NorCal prog-metal band Dredg has long been misunderstood. Even though the crew’s sensibilities are far subtler than the whiny, rap-infused discord of neighboring band Papa Roach, Dredg was signed to Interscope on the tail end of the nü-metal boom. And though the label saw the group through a behemoth of a concept album—2002’s El Cielo, which owed more to OK Computer’s grace than the phallic thud of the oft-referenced Tool—the follow-up LP, 2005’s Catch Without Arms, displayed a band seemingly neutered by external pressure. Four years later, Dredg has returned with The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion, an independent release that finds the band on a welcome backtrack.
Pariah’s first three songs epitomize what Dredg does best: a sea of swooning effects, rich atmosphere, and operatic vocals tethered to whomping basslines, weighty guitars, and big drums. On “Pariah,” a children’s choir tweaks the formula; “Drunk Slide” is tempered with shimmering vibes and blistering keys; “Ireland” sports slide guitar and a Muse-y stateliness. But Dredg’s sound is more delicate than all this would make it seem, which is both a crucial strength and an Achilles heel. The gossamer dreaminess that defines Pariah’s best songs is too easily destroyed when Dredg veers back into popdom, as on the clunky single “Saviour.” That transcendent quality also tends to be drowned out by filler, and this album has plenty. By the 12th track (of 18), it’s high time for a new experience, but Pariah has more chugging wasteland-rock to till, more massive crescendos to execute, and more dreams to weave. Dredg gets a bit lost in the pursuit of redefining itself; thankfully, the current coordinates aren’t too far off from what once made the band so promising.