Reviewed: November, 2018
Released: 2018, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
After nearly two decades with the New York prog-metal cult act Grey Skies Fallen, keyboardist Craig Rossi split to spread his musical wings, as it were, with his own project Drift Into Black (DIB). And I really mean his “own.” Rossi is the “band’s” sole member, and though he is helped out by a gaggle of guests on DIB’s first full-length, he handles vocals, guitars and keyboards, compositions and production.
Despite having to carry most of the weight, Rossi certainly didn’t waste any time following up DIB’s debut release, the EP Shadow People, which will just be a year old in December. Dead Suns Under the Forever Moon offers eight new tracks, and falls somewhere on the sonic spectrum between the melancholy, progressively inclined metal of Anathema, Katatonia or more recent Opeth and the more accessible goth/gloom rock of Ghost, especially on simpler, more direct tracks like the anthemic “Death From Above” or “Sifting Through The Dead.”
The brief opener “Reign” hints of epic doom, even at less than two minutes, but proves to be something of a misdirection as “Sifting” follows with a deliberate chug and pop-like construction, topped by Rossi’s eerie, almost ritualistic monotone vocals. Though rather repetitious, the song is undeniably infectious. Later, “Death From Above” takes the much the same approach, with similarly catchy results.
“Left in the Ash” is more expansive and expressive, with an almost classical air thanks to its abundant keyboards, haunting guitar lines and the vocal and string accompaniments of Melissa Hancock and cellist Elizabeth Weaver – as well as what sounds like a banjo, of all things – as the song concludes. “Gone But Not Forgotten” plays up the drama, with Rossi and Hancock singing over a bare-bones arrangement until the inevitable power ballad-like build up, though Weaver’s cello and the “Dreamweaver”-like synth make for a nice touch.
“Hollow” is the album’s friskiest track, relatively speaking, buoyed by the spry backbeats of guest drummer Klemen Markelj. Though it ends with a sparse, somber piano refrain, it’s about the closest DIB comes to up tempo here, save for the 180-degree turn in the double-bass and crunching riffs that mark the end of “No Return to Light.” Up to that point, the song has a psychedelic feel with its trippy vocal effects, serpentine guitar harmonies and chill pace.
But while the songs are solid and the performances good, there is an issue with the album’s overall sound. The production is rather thin for the ambitious soundscape that is presented here, with the instruments lacking definition in the flat, mushy, drummy mix, all of which steals from the music’s inherent grandeur. It certainly demands more than the demo-like feel it ends up with here.
Rossi may have bitten off more than he could chew by handling just about everything over an entire album, and it’s a shame that the sound had to suffer as a result. The other pieces all seem to be in place, perhaps next time a bit more focus on bigger, bolder production and perhaps a bit less on handling some of the other matters can turn what is a capable labor of love into something truly special.