BleakHeart’s somber doom sits in inner turmoil, mental wounds on stormy debut ‘Dream Griever’

Photo by Sarah Hoster

We’re all in hell. It would be pretty difficult, and quite frankly a little irresponsible, to say anything otherwise. It’s also OK to admit these things, because it’s truly the only way to get inside of those issues to address them so they don’t fester and eat away at your mental health. But they’re there, eating away at you, taking with it your energy and will to find strength.

That journey and battle is detailed in “Dream Griever,” the debut record from BleakHeart, and while the music itself might feel like soothing psychedelic doom at times, don’t forget that underneath it all are waves of pain, anger, and loss. Those are all things that result in heavy, chaotic emotions, stuff that can boil in your gut and leave you up at night, staring at the ceiling wondering when things will feel normal again. Were things ever normal? The band—vocalist/keyboard player Kelly Schilling, guitarists JP Damron and Mark Chronister, drummer Josh Kauffman—works on trying to address these matters and acknowledge the struggle that’s happening, all the while trying to maintain a grip on sanity as to avoid slipping underneath the waves and being dragged out to sea.

“Ash Bearer” slowly comes to life as spacious playing opens the atmosphere, and Schilling’s singing is soft and dreamy, a state in which it remains for the bulk of the record, and for great effect. The doom drops later as the singing gets more forceful as the track slinks in the dark, and a dreamy fog settles into your mind. “I can feel the walls closing in,” Schilling laments as the cold numbs your bones, and the track melts into the night. “Heed the Haunt” is moody as it unfurls, as waves push, and the pace is deliberate. The power jolts later as Schilling’s singing soars, and the track manages to get burly and bruising, as guitars buzz and inject energy. Doom waters lap as the guitars weep, the singing comes to life, and the track disappears in a trickle.

“The Visitor” mesmerizes as it settles in with keys bleeding and delicate singing layering in clouds. The heaviness picks up as Schilling’s singing pierces, and the pace drubs harder as the intensity heats up. The playing bashes and leans into your chest while volume squeals, intergalactic beauty is unfurled, and the track bleeds into noise. “The Dead Moon” emerges with the drums pacing things and a misty ambiance leaving your face covered in mist. Shadows thicken as the track warms and charges, while it feels like the oncoming storm is growing more serious. The ambiance is somber and emotional as the track finds its way into the increasing tide. The title track ends the record and has a late-night vibe, as Schilling’s voice crawls through the fog. The pace then begins landing blows and gets grittier as fantastical visions are laid out with the singing with Schilling wondering, “What has been gained? What has been lost?” Hypnosis thickens as doom smashes, cosmic synth brings alien paralysis, and all the chaos in your brain melts into nothingness.

While “Dream Griever” feels like a record that could soothe your wounds musically, digging deeper into what’s going on reveals the inner turmoil that consumes so many of us and can drive us to our edge. BleakHeart find a way to drill a hole into your consciousness and find those very things themselves, and the playing here can give you a way to address that pain but also work to find some peace. This is excellent music for taking the lights down, calming your frayed nerves, and getting lost in music that understands where you’ve been and tries to make your absorption a little less harsh.

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