D.Ni.L – Do You Know Who I Am? – Album Review
The prodigal son returns! Already! In the very same year that we’ve got his last album Boy.Inside currently featured in our list of nominations for our quest for Best New Sound of 2018 no less! AND – I have firsthand knowledge of the fact he’s been working on other records as well during the time between Boy.Inside and this fourth record from D.Ni.L called Do You Know Who I Am? as well – we last found him contributing to the Introducing The Wolf EP by rapper Jonny The Wolf back in September and he ALSO put out a record with his band Wasabi Fire Alarm back in July! So that’s at the very least, four records that D.Ni.L has been a part of in this same year, in addition to all the work he does in behind the scenes as the official Director of Music at Tang Hall SMART – a dedicated group of individuals who run music & art-based classes for people of all ages dealing with their own struggles & disabilities in the best way possible – creatively. So believe me when I say – I’ve got a lot of love for that whole crew over there in the UK that D.Ni.L is rolling with – as I’ve alluded to in the past reviews of his music here at these pages, his own story is one of redemption. D.Ni.L has battled his own demons to get to where he is today…and now that he’s on the other side, he’s using his powers for the greater good. Assisting & inspiring people that are often in situations just like he was once in himself, only now knowing that there’s truly a path that has successfully led him to a life he’s now proud to live – he has the ability to show others that they have the power to make the changes they need to do the same. Make no mistake…he’s more than creative; he’s doing truly important work out there as well.
“Analogue Bath” starts up the new record with a MEATY riff that puts his skill right into the spotlight, immediately revealing a massive highlight on D.Ni.L’s new record and making an audible statement that, he might be back sooner than you’d expect, but he never brings less than his very best to the table. Dude’s just killer when it comes right down to it, no joke, his musicianship is always spot-on, the production enhances every single freakin’ thing he does in a completely clear & organic way that never interferes with the original intentions, ambitions, or tones of the instruments he uses, and he’s an equal threat on the microphone. In fact, throughout the entire scope & range of sound on Do You Know Who I Am? you’ll feel like D.Ni.L could switch from a Chino Moreno-like or Matt Bellamy-like sound to that of something resembling the infamous & mighty Purple One, Prince, at the drop of a dime and everywhere in between those distant poles of measurement and styles of singing along the way as this record plays. He’ll take the majority of this cut into a hook-laden Rap/Rock combo to start, a gear he’s always capable of flexing on-point if he chooses to, and he’ll bring it into the mix a couple times throughout this new album. Loving the power in the music & vocals he’s got when that first main transition comes in, the slide back out is equally effective…the bass and guitars are movin’ & groovin’ in tandem perfectly to create BIG sound that breaks open into even more expressive moments in the atmosphere of the chorus. Around the third minute, you’ll hear how D.Ni.L has stepped up his game on the mic for this record start to really reveal itself – and believe me, he’ll just go on to highlight moment after highlight moment from here on when it comes to just how much melody, confidence, and commitment he’s put into the words, lyrics, and vocals on Do You Know Who I Am? “Analogue Bath” is a wicked start.
LOVE the deadly pace & groove of “Buried” – I mean, this is downright jazzy when it comes to the backbone of how this song slides & moves so slickly through its structure – but with the punch and rawness required to make it rock, you feel me? Quick but relevant side-note here…I was already impressed by that first massive switch & transition of “Analogue Bath” to begin with – then when “Buried” hit the breakdown on that initial listen, I had to crack a smile in smug satisfaction – it’s moments like this that D.Ni.L is capable of that are completely part of the reason he’s been nominated to our top-10 list of the year at our site. And the fact that such a delicate sound can exist within the realm of such hard-hitting moments surrounding it speaks to both his versatility as an artist and his incredible ability to combine a variety of styles of music into one with flawless precision & flow. The vocals around the fifty-second mark as he heads into the first minute, just pure awesomeness in tone – D.Ni.L’s got melody & real edge you can feel; gripping at the most mellow moments and pure power at his most vengeful. You get a great mix of both on “Buried” – kind of even reminds me a bit of one of my other favorite singers in the independent-scene, Sam Caviglia of Fey and Salmon Friends…they’ve got that similar controlled crack & break in their voice that communicates emotion and passion a thousand times better than words could ever say.
“Feelings” would be a track I think I’d be examining as a potential single…it has a lot of unique appeal. Again, timing-wise, pace-wise – all that stuff…I mean…c’mon people, the way this guy moves as a musician is seriously UNREAL and ALL OF THE TIME. From the bass to the drums to the guitars, this is intricately layered & structured ambition happenin’ on “Feelings” – and I think what might be most remarkable is the fact that it’s come out so bright & accessible at times considering how involved it really is at its core. I’ll admit…it’s more complex than a typical would typically be found in most scenarios – but that’s part of the magic at work here…D.Ni.L’s brightened-up the mood of this cut enough to the point where the everyday listener would look past that and focus on that sweetness on display throughout “Feelings.” So…like in much of what you’ll hear from this talented artist & visionary music-dude, there’s a ton of crossover appeal to a song like this – D.Ni.L will catch both those looking for hooks and stunning sound that’ll move them, but in terms of instrumentation, timing, writing, musicianship, structure, and production – the musicians out there listening will pretty much marvel at the sheer amount of complex awesomeness this guy is capable of creating at any given moment, yet how inviting, flawless, intense, and smooth this whole song seriously is – and all at the same time.
Again…clarity is SO KEY here at times it just completely shows how next-level D.Ni.L’s ear for sound is and how much of an expert hand he’s got on the controls when it comes to executing his vision for his songs & material – LISTEN to “Forever” for all the proof you need of anything I just mentioned. Not only am I super impressed with how much more I feel like we can hear D.Ni.L really giving it the gusto in his vocals and evolving with huge steps forward again on this new record – but listen to the smart choices being made in where sounds like the guitars are set between rhythm & lead…the distance it can create, the power that adds to the emotion & swell of the moment…it’s seriously well thought-out from beginning to end. While “Feelings” hints towards the more beautiful-side of D.Ni.L’s sound, “Forever” takes it that much further than I’ve ever heard him go with it before – and it suits him incredibly well. And you know what they say, if the suit fits, then wear it homie. Diving deep into a soulful ballad of his own design, the rhythmic and yearning way he sings the chorus hits the heart in all the right ways. As he climbs up to his highest notes, you can tell it’s taking everything he’s got to get there, but you’ll be more than impressed to hear it come out all as on the mark as it does. His vocals are right up to the rafters in tone and it’s a remarkable display of D.Ni.L’s range that reveals his courage as a performer willing to go after boldly delicate moments & really commit to what serves the overall song in the best ways possible.
Kickin’ & thrashin’ his way out of the slow-stuff, “Let The Side Down” works the rhythm in the title for the chorus while D.Ni.L brings the story supporting the fiery hooks that hit hard on this cut out through the verses. BIG impact when that bass comes in to support with added guitars around forty-five seconds in, filling in this track with EVERYTHANG your ears wanna hear. Smart ideas like the transition into the bass-led jazzy moments around the 1:20 mark and stripping the intensity back to bring it back in that loud/quiet style he can use so well packs a maximum punch as he shifts between those two gears in this song along its structure. Around the 2:30 mark, he’ll slide into a third gear altogether, raising the stakes by adding in a decided Hip-Hop twist and filling it all in with even more background vocals that haunt the mix surrounding him. KILLER tone on the opening guitars, great rhythm in his flow as “Let The Side Down” starts out and continues to get gnarlier from there on, fluidly moving through each part, allowing that punch to really make an impact through the stop/start movements & chops on display. And I’m just gonna say it…I mean, it MIGHT be the voice in my head but I’m convinced that I’m hearing it – listen to the chorus CLOSELY – there’s a background layer that’s even wilder than the rest…such a subtle addition to the whole cut but actually massively effective in bringing the madness in this vibe to the surface.
LISTEN…COME ON D.Ni.L…you gotta at least give the other musicians out there a CHANCE to catch up will ya? This dude is decades ahead of the rest when it comes to ideas, structure, and assembly – he’s a genuine force on the frontlines of a shift in music that’s able to fuse some many different aspects together and broaden the horizons of what you listen to within a single track like “Melt.” Right from the drop though – listen to the killer tone & distortion on the guitars and how clear the vocals come through; it ends up giving his music such a raw & menacing edge & stunning beauty at the same time – and he’ll flex that combination possibly more than ever before on this cut. D.Ni.L almost sounds like Daniel Johns of Silverchair on this track…and even the song itself has that ambitious mix of alt/art-rock that they finished the band’s career on. A successful dive into the depths of his range of extremities – he’s got some of his most direct & scathing moments on the mic here, but also some of the most beautiful as well. So buckle-up & be ready for the ride, cause this track will definitely take you on one, “Melt” is wildly ambitious and once again, nailed by D.Ni.L perfectly. Charisma and character reign supreme here…even in the most melodic & chill moments of “Melt,” D.Ni.L remains a force to be reckoned with on the mic, displaying some more serious highlights as he goes from the lowest notes of his register to the highest ones with ease, then detonating into all-out rage-screams right after or before his most angelic spots. Like I said, “Melt” is one hell of a ride and it’s because this guy is so clever with his song structures and innovative with his approach, you won’t always know which part of his sound, the chill or the rage, is gonna come at you through your speakers next. And I love that. You should too.
Almost a lil’ bit of Mars Volta like style & flair on “Nod” that I really dig…probably more towards the end on a vocal level but on display throughout the wild structure and stylistic movement of “Nod” as well. It’s not the dominant feature alright? It’s just an aspect…ultimately “Nod” is a million times more accessible than anything the Mars Volta put out. Maybe I should have started this section of the review differently. You’ll hear it in the breakdown for sure and the way the backing vocals support the lead as “Nod” heads towards the end – there, that’s where you’ll find my reference on the mic, okay? Again, musically I think there are a lot of comparisons to be made though as well from the flavor & character of the sound to the complexity of the instrumentation and willingness of D.Ni.L to ‘go there’ and take that time to find seriously unique parts we haven’t heard yet. For the bulk of “Nod” that uniqueness is still remarkably accessible once again, largely due to the smooth way that he sings his way through this cut, but also for that impressive amount of personality and flavor that the music has too. If I’m not mistaken, “Nod” goes deep into that pain & struggle of addiction…and the “Nod” itself is a sly reference to that silent acknowledgement of ‘it’s time to do business’ in the relationship in between dealer & client. At least I think so? D.Ni.L’s done a great job of detailing the predatory nature of that situation and added a bizarre narrative in this cut that I suppose could be taken several ways…so don’t quote me on like, you know, ANY of this…but I’m going with that theory between dealer/client and the resulting aftermath of how that relationship could go over time, even years later perhaps. It could also be about things that are completely different than anything I’m hearing here…I might not have a single valid or insightful comment about “Nod” and it’s perplexingly complex tale…I just know what I like to listen to and I’m more than fine to admit I might not get a single thing here other than just knowing I’ll turn it up.
“Running” begins immaculately. I mean, it’ll stay that way too – but MAN what a beginning. Like, from what we learned over this past year with Boy.Inside, we knew that D.Ni.L was a killer musician, knew that he could write a killer song, and could execute with killer instincts, instrumentation, and precision. What I feel like the entire album of Do You Know Who I Am? gives you even more of an opportunity to appreciate is the vocals this time around – I think this dude is absolutely outstanding on “Running.” He’s been damn near superhuman throughout this entire record so far, but he’s really found a style that suits him strongly in the way he sings “Running” that connects right to the heart of the sincerity of this cut. Versatile and unafraid to switch it up as ever – there’s no doubt that you could easily argue he’s gone on to include Pop & R&B in the hooks of this cut, which is still certainly based in that crunchy Rock style we know & love from D.Ni.L, but bringing that accessibility factor up even more with a crossover sound on “Running” that should appeal to just about everyone you can think of and their dog as well. As heartbreaking as it is sweet, that signature D.Ni.L melancholy and push/pull of emotions is right on the surface and bleeding raw out in the open, exposed for all to see & hear on “Running” – I felt like he’s got something really special in this track in that single-worthy-hooks aspect once again. The chorus is 100% effective and is a true sing-along moment in many ways…and man…EVERYTHING you’ll hear in the vocals and instrumentation surrounding those choruses in the verses he’s written are completely captivating & spellbinding moments you never want to end. Except they do end, and then you’re right in the middle of the perfection of the way he sings the chorus of “Running,” so why complain? The more D.Ni.L seems to have incorporated that Pop or R&B side of his sound in songs like this one, or in “Forever” earlier on, have been some of the best surprises and most memorable cuts on this album. The chorus of “Running” could very well take the award for best hook on the whole album.
Consistently compelling to listen to, D.Ni.L has once again made this a journey worth taking and a seriously unique experience all-around. “Sweet Man” is yet another awesome example of his use of pace & space, loud & quiet, and his understanding of how to use the dynamics of his material to his advantage when it comes to the relationship between his vocals & music. Plus the additional organs filling in the atmosphere, those don’t hurt none either…he’s got some really badass ideas going on here, but it’s definitely a song that stood out to me more for its precision-perfect metering and movement perhaps more than anything else. I know, I listen to music weird – other people will definitely hear other things about it first…like the melodic climb through the mid-section around the two-minute mark and the way the vocals sweeten right up from the background to the lead, or the punch back into the energy of “Sweet Man” – there’s lots to dig on from what you hear to how you hear it. I just feel like songs like “Sweet Man” probably deviate a bit more from that widespread accessibility towards a more niche audience of progressive listeners out there. Ain’t nothing wrong with switching that all up, he’s gone to plenty of different places on Do You Know Who I Am? & this track still fits cohesively in the set. At the end of the day, hooks are always important, but so are meatier ideas that’ll hold up over time and it’s cuts like “Sweet Man” that you’ll find always have something different for you to listen to each time you check out this album over the years to follow – it’s that strong substance you want on a record.
Every time he surged into the chorus of “Top And Bottom Of It” I just wanted to turn this song UP even more somehow…no fault of his other than the fact that he created this awesomeness, I’m not complaining about the mix whatsoever. Those vocals bro! D.Ni.L is letting that expressive voice of his rule confidently throughout this whole record – and what he’s taking on with “Top And Bottom Of It,” like on many of the songs throughout Do You Know Who I Am?, is no easy task, requiring him to successfully combine a huge range of tones and techniques to make it work – and he certainly has. You’ll hear the attention to detail at work here, the killer dedication to the craft for sure – it’s right there in your speakers from the lefts to the rights, listen to the way each layer and instrumented is powerfully represented in the mix and able to make a true impact as it all comes at us. Love the added bridge dealio he brings in surrounding the third-minute as well…it’s as strong as a chorus is and a pleasant surprise that kicks the song into yet another successful dimension within this one experience, branching out in all directions and finding impressive results in each effort. Another track that you’ll notice the hook & pull grab you immediately though, make no mistake, “Top And Bottom Of It” is immaculately enticing through its clever musicianship and tangibly heavy emotions that D.Ni.L wrestles with. He might be “happy in a melancholy way” as he details on “Top And Bottom Of It” – but that’s kind of what it seems like D.Ni.L is all about and where he’s comfortable. Melancholy gets confused with sadness all the time, but not here – I get where the man’s coming from…he’s doing fine left to his own devices; he’s championed over the demons of his past and stoked an incredible fire of creativity by throwing himself into all aspects of his art. So he’s not dropping balloons to celebrate; he’s still happy, as he tells ya here.
“Under My Wing” examines the fragility of trust and personal relationships close-up extremely well. Fantastic mix & contrast on display here once again…listen to the difference between the vibes you’ll find in the verse & chorus, which will clue you in to what’s perhaps even two different perspectives in this one song…or the possibilities of where trust & a little faith can lead you, both the good & the bad. You’ll get that eerie mix of beauty in the guitars sparkling throughout this song, similar to that feeling that clings to you in Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.” Once again, similarities in tone – style-wise, this is quite different from anything Radiohead…and even despite the toughest parts in the lyricism, that chorus sets D.Ni.L free and breaks open with a beautifully expressive and wide-open sound that’s straight-up soothing to the soul. That sweet surge into the chorus is a powerful moment you really feel on “Under My Wing” – and the additional electro-elements in the mix give this cut a bit more depth in that respect, the album a bit more diversity in that sense of sound as well. To me, this whole cut was another highlight example of D.Ni.L’s ability to combine the light & the dark as one in a way that makes both aspects equal counterparts and adversaries, yet still complementary to the overall concept & vibe.
Good lord. The dude has just been crushing the mic with sincerity and passion from beginning to end on this record and taking MASSIVE chances that have yielded nothing but spectacular results every single time. D.Ni.L ends this record with what would nearly pass for a heartfelt Third Eye Blind track at the very beginning of “Way Back Down” – obviously with better vocals though, cause that guy can’t sing for shit (I don’t care what anyone says, he’s brutal, I have this debate what seems like EVERY week of my life with my best friend, so if you wanna argue about it at any time just @me brothers & sisters, I’m happy to continue) – but to Jenkins’ credit, he can also write a really solid tune that appeals to our emotions & thoughts, I can give him that. So for me, “Way Back Down” was like taking the best of that potential, and making the most of it – and then that mix of absolutely EPIC raw gruffness & grunge to the melody that he’ll throw into the chorus alongside his sweeter vocalizations…I mean…freakin’ badass as it GETS yo! Slowing it all down to just the stunning beauty that exists in the melody & music around the 6:30 mark of the longest cut on his album was an exceptional way to exit this record in the dreamiest ways – he sends you off floating here, blissfully into the atmosphere of swirling sound that hits the mark for sincerity spot-on. I really think that some of D.Ni.L’s best moments vocally on this track have come without any actual words at all…just the sound of him naturally going with the moment have really sparked a lot of sincerity and melody into this song & to this record in truly wonderful ways. Obviously it would be damn near impossible to choose between what you’ll like more, whether it’s the ultra-beefed up grunge-screams or the smooth bliss of his singing at his most soulful – but thankfully, he’s been good to us this holiday season and doled out a massively satisfying mix of both to create the ending of his new album & leave you wanting nothing more…other than to spin the entire album all over again of course. The end of “Way Back Down” is hypnotic, mesmerizing, captivating, and stunningly beautiful – I don’t think D.Ni.L could have ended this experience any better than he’s done here, and to take it all one step further – I don’t think I’ve heard an artist crack the bat this hard on back-to-back releases in a long, long time. It shines a bright & beautiful light on what love is all about and the lengths we’ll go to/what we’ll accept to keep it, or at least try to, maybe if only from a distance. Killer final cut to go out on that masterfully mixes searing intensity with endearing melody, heartbreak, and admiration all in one.
I’m easily just as impressed with Do You Know Who I Am? as I was with Boy.Inside if not more-so…I mean it COULD be the newness of it all, but I think it’s honestly just how much more D.Ni.L has gone after the vocals with such commitment, range, and incredibly ambitious melodies that likely pushed this record even further than the last. He’s got a lot here that people can rock to for sure – but he’s also found amazing ways of expanding his sound to include an even bigger variety of sound this time around, which is seriously impressive if you’ve listened to his past material. It’s crystal clear that creatively, D.Ni.L is in an amazing space and surging into the prime of his art & music right now – and if you ask me, based on what I’ve heard here on Do You Know Who I Am?, he’s still getting stronger.
Do You Know Who I Am? officially comes out on New Year’s Day 2019. Until then, stay up to-date & find out more about D.Ni.L from his official homepage and have a listen at: https://www.d-ni-l.com
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