Hailing from New Jersey, the birthplace of the “take-no-crap” attitude, it comes as no surprise that The Picture of Dorian Gray’s first full-length would have a lot to (unapologetically) get off its chest. Now, add to it the fact that their six-piece dons the title of a classic Oscar Wilde novel centered around sin and the mortality of beauty, throw in a Christian front man poking holes in the flaws of American Christianity and you’ve got the makings of a modern-day, metal Broadway classic.
Or so I hoped.
What likely could’ve been a striking, conceptual first album falls short within seconds of firing it up. While the strictly instrumental track demands the presence of a cinematic journey, it ends with a sickeningly sweet bird chirping, transporting the context of the album from conceptual to campy as I can’t shake the image of Snow White with birds flitting around her perfectly-sculpted hair. Still, the influence from bands such as August Burns Red and The Devil Wears Prada, no strangers to instrumental tracks, is clear from the beginning.
The majority of the album feels like a disjointed return from the dentist’s office due to its stagnant, sleepy vibe. Throughout much of it, the bass tone feels lazy and the vocals seem anemic and without conviction – with the exception of the scattered, clean vocals which are a pleasant surprise, at best. There are several tracks which briefly feature “digital glitches,” on some of the vocals, that only leave me feeling like they had too much time on their hands (“Do As We Say, Not As We Do,” “No Honor Among Thieves”), while other vocal patterns sound as if they were recorded in the bathroom of the local 7/11 (“Every Saint Has A Past, Every Sinner Has A Future”).
Aside from the warble-y “bathroom vocals” that fill the undertone of track eight, its tired title, “Every Saint Has A Past, Every Sinner Has A Future,” is a perfect representation of the band’s lack of conviction. While the title is a tribute to the same quote by the man behind the band’s name, there’s no escaping how dried-up it all feels. If you utilize an overused quote that I could likely find on Tumblr atop a photograph of a kitschy waterfall, I can’t help but question the integrity of the lyrics. This lack of depth brings me to the concluding track, “A Wretch Like Me.” While the last track is usually a statement track , the closer here does just the opposite with monotonous, repetitive lyrics and exact quotations from the beginning verses of the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace,” it only leaves me feeling empty.
However, being that this is TPoDG’s first full-length album, there’s truly nowhere to go but up. With the promising moments and the overarching conceptual and spotty cinematic feel, I trust their writing and sound will mature collectively to eventually make me eat my words.