There’s something about isolating yourself when it’s time to go to work. Brothers Chad and JJ Snell, the duo that makes up Lessons, proved that with their latest EP, Daydreamer: Locked up in the literal woods of Minnesota, they produced something truly excellent. After writing full albums worth of material, re-writing it, refining and experimenting with it, Lessons decided to disappear to finish it off — and emerged with a piece of raw gold.
The overarching biome of Daydreamer reflects the intensity found in bands like Underoath that helped pioneer the metalcore world. Lessons has long aimed to capture the essence of the metalcore sound that gripped them in the early 2000s. They have certainly channeled that beautiful intensity among desperate lyricism and extreme sound. The guitar work embodies a beautiful contrast of djent rhythms and reverb-laden lead lines. Like many of their predecessors, Lessons is also driven by their rhythm section. The band has a strong foundation, a base pattern to their writing and a well of innovation to dress it up.
The opening track’s delicate female vocals stir up an eerie atmosphere — an appropriate foreshadowing — that paints the walls throughout the album; “Balance” could be part of an epic film score. The aching vocals become an intriguing motif that guides the listener through the whole experience. Immediately following, the album turns to a force of rhythm and ambience. With multiple vocalists charging through the music, Lessons has a unique texture that punches through when the listener hears bold lines like, “I am the keeper.” In some songs, like “Thirty-Eight,” the reverb is over-saturating, but the lyrics are sacrificed for the sake of the space created in the mix. Guest vocalist Josh Gilbert adds powerful emotion to that particular song, accommodating the groove. In the final track, “Protect,” the listener is overwhelmed with a layer of brutal screams. It’s the call of the wild. It’s unfazed, honest emotion you can almost hear echo through the forest surrounding the cabin in which they’re sequestered.
The lyricism of Daydreamer is clearly thought out; it’s as precise as a pin prick, each word carefully picked from the universe to play its part. The listener is left haunted but in oddly familiar territory after hearing, “Now my nightmares are the only thing I hold on to.” The call and response effect of lines like, “Take my hand, pull me up / Give me life again” is beautifully reflective of the internal struggle that inspired the ethereal vision of the EP. The album closes with a tidal wave in “Protect.” Every element that has been utilized is now taken up to 11, leaving the listener with the perfect view from the top.
By the end of the work, somewhere between fear, freedom and necessity, the band finds their voice. Stronger than the last, Lessons presents a solid work of brilliance with Daydreamer. If this EP is any form of appetizer, the entree holds very high hopes.