While Volume I successfully gives listeners an idea of what to expect from Dire in the future, the best is surely yet to come with this band. A strong musical bedrock coupled with an unfortunately bland lyrical palette puts the heavy metal duo’s debut album, Volume I, squarely in the middle of any scale. But with some mild adjustments, they’re capable of a much stronger Volume II.
The album is a 15-track ode to the gospel; it is a reflection on the effects of sin, salvation and the victory of God. Vocalist/guitarist Joran Messer and bassist Brandon Wade clearly show their knowledge of the genre with their guitar chops, lead by the passionate riffs and solos. But while Dire has crafted a classic metal sound with a good foundation, Volume I lacks a personal touch among the epic story. Lyrically, the record lays out every angle of an obviously Christian message; what’s missing is depth, the careful attention necessary to make each song’s story vivid and effective. Pulling lines straight from scripture, Dire rarely depicts an intriguing image that ventures outside of cliché. While biblically-grounded songwriting is noble and admirable, the beauty of song gets lost in the objective recitation of scripture. Messer’s straightforward vocal melodies are appropriate for the genre, but remain in the same comfortable range throughout the album.
The music obviously takes precedence over the lyrical structure, carrying a world of influences and respect for the great music that has come before it. Between the aggressive “Keep Your Mouth Shut” and melodic departure in songs like “Remiss,” Dire offers a safe variety throughout Volume I. Guitar solos reminiscent of Avenged Sevenfold and their modern metal counterparts are woven throughout each song. Dire incorporates some dynamism in their instrumentation, as well, offering listeners a pleasant breath of fresh air, like dropping in an acoustic in “No Reason” or a piano in “Evil.” The occasional electronic elements also tastefully reflect bands like Linkin Park and other innovators in recent rock memory.
Dire clearly has the message and chops to invent and imagine a world of musical gold. The length of the album diminishes the effectiveness of each song; when no particular track stands out, 15 songs becomes unnecessary. With some added focus on lyrical dynamics, theme and album flow, the band has the ability to turn 15 average songs into a unified, ten-track masterpiece. The audience — with good reason — asks to be taken to the next level. Dire’s identity will only grow stronger and help to satiate that desire, so long as they remain grounded in their message and humble in their craft. With some sharpening, maybe Volume II will be the focused hit an audience craves.