Prepare to be swept away on an adventurous musical journey of sonic landscapes and liquidated melodies; a sound that exists somewhere between Earth and the cosmos, with no regard for standard conventions or simple song structures. The Universe Expands by Greek band Dol Theeta is the name of this journey, and their debut release is a fascinating listen. Anchored by principal songwriter Thanasis Lightbridge, the band rolls out richly textured music that is best described as either electronic prog-rock or ambient art metal. If you're a fan of prog-rockers Shadow Gallery or the wonderfully over-the-top rock operas by Ayeron, then you'll eat up this release with delight.
Like many progressive rock operas, it's best to listen to The Universe Expands from start to finish without interruption, as these sorts of albums are meant to be journeys for the mind. The sum is often times greater than their individual parts. Dol Theeta crafts music that is never complacent; each song twisting and turning on itself. It's almost like setting a complex poem to music and watching the words on the page come to life in a rush of fantasy psychadelia.
Lightbridge revels in his use of synthesizers to create the necessary atmosphere but opts to use the keyboard more for harmonic underpinning instead of overreaching his bounds and suffocating the other instruments. As a result, a majority of the melodic presence on this record is handled by the other two thirds of Dol Theeta, guitarist Dim (yep, just Dim) and female vocalist Kortessa. They are the perfect counterparts to one another... her voice light, airy, and angelic playing against his warm, crisp, and more authoritative guitar tone. Thanasis, also filling the role of timekeeper, employs everything from rock-style drums on "Something Called Tomorrow" to straight ahead techno beats on "Silver Air." Thankfully, he's tasteful in his approach and infuses the drums with enough fills so the various percussive styles work and never become stagnant.
Not afraid to experiment, the trio amp up their meditative sound on "Mud," an abrasive collage of furious drum loops, fast staccato guitar riffing, and non-traditional vocal melodies. Bagpipes are integrated into "The Universe Expands" while tubular bells are employed as an intro to "In the Forest I Found." Thanasis even shares vocal duties on "Something Called Tomorrow." What you discover is a band maximizing everything at their disposal and not being afraid to step out on a limb in the process. The centerpiece of the album is the nine minute plus "Afterlife Crescendo" which features everything thrown in but the proverbial kitchen sink, including spoken word samples, Pink Floyd-esque keyboard soloing, and nods to gothic metal. Fans of bands like Porcupine Tree savior these sorts of musical hodgepodges because songs like "Afterlife Crescendo" are immune to any real criticism. They are simply forces of nature you have to hear to understand. "Every Goodbye" is the flipside of the coin... a straight-ahead number that is a fusion of rock, jazz, and new-age. Once it establishes its tone and theme, it stays there and merely builds on it, instead of taking any wild left turns musically.
With a total of eleven tracks, The Universe Expands clocks in at just under an hour. A majority of the tracks are five minutes or longer and segue way seamlessly into one another. It is recommended that you listen to this record late at night, in the dark, with no distractions. Think of Dol Theeta as the progressive art metal version of Sigur Ros. These sorts of bands don't exist to provide instantly gratifying hooks in their music. They exist to provide a soundtrack to your mind, each song evoking different thoughts and moods, letting you create your own journey along the way.
1. Which Are You
2. Silver Air
5. In the Forest I Found
6. Something Called Tomorrow
7. Afterlife Crescendo
8. Every Goodbye
10. And Through A Dream
11. The Universe Expands