Nothing's 'The Great Dismal' Is a Modern Shoegaze Classic

BY Trystan MacDonaldPublished Oct 29, 2020

Nothing's newest album The Great Dismal is so loud, it will certainly make up for all the concerts you haven't gone to this year.

Fans of the band have no doubt felt that Nothing has been building up to a career and compositional crescendo for a while. "Zero Day," the opening track to 2018's Dance on the Blacktop, certainly established the destination Nothing seemed to be heading with their dense, rolling waves of distortion and dissociative vocals. In an almost ironic juxtaposition, The Great Dismal begins with "A Fabricated Life" — a sleepy and misleading opening that quickly becomes insignificant in the wake of the second track, the album's first single, "Say Less." It is a monstrous track, displaying a total mastery over all elements of the band's sound. It is the singularity of Nothing's universe that quickly calibrates the listener for the dense sonic gravity established throughout the rest of The Great Dismal.

The album's sound orbits around a '90s core — somehow encompassing the best characteristics of grunge jam bands, melancholy shoegaze and whatever the hell alt-rock is. The album feels familiar, and yet, refreshingly new, with a track called "Bernie Sanders" thrown in for good measure. It's an increasingly important characteristic, especially when everything seems so banal and lethargic with heavy music this year. 

"Catch a Fade" is a perfect example of Nothing's ability to invoke the past with something completely original. It's an infectiously catchy tune that could easily pass off as a pop song written by Weezer's far cooler older brother. But as delightful as it sounds, below its pop-like surface lies an isolated misanthropic essence. It's a theme, well, more of a feeling, that permeates throughout the album; however, it never comes off as miserable, as the cascading walls of sound provide too much energy for the listener to just wallow in Domenic Palermo's lyricism, in all its tremendous energy and sincere honesty.

Nothing have somehow eclipsed today's tenured bands in a complete upset to what is classically defined as 'heavy music.' It took three records and 10 years for the band to refine their sound within the recent shoegaze renaissance, but The Great Dismal is without a doubt one of the genre's modern classics.

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