Silent Whale Becomes A° Dream – Requiem

An Epic Tapestry of Darkness and Light

album review

I can’t remember exactly how I came across this band: whether it was because someone recommended them to me or simply because I was idly browsing playlists and Bandcamp looking to discover new, interesting music. Either way, I remember only needing a few minutes to be blown away, and getting deeply invested in all their albums soon after. Ironically, I discovered their albums the “wrong way round”, probably thanks to the randomness of how I got there; I invested a lot of time getting to know and absorb Canopy first: I was absolutely hooked to that magnificent piece of work for a long time before I felt I could move on to anything else. I was also extremely excited to discover they were releasing a new EP in 2023, and they certainly didn’t disappoint with North EP: I’ll review both of these albums separately. 

However it took me a while to really look into all their publications. I’m not really sure why; I adored everything I heard, and couldn’t get enough of them. But it took me a year to realise I hadn’t listened to Requiem – an album with cover art of a scene which manages to be both calming yet haunting; sentimental yet contemplative; positive yet dark. And that’s what’s make it perfect artwork; the album also feels like it’s made up of different emotional extremes. It veers sharply from sweetness to darkness in the span of a single track, and takes you on long, thoughtful journeys as you listen. Listening to it the first time, I realised how much I’d been missing out on. Ask me to choose which album of theirs is my favourite and I won’t be able to reply honestly; but all I can say is that this is the one I needed to write about first.

To the sea, we release everything for it so zealously keeps our secrets. From the sea, we regain the will to rise again

Silent Whale Becomes A° Dream – Requiem

Requiem kicks off with Dies Iræ, Dies Illa, which means “This Day, a Day of Wrath”. Like any great post rock composition, it takes its time to grow steadily but surely, starting from a string section being led by a haunting cello setting a sombre mood: a fitting introduction to an album called Requiem. Yet while strongly melancholy, the orchestral piece hits notes of hope quite early in the track, giving off hints of light and setting up the contrasts early. Drums start building in a beat which slowly takes shape as you listen, overlayed with textures which add to the brooding sense of the track as it grows steadily. Guitars grow slowly in presence, played in an almost mandolin-like fashion. This well-named track sounds like watching a cloud grow larger and darker, swirling in front of your eyes as it builds towards what you know is going to be an inevitable storm. But the overall feeling isn’t exclusively one of impending doom; instead it’s of a cleansing which is about to happen, almost an invitation for you to go out there and stand in the rain as it lashes down. 

When it hits, it hits hard: Silent Whale are experts at building an epic tapestry, and when the track breaks it takes the listener through a massive rollercoaster which keeps growing in intensity; sticking to the rain analogy, you can almost see the lightning in front of your eyes and feel the rain hit the ground hard as it washes everything away with it. I find the bass particularly effective in this composition: it backs everything up solidly in the background, while bringing in small but crucial highlights of its own, taking centre stage for fleeting moments which continue giving this track its undulating effect. After the peak, the track breaks into an organised tapestry of chaos for a few minutes, adding another emotional point to the mix before it suddenly fades into a conclusion which comes and goes like waves of the sea calming down after the storm’s worst is over. It’s a long track at 18 minutes long, but one which captivates you every second of the way. 

The album continues with the shorter Cor Contritum Quasi Cinis, or “Heart Broken Like Ashes”. It starts with a tolling picked bass line which feels like a funeral march. The bass guitar takes centre stage in this track; rather than a supportive instrument, it leads the way, with the guitars bringing in highlights, drums adding weight and a deep bass drone adding oomph to the slow, haunting pattern. The march pauses for a section in the centre of the track, with all the instruments coming back in and gathering speed in breath-taking section where the guitars join the string section and deeply percussive drums to build towards a huge crescendo which.. never arrives in the way you expect it. It takes your breath away, building anticipation then killing it in mere seconds, leaving you gasping for air. An intelligent and unpredictable affair which wrangles your emotions, much like most of the rest of this album.

Next is Recordare (Remember), which starts with sweet picked guitars on a bed of reverb and space, setting a contemplative, quiet mood. That fades away into nothingness, coming back in waves and bringing with it brooding bass textures which rattle you while the guitars continue their tonal exploration. Strings start building in with the drums softly but surely building up. The beauty of the choice of progressions here is that they blend melancholy with peacefulness and hope in ways which tear your emotions apart. You’re taken slowly into an epic build-up, led into a vast expanse of sound which explodes in a mixture of mystery, darkness and even rage and anger: tinted with positivity and hope. It then slows into a guitar-led sequence which feels soothing, yet introduces dissonance you don’t expect. Once again, the bass, drums and strings bring a depth to the whole song which makes it feel like a huge, masterful  contrast between light and darkness. It concludes with the guitar meandering thoughtfully and unpredictably, fading away into a nothingness which feels incomplete. This track engages you so much you barely realise 14 minutes have passed by. Then again, every track in this album is like that.

The final track, Lacrymósa Dies Illa (That Tearful Day) is probably my favourite one, even though it’s a hard choice to have to make. Brooding drone sounds lead the way, with a dark bass line setting the scene for the first couple of minutes as the drums builds up textures on the crashes in the background. Strings undulate in and out, pausing only to let the bass guitar change gears and the drums to enter slowly in earnest. A slow journey begins; one which once again specialises in what feels like extreme contrasts through the expert choice of notes; brooding darkness supported by guitars bringing in notes which give the whole tapestry a positive outlook, yet one which is underpinned by a never-absent sense of loss. And that’s the best way to think about this album, which is why the title fits perfectly; I feel it’s all about grief and loss. Those periods in life are undeniably dark and hard, yet the loss of a loved one also sparks lovely memories of all the great reasons why they were indeed loved ones. Grief is tainted with love, loss is offset with fond recollections. 

This track grows extensively to a peak which feels even larger and more powerful than all the previous ones, suddenly fading away into a sole picked guitar sequence which starts the journey once again and builds to an even bigger, more epic crescendo. This last one is difficult to describe; it pulls all the strength of the album together in one big, final push which leaves you reeling and gasping for air, yet feeling hopeful and even elated after a long period of grief. An incredible conclusion to an epic album.

Reviewing albums like this one is extremely hard; the emotional journeys they take you through is indescribable. Yet they’re exactly why I listen to post rock; when you really listen, post rock can take you to a place far, far away and support you through your deepest thoughts and darkest moments, giving you strength. This is an album which achieves that absolutely perfectly, and is a must-listen for anyone looking to understand what post rock done well sounds like. This is a monstrous masterclass, beginning to end.

Rating: 10/10

Moods: Darkness, Grief, Hope, Epic





One response to “Silent Whale Becomes A° Dream – Requiem”

  1. Makar Homenko Avatar
    Makar Homenko

    Listened to the album! Liked! Thanks for the review.

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