April 9, 2024

Everything flows, nothing ever stays the same…..this notion of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus applies to us all, in that life itself is in a constant state of change. The same can be said about the third studio album of the fast-rising Dutch rock band DOOL. Some of Holland’s most notorious rock musicians got together in 2016 to form DOOL, a dark rock band. The line-up has tweaked a little since then – now featuring bassist JB van der Wal, singer Raven van Dorst, guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr, and Vincent Kreyder on skins – but the band has consistently been an undeniably raw force of creative energy, right from their debut single Oweynagat through the two previous albums and now their latest – The Age of Fluidity.

DOOL are:
Raven van Dorst – vocals, guitar
Nick Polak – guitar
Omar Iskandr – guitar
Vincent Kreyder – drums
JB van der Wal – bass guitar

The band derived the name DOOL from the Dutch word for ‘wandering’. When their debut album Here Now, There Then was released in 2017, it became an instant success. Their fresh and wild rock and metal sound received “Album of the Month” titles in the renowned German magazines Metal Hammer and Rock Hard as well as the “Best Debut Album 2017” award from the former, while Vice (US), Aardschok (NL), and De Volkskrant (NL) happily chimed in with heaping praise on the young Dutch band. With their follow-up full-length Summerland released in 2020, DOOL exceeded critics’ already sky-high expectations, gaining a pile glowing reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.

This new album is aptly titled – there’s not just musical innovation here, but also an exploration of the themes of personal change, physical change, psychological change, and the ever-changing world around us. DOOL and in particular singer and guitarist Raven van Dorst ask questions about how we all deal with change…..and it’s scheduled for release on April 19, 2024 on Prophesy Productions.

Musically, DOOL continue on the path laid out on the two previous studio recordings of heartfelt rock music with added metal elements, while displaying a maturity and focus in song-writing that has grown out of experience. The Shape of Fluidity exhibits an eclectic yet seamless amalgamation of prog and post-rock as well as doom and heavy metal, in combination with an inherent catchiness and a dynamic backdrop. What sets this album apart from its predecessors however, is the collective endeavour that went into it with the combined forces of songwriting trio Raven, and guitarists Nick and Omar, not to mention the contribution of new drummer Vincent.

Okay, on with the music! Nine new numbers are on offer, starting with Venus In Flames – see the fantastic video below. It’s a really strong opener with a mesmeric, intriguing mix of dark, gothic, and post-rock sound and vibes; a touch of psychedelia, a great riff, hypnotic twin guitar lines – and an absolute monster of a chorus. I’m immediately well and truly hooked! Self-Dissect continues this sense of dark hypnotic psych-rock. There’s a touch of Doom, a touch of desert rock, haunting background effects and really strong, controlled vocals, and a great mix of dense and clean guitar work. All in all, a very satisfying blend of light and shade.

Next up is the title track, it features a whopper of a riff after a softer intro section. It’s becoming apparent that this band and backroom team have a knack for excellent production, the contrast between measured clean breaks and beefy riffery, pinned together by taut, measured percussion and the whole overlaid with Raven’s soaring vocals, not to mention some beautiful guitar lines – it’s another really strong, atmospheric ear-worm of a track.

Currents is short and sweet, just over two minutes of an instrumental work-out exploring the same musical themes linking tracks. It’s followed by Evil In You, another relatively short number that comprises some almost Byrds-like “jingle-jangle” clean guitar work above a fuzzed riff from the ‘rhythm’ guitar. There’s also a great, pulsing bass-line and swooping chorus lines, it’s a nicely paced mix of almost retro and contemporary that works really well. House of a Thousand Dreams lives up to its name, a slower, dream-like number with initially soft, whispered back-up vocals, a haunting, echoey mood held together by a simple clean guitar line. An element of power comes in later, the guitar line remaining but getting progressively beefed up. Raven’s vocals get darker, more strident, you get the sense of dreams becoming nightmares. A powerful composition.

I understand that Hermagorgon was the first song written for the album – and it defines their current musical direction, their signature contrast between light and shade, softness and solidity, pastoral and power. It’s got a monster of a down-tuned riff, counter-balanced by quite gentle movements, almost pizzicato plucking at times, while Raven’s vocals switch from almost soothing to anthemic mantras. The song also displays the birth of the collective song-writing spirit on which this whole album is based, as well as producer Magnus Lindberg’s unique craftsmanship – it’s a stonker of a track, a real heavyweight but always tuneful, made all the more powerful by that interplay within the arrangement.

Hymn for a Memory Lost is one of the longer tracks here, it opens with a surprisingly lush “tinkly” mood that swiftly gets overtaken by a driving slab of prog-Metal, It’s also ‘heavy’ in mood, with a poignant, elegiac feel to it. The monotonic riff is always there, although several lead guitar lines take front stage towards the end – and these are superbly assured, if I’ve not said it again I’ll say it again – these five musicians are all damn fine players!

The Hand of Creation closes the album, it’s slower, again a ‘heavy’ mood, driven by a simple but taut and punchy drumline that John Bonham would have loved. It feels more experimental than the rest of the album, more spacey, yet ponderous in pace, perhaps not quite sure of where it’s going – and maybe that’s the point…

The constant theme underlying all these tracks is the notion of the tension between our individual identities in the maelstrom of a world in constant flux, illustrated through the life-story of lead vocalist Raven. Born intersex, doctors at the time assumed that they could surgically determine which kind of life the infant should lead and decided that the child should be a girl. This has led to a life full of soul searching, fighting taboos and breaking boundaries, and for this album relates a more personal approach than before – without becoming remotely self-centred. And such a strong singer. In fact, the lyrics of The Shape of Fluidity can easily be read as universal stories about finding oneself, swimming against the stream, and facing the world head on. On the technical side of the production, the outstanding engineering and mixing skills of Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna; Russian Circles, Tribulation) and the excellent mastering by Ted Jensen (AC/DC, Talking Heads, Muse, Ghost) have created the perfect crisp and transparent, as well powerful, sound. Great work, guys!

This album is simply excellent, it’s another early but very strong candidate for my Album Of The Year status, with consistently top-quality musicianship and story-telling from all five players. I love the blend of classic and modern rock, the changes in mood and tempo, the sheer variety and interest in the compositions – it’s simply great stuff and I can’t wait to see these guys come over to the UK for a full-on tour…..please!!