Album Review: Dryad — ‘The Silurian Age’

Mission Creek Festival: HIDE w/ Dryad, Peanut Ricky and the Fiends

Iowa City Yacht Club — Friday, April 5 at 9:30 p.m.

The metal scene in Iowa City has always been a pocket universe where the boundary between fans and musicians is permeable. It’s like the bar in Cheers — where everybody knows your name — but with more long hair, tattoos and black leather. The competition between bands is to be the loudest, heaviest and tightest, not the most successful.

In that context, Dryad stands out with exceptional musicianship and songwriting, and their latest offering, 2018’s The Silurian Age, is a pummeling, scary good time. “Orcrist” starts the EP with frantic drums and a gigantic wash of heavy guitar. In the center of the track, they drop the tempo and add a layer of howling electronics, before finishing up at full tempo.

“Hellbender” uses giant riffs to find a post-Ozzy groove, and Claire Nunez’s vocal screech, buried in reverb, is the howling of a demon that approaches pure white noise. “Invoked” adds a layer of Laibach-style chants to chromatically descending riffs. The title track’s slow, finger-picked intro lasts about 30 seconds before the band blasts off at 200 BPM. And album closer “Depths” sounds like a piano fed through lashings of delay and reverb until individual notes smear and collapse.

Dryad piles reverb on everything, so it sounds as though they’re playing at the far end of a narrow, tiled corridor. Reverb usually implies distance and space to the ear, but Dryad uses it paradoxically to heighten the inescapable, claustrophobic feeling of their music. They recall My Bloody Valentine’s noisy maximalism, but instead of dream pop it’s more of a nightmare — in a good way.

The Silurian Age rattles and rumbles in a ways that feels submerged, with the harder edges of the music softened by the endless echoes. It’s restless, propulsive music that — like a trompe l’oeil — can flip in the ear into a continuous soothing roar.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 260.

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