alt-prog sound, that seems clearly inspired by the post-grunge bands (or second wave Seattle sound, or whatever other somewhat arbitrary label you choose to use). I am very often reminded of bands like Days of the New, Second Coming’s second coming, and Down on the Upside-era Soundgarden. And that’s fine with me, because I love all those bands and albums. I hear similarities to the aforementioned, both in vocal style and musically – although I must say that The D/A Method have their own unique sound, that would never be mistaken for any of these bands. But wait, there’s more! Add to that post-grunge influence, an obvious debt to prog metal bands like Opeth and Katatonia, and prog rock bands like Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief (that was there in their sound, before the involvement of Soord), and you might start to have an idea of what the band sound like. (Their debut was an even greater melange of influences, with the opening number sounding like Alice In Chains meets Red Hot Chili Peppers, and while I enjoy it, I’m glad they tightened their sound on The Desert Road.)
As Sanctuary begins with Hour of the Wolf, immediately revealing that while The D/A Method have not deviated much from their now established sound, this is a lighter album than the darkness of The Desert Journey. I guess this should not have been a surprise, given the album’s title, or the colours of the cover art, but I must not really have been thinking about it, because it didn’t occur to me until I hit play. This lighter touch and more optimistic note really makes a difference. The second song, Valley of Fear, almost has a touch of Dave Matthews Band about it. There’s a playfulness and positivity to the music of Sanctuary that was deliberately missing from much of The Desert Road (as Sanctuary is the final album of a trilogy of interconnected albums). The funny thing is that the album seems to be quite paradoxical, as lyrically this is a far darker album than it appears on the surface, yet the music betrays the sense that the album is all about resolution and, yes, sanctuary. After ten years of the band, as a final hurrah, Sanctuary really does come across as a “happily ever after” album. Or, at least, as happy as they can be. I’m reminded of the stereotype of the glass being half-full or half-empty. Lyrically, Sanctuary is half-empty. Musically, it is half-full. And by reconciling the two, The D/A Method have created quite an emotional goodbye.
For me, the difference between the two albums can be seen most strongly in the sequence of the third to fifth tracks. On The Desert Road, the sequence of Dream Sequence, The Desert Journey, and Solitude feels like a real centrepiece of the album. I feel the same way about the sequence of Witches’ Sabbath, Journey Through Disillusionment, and Oh, What a Time to be Alive! (The D/A Method’s Permanating). But the distance between Solitude and Oh, What a Time… could barely be more diametrically opposed – and that is the difference in the overall feel of the albums. What this means is that how much Sanctuary will be enjoyed in comparison to The Desert Road comes down to preference between an overall light or dark feel to the music. If I attempt to be more objective, I think this is probably The D/A’s best and strongest release yet – and the closing track is simply phenomenal! – but I can’t help but realise I prefer The Desert Road, for its darkness. That’s just me, though. I’ll take The Empire Strikes Back over Return of the Jedi, and The Two Towers over The Return of the King. And I’ll take The Desert Road over Sanctuary, even though I absolutely love both.
As for The D/A Method, after ten years, it does seem to be the end of the road. They won’t even be making any money from Sanctuary either, as they’ve made all three of their albums ‘Name Your Price’ on Bandcamp, with all proceeds going to charity. At first I thought that this can’t have been an easy decision to make, as making the third album can’t have been without financial cost, and they’ve given away any chance of recouping any of it. But then, when I think about it, it does make sense from what I’ve seen from the band, and fits in with the overall vibe of the album. On their Facebook page, the D/A Method have always been strong supporters of the Pakistani music scene, more often posting about other bands than their own. And nor is this the first time they’ve donated all proceeds from their music to charity (though it is the first time I’ve known that they’ve done so on a ‘Name Your Price’ basis). The D/A Method have bowed out in a way that is truly gracious. I wish this were not the last I’m likely to hear from the band, but I can’t think of a more fitting way to leave things. Thanks for the music!
01. Hour of the Wolf (3:14)
02. Valley of Fear (5:07)
03. Witches’ Sabbath (5:08)
04. Journey of Disillusionment (4:57)
05. Oh, What a Time to be Alive (4:49)
06. Sanctuary (3:42)
07. The Lonely Man (5:01)
08. August’s Song (4:28)
09. Those Who Once Wandered Insane (11:10)
Total Time – 47:36
Usama Siddiq – Vocals, Guitars
Umair Dar – Guitars, Backing Vocals, Synthesisers, Engineering
Talha Alvie – Guitars, Backing Vocals, Mellotron, Piano, Organ, Synthesisers
Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey – Bass, Backing Vocals, Synthesisers, Engineering
Istvan Csabai – Drums
Ameer Shaheed – Percussion (on Hour of the Wolf)
John Nipe – Piano (on August’s Song)
Eivind Opsvik – Upright Bass (on August’s Song)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Pakistan
Date of Release: 27th March 2022