[Cover artwork by Marta Sokołowska]
It was 2019 when we last ran into Danbury, Connecticut’s Dialith here at Last Rites—back when the band’s fantastic debut full-length, Extinction Six, beat out 106 other power metal (and power-related) releases on our recurring yearly round-up, We Have the Power. Hitting the 4-spot out of 110 contenders is significant in its own right, particularly for an independent band with no label support, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the only albums that managed to beat this band were undeniable tour de forces from Galneryus (Into the Purgatory), Eternity’s End (Unyielding), and Dimhav (The Boreal Flame) that had the fortune of landing the very same year. In short, Dialith’s first proper full-length was something not to be missed, and return visits over the course of the last couple years have only strengthened the many virtues of Extinction Six.
Then the pandemic hit.
Clearly, COVID has exacted a brutal hardship on everyone, and it’s important to put things into proper perspective when considering fretting over just how adversely the last year and a half has affected bands just beginning to find their foothold pre-pandemic, but releasing something as strong as Extinction Six and then immediately being forced to put everything on ice is just… well, shit.
But somehow, even in the worst of times, life finds a way to go on, and in an effort to illustrate that crucial point, Dialith has managed to piece together an EP’s worth of new material intended to rekindle the fires Extinction Six lit in the last half of 2019.
Before anything else, however, let’s remember which particular sandbox we’re about to play in. Dialith is amongst a growing population of North American symphonic power acts that bring a degree of theatricality and technicality to the plate that makes it clear they’re interested in taking the blueprint originally laid down by bands such as Nightwish, Epica, Delain, etc. to a more modern and more aggressive level—bands like Seven Spires, who incorporate heavy shades of dramatic black metal, or the notably dark and swirling vortex delivered by Toronto’s Operus.
For their part, Dialith combines many of the classic symphonic power elements—lavish keys and lofty, operatic vocals—with scores of warm, sweeping leads and a penchant for notably energetic, aggressive drumming, and sweet riff break-outs. In the event that most everything about the band has managed to remain a mystery over the last couple years, let’s quickly step back before moving forward.
“Quiver of Deception” summarily delivers everything there is to love about Dialith, and the band’s fondness for underscoring lyrical themes concerning nature rising up and recouping what humankind has spent centuries constructing makes them all the more engaging. (The band’s name is of Greek origin: “through stone.”)
With Atrophy, we find the band exploring some playful new terrain, and also scouting ways to expand on their aggressiveness without ever fully jumping outside the lines of something that’s clearly still designated symphonic power. The lead, um, “single”—the EP’s opener and the track slated for a video, “Ignite the Sky”—is the most playful of the bunch, as the symphonic element is lessened significantly in favor of a keyboard crux that’s straight-up synth-pop in a very… stay with me now… ”Pet Shop Boys hit” sort of way.
“Ignite the Sky” is infectious and feels fun and frisky, and it’s certainly the sort of thing power bands such as Dialith love flexing on bridge-gapping EPs that serve to remind people that they’re alive, kicking, and fully prepared to have fun while inspiring spirits to soar. However, outside of one notably bard-ish keyboard interlude, the remainder of Atrophy’s 10-plus minutes is spent underscoring the sorts of heavier elements that caused us to fall in love with Extinction Six. Both “Sweet as Wine” [4:54] and the closing “Undertow” [5:09] feature engaging proggy twists and bright bursts of melody, but they also flex an explosive energy that finds the next level of aggression, particularly with regard to the drumming—the prior does so in the most warlike manner of the EP, and the closer in a way that nimbly works in the most infectious chorus.
Sure, in a best case scenario, the last year and a half for Dialith should have been spent reaping the benefits of freeing a stellar debut full-length on the populace: live shows, connecting with fans, doing interviews, and scoring a record deal with a bonafide label—not to mention the huge advantage of fellowship together in the same room to work on music to drive things forward and toward an even brighter future. But, as we’re all painfully aware, life and times don’t always cooperate with the best laid plans. In the interim, Atrophy does precisely what an EP such as this is supposed to do: confirm that the band is not only still active, but extremely prepared to win the day and our hearts with powerful heavy metal that makes us excited for what’s still to come.
Dialith is (left-to-right):
Cullen Mitchell – drums
Krista Sion – vocals
Alasdair Wallace Mackie – guitars, orchestrations
Mark Grey – bass
Atrophy: available digitally and on digipak CD through the Dialith bandcamp.
• Keyboard solo on “Undertow” by Mickey Cavadini
• Produced by Alasdair Wallace Mackie
• Mix / mastered by Andy LaRocque