It is an album of bold choices. From its beginning moments, the Prophecy Productions-delivered debut from Rotterdam, Netherlands-based five-piece Dool (also stylized all-caps: DOOL), Here Now There Then strikes deftly and crisply in style and substance, and when there’s a decision to be made, Dool make their intentions clear in the quality of their songcraft, which is a cause every performance on every one of its eight component tracks serves. While a fresh take on some of the tropes of cult-gone-goth heavy rock — the blend of acoustic and electric guitars on cuts like “Golden Serpents” and “Words on Paper,” the unbashedly pop-metal sway of the penultimate “The Death of Love,” etc. — it is also an album obviously working from the benefit of band members’ prior experience.
Dool may be relatively a new group, but in their ranks they boast the veteran personnel of vocalist/guitarist Ryanne van Dorst (Elle Bandita, numerous other projects), guitarists Reinier Vermeulen (The New Media) and Nick Polak (Gold), and the rhythm section of bassist Job van de Zande and drummer Micha Haring, both formerly of The Devil’s Blood, whose landmark contributions to the Dutch underground and aesthetic vision makes for something of a sonic elephant in the room over the 50-minute span of Here Now There Then. That group is recognizable periodically in some moments of push — again, “Golden Serpents” — but the deeper one moves into Dool‘s first outing, over the 10-minute opener “Vantablack” and into mid-album pieces like “In Her Darkest Hour,” “Oweynagat” and “The Alpha,” the more one finds Dool establishing their own resonant and well-conceived stylistic persona from a wider range of influences, from classic goth rock to moodier progressive heavy metal.
But back to bold choices. The first of them is telegraphed in the opener. “Vantablack” is the longest inclusion on Here Now There Then — immediate points to the band for putting it in launch position, double points for doing so on their first offering — and where a lot of what follows on what might be considered side A in the first half of the tracklisting plays off poppier ideas, more forward hooks, and so on, it begins at a sprawl, unfolding with patient layers of guitar as thudding drums underscore a harmonized verse to punctuate the nodding rhythm that will further take hold as the chorus emerges. Rather than simply set the tone as so many album-openers do — “this is our sound, this is what we do,” etc. — “Vantablack” not only does this, but disrupts the process at the same time, engaging an immersive richness of atmosphere that defies what might’ve been the expectation had Dool opened with either of the subsequent “Golden Serpents” or “Words on Paper,” two shorter and purposefully more straightforwardly structured tracks. They made the bolder choice, and they were right.
Part of the reason starting off with “Vantablack” works to well is because, yes, it does have a chorus to ground the listener (into dust), but also because Dool demonstrate such immediate command of their purpose and their sound. From the languid flow of Polak and Vermeulen‘s guitars to the roll in Haring‘s drums, the density of van de Zande‘s low end beneath the solo section in the back half and the charismatic presence and melodic range of van Dorst as frontwoman, there’s never really a moment of doubt they’re going to pull it off. And as far as initial impressions go, one could hardly demand more than that from any band, first LP, second, third or whatever. Not only that, but the considerable turn that follows into “Golden Serpents,” “Words on Paper” and “In Her Darkest Hour” — the latter of which begins the aforementioned middle movement with “Oweynagat” and “The Alpha” behind it — isn’t even questioned because Dool have the situation so firmly under control.
“Words on Paper” is arguably the catchiest song on Here Now There Then, though right up to closer “She-Goat” there is no shortage of memorability surrounding, but as “Vantablack” assured at the outset and “In Her Darkest Hour” reaffirms, Dool aren’t simply looking to proffer a series of choruses and get out. The brooding push, linear build of chug and surge that arises signal another shift in approach, and as much of the song’s second half is given to a guitar solo, a charged bridge, another run through the chorus for good measure, and atmospheric bookending the toy-piano-esque intro that led off the track, there’s an exploration beginning that continues in the pointedly goth “Oweynagat,” which at 6:53 is the second longest piece behind “Vantablack” and given initial thrust via Haring‘s hi-hat.
After mounting significant tension, “Oweynagat” eases the throttle as it moves toward its middle, but builds toward a standout apex of well-plotted, swirling lead guitar — layered-in acoustics do well to flesh out the ambience — and horns/keys/effects/theremin or some other noisemaking device that lends further complexity to the rhythmic march. They end “Oweynagat” in grand fashion and drums start “The Alpha” with an echo that sends an immediate feeling of spaciousness soon to be filled by bass and guitar in a progression that feels distinctly drawn from prog metal. I hate — hate — to make this comparison, especially given the one-letter-off similarity of the bands’ monikers, but the likeness to Tool‘s “Forty-Six & 2” is unmistakable in that central progression, though again to their credit, Dool transpose that riff to suit the song’s needs, transitioning into a triumph of a chorus that likewise nods at The Devil’s Blood‘s churning depths. Another bold choice, another dark victory, and not by any means their last.
Its melody is at first the key factor in “The Death of Love,” but the underlying guitar figure at the outset holds to some of the proggy tension of “The Alpha” before it, even if van de Zande‘s bassline is more prominent. The effect this has is to tie the two prior three-song chunks of Here Now There Then together, to begin a process of summary that will continue on “She-Goat,” and to start to wind the album down much as “Vantablack” wound it up. That said, the open-spaced payoff in “The Death of Love”‘s second half is among the more emotionally effective and affecting moments on the record, and though it’s shorter than the three cuts before it, there’s no lack of impression made leading into “She-Goat,” a just-under-five-minute push that echoes the more straight-ahead feel of “Golden Serpents” without being a direct port of it. As an ending statement, it puts Dool and their listeners back to some semblance of reality without necessarily giving up the breadth of what came before. Completing a conceptual cycle, perhaps.
In any case, it is another means by which Here Now There Then works against the notion of being a debut full-length, as its complexity and character feel so thoroughly developed and the chemistry of the band so locked into place. One can only take this as a sign of potential and hope that Dool expand and refine the achievements here as they move forward, becoming all the more individual in that process, because going by these songs, they are well on their way to something truly powerful.