Dispel are a throwback, Gothic / darkwave outfit formed in Cleveland, Ohio, consisting of founding member and percussionist/programmer Scott Doland (Alongside vocalists Ravensea and Sean Gallows) and together, they’ve created a sound combining old-school electro-Goth nostalgia and an even older school sense of medieval theatrics, as they release their debut album “Lore”. Released in January 2020, the team over at Shameless Promotions asked me to check it out, so let’s do just that before I get caught up in any more convoluted segues…
The album opens up with “Spiritual Warrior (The Hero)” and initially we’re met with some hushed, choir-esque harmonies, backed with gentle bell chimes, before we suddenly transition into a deep, pulsing dose of synths and percussion. Gallows’ vocals here are almost robotic given their languid delivery, though he does switch up in tone here and there. There’s a cold monotony to the track…its very CLAN OF XYMOX. Follow-up track “The Call (To Adventure)” gives Ravensea a turn on vocals and the tone changes immediately. While instrumentally it takes on a similar style with some brooding electronica, it incorporates more of a guitar influence, which counters Ravensea’s softer, sweeter vocals. She provides a more pop-oriented style, especially within the chorus, which sounds like it’s been plucked from some generic 90’s dance track for want of a better description.
“Gift Of The Goddess (Andante In Bb)” is our first primarily instrumental track, which aside from some echoed, almost monastic chanting consists of a simple, low-fi drum fill and very little else; it showcases their adoration for the medieval and fantasy gaming (Which is another influence) as this could easily be taken out of some sort of loading screen. “Atonement (Andiago In Bb)” is the other…and it’s far more morose in its delivery. It’s incredibly dreary with its slower pacing and aesthetically gives off a despondent feeling of mourning and loss. Luckily there are more SLIGHTLY uplifting cuts on offer here, such as the promotional track “Modal Consequence (The Threshold)” which sees Ravensea wrap her harmonious vocals around some electronic alternative rock, however the track is a touch subdued instrumentally, before we eventually round up the album with “The Depth Of Transformation (The Return)”. Coming back to Gallows on vocals we get a subtle hint of the likes of PITCHSHIFTER before it becomes more hushed throwback post-punk.
Conceptually, Dispel are admittedly onto an interesting approach…utilising traditional proto-Goth and post-punk sounds but coupling that with a medieval, fantasy RPG-inspired song-writing characteristic, they can tap into multiple markets with very die-hard followings, which in itself would continue to open doors for the alternative rockers. The only real issue is these nine inaugural tracks (Ironically enough) aren’t quite game changers. Sure the ideology is there and they have a vast sea of potential inspiration and material to play with creatively, given their niche, but it’s not quite there yet. If I can liken this to anything it would be a mimic chest from Dark Souls…you open it expecting riches but SIKE…you died. Ok a little extreme as this album isn’t going to eat you alive, but Dispel could possibly offer so much more than this album showcases.