Album Review: Feral States – Dark

A while back, I had gone on the website Reddit in search of some independent and unsigned bands to listen to. After filtering though the many suggestions I received, I stumbled upon this next band, a band I immediately felt a connection with. With its eclectic nature, Feral States has a sound that forces listeners to hear this album in a different perspective with every listen.

Based in Urbana, Illinois, Feral States is frontman Joseph Meland on vocals/piano, Samuel Hasting on lead guitar, Noah Gehrmann on rhythm guitar, Erik Opland on bass guitar, and Justin Peters on drums, and includes the symphonic sounds of Daniel Hinze on saxophone, Maciej Latawiec on violin, and other additional musicians. Feral States is in every sense of the word avant-garde, with heavy influences of progressive and symphonic rock, and even moments of pure metal and classical music. Each song off their latest album “Dark” contains sections of varying genres, making this album a very interesting listen.

I had the chance to talk with frontman Joseph Meland about his writing process:

“I began writing “Dark” about a month or so before we recorded our “Light” EP. I wanted to further push the contemporary classical angle we’d introduced on “Light” by using more “classical” techniques while writing as well as creating more involved orchestrations. I’m interested in a lot of different styles of music and classical trends, so I think those all kind of mesh together in my head and come out somewhat randomly…”

Meland, who is a student in music, is a magnificent composer on this album, which is easily coherent with the piano sections. With a knowledge of classical orchestrations, Meland takes a symphonic approach in “Dark,” a unique and clever experiment with the old and the new. I truly love the matchless sounds of this album, a sound that in incomparable to anything released today. The opening song “Empty Sails” is very airy, containing reverbed piano chords and Meland’s lone voice. After the orchestra instruments chime in, the song quickly picks up into a harder, almost progressive sound, which is concluded with Hasting’s tremendous guitar solo. As the album progresses, each song changes the overall mood and tone of the album, switching from darker to softer melodies.

feral states
Photo by Feral States (Facebook)

Continuing my discussion with Meland, he discussed the influences of each song, along with the lyrical meaning behind “Dark”:

“…For instance, I love the music of Messiaen, and I think the use of his own modes gives his music a really unique and beautiful color. So, on “Trapped in the Machine”, I made up my own scale, which the song is based in. “Sins” channels my favorite composers of aleatoric music as well as my favorite band Mr. Bungle, “The Blurred Figure Waits” is definitely inspired by minimalism, and “Forgotten” actually began as a theory assignment for which I had to write a piano composition in the style of Debussy. Lyrically, the EP is very personal, mostly revolving around experiences I had before and after the death of someone close to me.”

Containing lyrics from the heart, listeners can not only hear, but feel the pain felt by the vocals and instrumentation. In writing this album, Leland states that “there are a lot of different emotions covered from beginning to end, but I hope that the journey serves as something relatable for those that have gone through similarly painful experiences.” In a similar train of thought, I am easily reminded of a quote that perfectly complements this, which is said by Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson: “When we hear a very sad song, it makes us realise that we do share this kind of common human experience, and we’re all kind of bonded in sadness and melancholia and depression” (source). To be on the same lyrical wavelength as such an honored musician and writer, I applaud Meland for insightfulness and for giving his listeners an avenue for interpersonal healing and recovery.

What I found most interesting about this album is the incredible talent of each musician on the record. Each member shines in different songs, with Meland providing the most impressive moments. The saxophone and violin in “Nothing Left” and the piano in “Trapped In The Machine” are also highlights on this album. The melancholy ending of the album featuring the song “The Blurred Figure Waits” perfectly wraps up “Dark,” with a great organ rhythm and the final lyrics to the album:

“A fog descends / Friends from the past / Laughing with no end … A color fades / Beauty decayed / Graying as you sigh / Final days gone by” (source)

I can easily tell that each musician is classically trained, and envy the talent behind their experimentation and compositions.

feral states
Photo by Feral States (Facebook)

Please support this amazing unsigned band and their album “Dark.” For those of you with an eclectic taste in music, this album is for you. Their sound can loosely be affiliated with the bands The Moody Blues, Porcupine Tree, The Dear Hunter, Vienna Circle, and many others. This album is available for download on their Bandcamp page for free, so I implore you all to take a look! If you like this band, you can also check out their other EP “Light” on their Bandcamp page. You can also find them on their Facebook and Twitter pages. I can’t wait to hear what this talented group has in store for their next release!

Please enjoy a complimentary listen of “Dark” from Bandcamp below:


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