This drearily dreamy project makes for an eerie, yet gratifying venture to your darkest memories and back.
Daniel McDonough, the lead singer for LA-based, gothic post-punk band, Misplaced Devotion, independently released his self-titled debut album Walen Grey for his latest solo project, Walen Grey, on December 26th. Though McDonough resides in sunny Los Angeles, this album definitely has a haunting, winter day vibe that you might find most enjoyable while lying in bed in the middle of the night, staring at a dark ceiling.
McDonough describes his music as, “dark” and “hypnotic,” and appropriately, that mesmerizing aesthetic is really well fostered on this record from front to back. The album begins with a sample of eerie night winds, followed by some dramatic guitar fingerpicking that plays a welcoming introduction for his soothing vocals that evoke a tone similar to Thom Yorke except with clearer articulacy and more gothic-styled lyricism.
Throughout this album, the artist discusses feeling lonely and helpless in second-person, using minor chord progressions and deeply-echoing, industrial percussive noises to create a parallel mood between the instruments and subject matter. There is certainly an element of love loss in McDonough’s lyrics. It seems as though the album is an effort to illustrate a metaphysical romance in his sleep, as his dreams and nightmares provide a sanctuary for him to be heard and reflect upon brighter times in his life that have passed.
The lyricism is heavy, particularly on the track “Burn,” when McDonough reflects upon his insecurities and the feeling of helplessness that comes along with them, whispering out the melancholy lines, “obsessive over your weaknesses and fears / you haven’t had a wish to make in years.” There is an underlying theme of deception on that track as well, as McDonough personifies promises as deceptive beings that built him up yet were glad to see him fall, perhaps alluding to past vows of a loved one which were broken with disappointment. The loveless sentiment is more clearly expressed on the track “Forget” when McDonough hints at a degrading feeling of self-worth, singing, “find the memory that will replace me and maybe one day you can be happy.”
I was surprised to find out that this project was recorded in McDonough’s room because of the quality of the album’s production. The project is mastered by McDonough’s close friend, Kevin Abdala, to the point that there is never a second where the vocals or any of the instruments sound even slightly overbearing. The track, “Collapse,” is mixed particularly well, molds together beautifully chiming synths with a head-nodding beat that makes for a spacey experience.
The more experimental aspects of the album provide for its highlights. The glitchy industrial drums looped over evolving, ambient synths on “Forget” help build desperate emotion in McDonough’s sweet falsetto cry, “please forgive me,” and personally bring to mind Radiohead’s “Idioteque.” McDonough also does a fine job in utilizing his impressive vocal range to suit the emotions of his lyrics. “Goodbye,” showcases McDonough’s most direct lyricism, as his mind ponders on a lost love, reaching for answers by asking, “Do you know how much you mattered? / Do you know what you meant to me?” before finally reassuring himself, “I will be fine.
This is a project that comes jam packed with emotion, fusing gothic music elements with catchiness that any music fan – not just industrial - will be interested in hearing. McDonough’s work with Misplaced Devotion, which also dropped a self-titled project on Bandcamp just 12 days before his Walen Grey release, has a much more lo-fi sound than this solo album, granted that, Misplaced Devotion is a four-piece band with difference sources of inspiration. Perhaps, this project stands as McDonough’s attempt to capture a more emotionally honest, dreamier area in his mind. It should be interesting to see what this artist does next and whether or not he decides to expand on this promising Walen Grey sound.
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