D.Ni.L – Still A Sense Of Disease – Album Review
Here are a couple fun facts for you to start off with…and one I didn’t even fully realize myself in fact! I’ve actually only been listening to the music of D.Ni.L for LESS than three years? That doesn’t even seem possible with all the incredible songs I’ve heard from this amazing artist in such a short timeframe; and yet the other fact I’d share with ya, the one I do know by heart, is that he’s also made our top ten list of the year TWICE in that same span, and was also in fact, the very first artist OR band to ever do it. While I sit here constantly waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to this guy, I remain proudly ahead of the game here, knowing exactly how awesome this guy really is, waiting to say I told you all so. D.Ni.L is more than just a proven force to be reckoned with early on in his career – he’s already put the rest of the scene on notice through the material he’s made & records he’s put out; either they’ve listened and realized they’ll never be able to keep up with his creativity, or they’ve already discovered they wouldn’t be able to keep up with his work ethic. In any scenario, D.Ni.L is likely outworking YOU.
And hey…let’s be real here…if you didn’t have as much extra time as we truly know you all do, I’d be much more sympathetic about it. Heck, maybe I’d even reach out to the guy on your behalf and just be like, “Yo Neil! Is it possible you can let the rest of these semi-serious bands & artists have a bit of time to catch up to ya?” To which I’d only hope he’d tell me to go pound sand as a response. He’s ahead of the rest for a reason – plenty of reasons actually – & as you’d expect, this album proves that hasn’t changed. I am, and will always be, a massive believer that if you put in the work, you will genuinely get the results; this guy deserves’em & he’s been gettin’em – and between you and me, I’m pretty sure he never sleeps.
A slightly related side story for you here before I crack into Still Got A Sense Of Disease by D.Ni.L – I promise it’ll bear enough relevance to make it worth reading for ya. I remember way back to whenever it was in some summer long ago…hearing this tiny tune called “Yellow” by some band called Coldplay. My friends, all into that hard-stuff like Tool & whatnot at the time, had zero love for this song – but me, I’ve of course always been into everything, that’s just how I was raised. Anyhow. I hear this “Yellow” song, and probably didn’t even take much notice of it myself maybe even on that first experience – but by the second I knew exactly what I was hearing – it was the subtle sound of what was going to be the world’s biggest band. And I told all my friends this same very thing…and ohh how we all had a good lil’ chuckle about that now didn’t we? I wasn’t claiming that they were just going to be another great band with another good album – no – this wasn’t like that at all; I heard the acoustic sound of “Yellow” and the strange magic in that melody, and I knew, with complete certainty, they’d go on to rule the world one day. Flash forward to the day that A Rush Of Blood To The Head came out and pushing play – it starts with what I’d consider to be one of THE most brash, jarring, and stirring openings to any record you’ll ever find in a song called “Politik.” And for a second there, I went, what the fuck? Was I wrong?
I don’t bring this up to brag – and I don’t REALLY claim to being any kind of prophet when it comes to Coldplay, though I admit, making such a massive claim to where they’d get to from such a quaint & inoffensive little ditty like “Yellow” does take a LITTLE insight. But the point is – “Politik” was, and IS, a completely genius tune – and it illustrates the crooked like you have to create in order to really stand out. “Yellow” was never going to get Coldplay there folks…it might have got them to number one, but it wasn’t going to be the breakthrough record that would cement their legacy, which A Rush Of Blood To The Head, indeed became – and it’s because of moments like “Politik” that challenged what we thought we knew about this tender little band, raised up their middle fingers to us all loud’n’proud, and banging on the piano like a bat out of hell, that album starts – and EVERYONE in the room takes notice, every time. Main reason being, the sound is that dominant, that in your face, that unexpected & that unpredictable, that you’re held mesmerized in awe, and spending an equal amount of time on that first spin just trying to fucking absorb what it is you’re actually hearing whilst being punched repeatedly with sound. “Self-Isolate” is D.Ni.L’s “Politik.” It’s so damn awesome you might not even catch it at the start.
In short, what you’ll likely find came out swinging so damn hard in your face, intense, and aggressive, will surprise the living daylights outta you, and quite probably go on to secure “Self-Isolate” as one of your favorite cuts on Still A Sense Of Disease within a mere couple spins once you’ve locked onto what’s coming atcha and you’ve now absorbed that initial punch of the unexpected. But here’s the facts Jack, and I genuinely mean this with every fibre of my being – if you can’t feel the funk in the groove of “Self-Isolate” then you’re broken inside and beyond repair, sorry. Otherwise, if you’re human, you’ll find your way into this song one way or the other; either instantly by being blown away by the intensity of this first cut, or the clever way D.Ni.L rolls the Rs in his words as he’s singing, or the brilliant switch you’ll find in the transition between the hard-stuff to the serenity he’s capable of creating on an atmospheric level. He’s a master of innovation, and this first cut alone should be all the proof you’d ever need of that; the design, structure, composition, execution…everything is as mind-blowing as you’d hope it to be when one of your favorite artists in the game shows up again, which is exactly what D.Ni.L is to me personally.
And it’s exactly what he should be for YOU as well, if you’re paying any goddamn attention. Listening to the genius this man is creating on “Blurred Eyes” is jaw-dropping. I know this whole damn article, and every single one I’ve ever written about this guy seems like it’s built on hyperbole – I swear it’s not – and the fact that these reviews have been so consistent in that regard, should verifiably prove that to ya. The reality is, Neil’s a true musical mind unlike any other – a one-man sonic army unmatched in strength – and an artist you can bank on to deliver the goods, every time. “Blurred Eyes” brilliantly explores the push/pull of the loud/quiet dynamics he uses so well, infuses it with extraordinarily melodic instrumentation in the layers of bass-lines and guitars interacting with each other, particularly over the course of the final minute or so where he really lets the music do most of the talking & jams out the finale. This cut would be a perfect example to point to when it comes to that awe-inspiring moment you wanna find in a song that makes everything stop around you while you give it every ounce of attention you’ve got – that definable hook you’ll remember & can’t ignore; the first time you hear D.Ni.L scale up the melody of the chorus, you’ll recognize the magic the second you hear it, it’s impossible to miss. This second cut churns along in a brilliantly mechanical-like groove that moves with impeccable precision – I’m tellin’ ya directly that, though I have no verifiable proof, Neil Card is either straight-up superhuman, or part robot. He’s mired in the misery he so willingly loves to explore through the music he makes, but he’s got an incredible way of infusing the most devastating moments with uplifting sound & ideas that bring his music so vividly to life, it almost can’t help but make you smile no matter how crushing his lyricism can be. He’ll yell at ya at full volume, he’ll whisper deviously soft, he’ll sing with powerful tone & noteworthy strength, and pretty much tackle the entire gamut throughout this one song alone – “Blurred Eyes” is a stunning example of the hybrid style of his writing & relentlessly professional results.
Half the time, when he’s yellin’ at us, I kind of expect like, a lung to come flying outta my speakers – let’s just say the man holds nothing back when it comes to the commitment in his performance or tapping into the extremes of his vocals – he’s larger than life, and it makes all the difference in the world. Using his stop/start chops to his advantage – you gotta dig the creativity in the riffs D.Ni.L comes up and how in the hell he somehow has the foresight to see how all this madness & mayhem & melody is going to connect in the end – I’m tellin’ ya dear readers, dear friends – there’s truly only ONE of these guys out there in this world, and I’m LOVIN’ IT. “Something Out Of Nothing” is a statement cut in many ways…but think of it like his own mantra. If you know your history on D.Ni.L, where he’s come from, where he’s been in the depths of his battle with addiction – to hear the rebound he’s made, finding a much better trade in being addicted to making music now…I mean, this is the full 180 degrees and a success story in the making that deserves major credit for how he really has created “Something Out Of Nothing.” He knows where life could have ended up for him, or even ended permanently – and every record that D.Ni.L has made, while willing to explore the gritty roots of his past, continually proves that he’s come out so much stronger on the other side of whatever demons were trying their best to claim him. He throws himself into the art with more power & confidence every single time he shows up with a new record, always has incredible new ideas that would take the memory of an elephant to remember, and then just continually delivers and executes at the highest of levels like it’s NBD when it comes to the skills he has, but the level of passion you’ll hear in every song, tells your ears this music thing he’s doin’ means EVERYTHING to him. And as a result, his songs get everything FROM him – which is exactly why, no matter what track you put on, you’ll never find D.Ni.L firing off at anything less than the full 100%. “Something Out Of Nothing” is a solid highlight for his hybrid sound; you’ll find soulful smoothness, amped-up & aggressive funk/metal, and punishing hardcore depth – and you get it all in this one cut.
Same thing with the brilliance on display on “Nuisance Calls From Sunderland” and its own shiny hybrid style & sound – this is versatile AF and another incredible experience on this record with a set of moves I felt like we hadn’t really heard from D.Ni.L in many parts of this fourth cut on Still A Sense Of Disease. For one thing, the title of this tune is one of the hooks you’ll find in it – go ahead and look that over again, it’s called “Nuisance Calls From Sunderland.” See the way that just rolls off the tongue so easily? I’m kidding of course – I know that you don’t – in fact, I don’t know if anyone COULD on paper without hearing it first, other than of course, Mr. Neil Card here, who seems to see the future of music altogether. Hearing the laidback vibes kick in and the soulful vocals he puts into the beginning of this track gives it stunning appeal – and hearing the way the lead-guitar enters this cut around the thirty-second mark…I mean, that’s just straight-up immaculate y’all, full-stop. Genius choices being made here, like how the aggression in the sound seems to become digitalized in the process, stuttering and sputtering out into the mix while the hooks carry on – your ears will absolutely appreciate just how much detail is being put into the music on “Nuisance Calls From Sunderland.” Transitioning from its dreamy & welcoming opening to the twisted & tormented vibes of its chorus and bridge – D.Ni.L gives ya a full array of sound from one side of its extremes to the other, wickedly powerful and wonderfully chill.
One of my own favorite things about this dude’s music is just how many people out there would likely be so ready to write him off as an Alternative/Metal guy without realizing just how much artistry there is in his craft from songwriting, to the performance and production he puts in. And I get it…again, think of my comments in regards to how “Self-Isolate” started this experience – for some people out there, it’d be like the equivalent of touching a hot stove by accident if they just put this album on and didn’t know what would be coming at them. But when you listen to how a song like “Forgotten What’s It’s Like To Be Poor” uses its length in such ambitious way and fills it with such impressive attention to detail, thought-provoking lyricism and palpable emotion – I mean…come ON y’all – you’ve gotta recognize that D.Ni.L is just about a million miles removed from the meatheadedness that’s so typically associated with the Metal scene. From the inclusion of stunning background elements like the piano on “Forgotten What It’s Like To Be Poor,” or the staring-into-the-void-of-self-despair style of vocals that Neil’s created as his signature style of sorts…the man ensures that entertainment continues to keep coming atcha from multiple angles that make an impact. When he sings “I’m so tired of all this white noise in my head” – that’s one of my major highlights on this album all-around…it has such an incredible bend on its melodic design – and not that you should need it at this point, but it’s further confirmation of his genius.
He knows he’s using microphones though right? Neil man, why you yellin’ at me all the time? I kid, I kid – I’m here for it, every time. He makes the most of his ultra-agro mode on “Gutter” – but when you hear how he’s combined the most punishing moments of his vocals and paired those with some of the most melodic music you’ll find on this entire album – you again, have to admire the craft at work. Neil’s one of those rare artists with the true power, strength, and capability of moving the ENTIRE scene forward – and that, I’m not even remotely kidding about. Listen to a song like “Gutter” and you’ll get what I mean – there is, SO MUCH to experience, like, and love about this cut – and with so many dimensions and facets of style & sound on display, that’s exactly where you’ll find the real magic of D.Ni.L at work. It’s the fact that he’s able to combine such a range of ideas and sound into one song, and structure it all in such a way that everyone stays onboard with it, that’s outright award-worthy. Essentially, an artist like this does so much to evolve the entire scene’s musical taste simply by proxy; if you’re listening to D.Ni.L on a song like “Gutter” – which is a standout hybrid cut through & through – you’ll be hearing Soul, Mid-90’s Pop, Progressive, Alternative, Metal, Rock, Hardcore & more…and he’s able to shift and move a song like this from beginning to end AND still keep us with him – incredible! As a result, he’s literally exposing a ton of listeners to what they wouldn’t even normally listen to – and chances are, they’re going to LOVE what they find, even if it wouldn’t have been something they’d normally have put on as a direct result of the way D.Ni.L does his thing, so very, very well. There is so much vibrant sound, so much personality in the music, so much character in the vocals, and so much interest generated through the inspired spark & energy you’ll find in a song like “Gutter” that you really can’t help but marvel at the master Neil really has become when it comes to the craft of songwriting.
Those familiar chills. You know, I’ve never ignored them once when it comes to listening to music? I don’t know why anyone would – sometimes you can instantly FEEL when you’re about to be in for something savagely special, so much so, that your body might even clue you into it before your mind even has the chance. “Pushed Aside” was like that for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m IN the D.Ni.L camp when it comes right down to it – I KNOW this guy LOVES to get LOUD and believe me, I am fucking HERE for it, every single time. BUT. When Neil wants to haul out the piano, take it all down a notch, enhance his melodic side – which he’s occasionally shown us briefly in the past in quick flashes – the man is capable of creating extraordinary moments in time, never to be forgotten. Like, for example, the chorus of his song “Running” from the album Do You Know Who I Am? – that’s a moment right there, burned blissfully into my brain for all time for its exquisite beauty, never ever to be forgotten – I can still hear it, even if it’s not on, just by closing my eyes. “Pushed Aside” is one of the cuts in his catalog that would absolutely be capable of bringing an entirely different audience into his music, and a track that I can guarantee every songwriter out there in the world will seriously respect. Everything goes right for D.Ni.L here, even when it seems like his world is crumbling down around him on a lyrical level and he’s pushing the world away from him. With so much amazing material on display throughout Still A Sense Of Disease, it becomes nearly impossible to declare any one song as your ultimate favorite – which is always the sign of a great record overall of course – but this…this song really makes a strong case for #1. The piano melody alone will have you falling in love with “Pushed Aside” if not the way Neil sings it from the lead to the background…but it might even be the guitar textures and tones that find the perfect spot in the mix that even do it for me the most. It is hard to say whether or not the finale of this particular cut doesn’t take D.Ni.L too far over the edge for most…perhaps even myself included in that…I kind of went back & forth on the screamin’ when it came to “Pushed Aside” and wondered whether or not this song fully called for that moment, or if a simple notches of volume down might have actually made it have a stronger impact somehow…it’s tough to say. It’s the only moment I questioned at all in “Pushed Aside,” and pretty much the only spot on this record where I wasn’t always on board from one listen to the next with that decision…I do like that it certainly emphasizes & heightens the emotion…I think the idea itself is strong and that’s not what’s making me question it…I suppose it’s only the impact of its shock value versus the serenity in sound he was creating only moments before…part of me wanted that to stay. That being said, if you’re listening to a lot of Neil’s words, it’s that same very calm he wishes would stay a little longer himself, if only to quiet the rage of thoughts roaming in the halls of his head.
It’s rare that you might even feel like there’s something else out there that you can compare this innovative artist with when you’re listening, so believe me, anytime us critics & reviewers can, we’re likely to pounce on that instantly. Like for myself personally, a song like “Chased You Down,” coming in at mighty number EIGHT on a ten track record, is about the first or second time I felt like there was a comparison that could even reasonably be made, which this time around would be Minus The Bear, and ultimately, that’s still a million miles away. When you listen to the innovative spark and creativity on display in the guitars through the verses, you’ll probably get what I mean right away if you’re a fan – and then of course, the rest is completely different from there, well beyond comparison and right back into the realm of D.Ni.L. “Chased You Down” is a mammoth cut on Still A Sense Of Disease – it’s the longest cut at over nine minutes long, not that you’d ever feel a draining length in any song by this guy, because he’s got everything so wickedly loaded up with so many twists & turns it’s like tracks-inside-of-tracks, and you’d never possibly get bored. The best way I can put this…let’s see…let’s see…how do I say this? For one thing, I think it’s genuinely remarkable to find THIS degree of accessibility in a nine plus-minute tune to begin with – that’s astounding, truly – but I also felt like “Chased You Down” was a great representation of the D.Ni.L sound coming out in a way that more people could reach. I get it, it sounds like the same two things, and it kinda IS – but one deals with the objective facts, the other takes place through recognition that there was still room to grow within his music & making a clear attempt to bridge the gap between progressive style tunes & listening ears at several points on this album. Essentially, what I’m saying is you get a lot of the signature D.Ni.L you love here – but you might just have to share the guy with a few more people when it comes to “Chased You Down” as he picks up a couple more million fans with this track. LOVE the haunting & eerie way this whole track starts…you can feel that wicked electricity in the air and the bent-ass, broken lullaby that seeps in around it creep right into your bones. Then, ninety seconds in, it’s like the sun came out for a second – and you’re movin’ & groovin’ along without a care in the world or feeling like you’re just about to have your soul claimed by Samhain. A solid case of careful what you wish for thematically as far as I can tell, D.Ni.L’s crafted a clever love song of sorts that’s centered around crushin’ on someone, only to find that by the time he’s “Chased You Down,” that the reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. One of my favorite transitions & choruses on Still A Sense Of Disease can be found here, and the breakdown where D.Ni.L is left bare-ass naked, vulnerable, and out in the open with only the space surrounding him and the hollow notes of his guitar alongside his voice, might well be the most spellbinding moment you’ll find on this whole album. He latches onto such an impressive degree of accessibility in the middle of this adventurous & ambitious cut, inducing a verifiable sing-along moment that’ll stick around in your head for all the right reasons.
This guy. THIS. GUY. Listening to him play around with space, pace, and timing as he bends his music at will around you on tunes like “Solitary, My Grave” is nothing short of breathtaking and completely mesmerizing. Am I wrong though, or is there actually a bird chirpin’ in here somewhere? I know it’s on purpose, I get that…at least I think I do – you hear it too though right? Just wanna make sure I’ve still got a bit of time before my friends with the special white long-sleeved coat come to get me and take me home again is all. Look – the harshest comment you’re ever gonna find most likely in a review I’m gonna write about the music will always have way more to do with whether or not the masses can even HANDLE it, than it ever will be about something he could have done BETTER – because that latter shit just don’t exist, like, at all. A track like “Solitary, My Grave” probably makes a few more demands on the everyday set of listening ears out there with a more distinctly progressive approach to it that delivers on a real highlight for the peers & fellow musicians out there. Those in the know, as they say, are gonna hear the audible cleverness that D.Ni.L is capable of, how extraordinarily TIGHT a song like this IS & how flawless this whole idea has come out from start to finish, and if they’re listening with ears like I got, they will be amazed – there’s pretty much no other way to even hear it other than that, in my opinion. To me, the consistent & constant factor of D.Ni.L making so many unpredictable twists & turns in his music, and how relentlessly engaging &interesting his ideas are as a result of being so freakin’ CAPABLE of actually bringing his wildest concepts & compositions to life…I mean…I can make the case over and over and over when it comes to this cat’s well-deserved place in the center of the spotlight. There are a whole bunch of you out there that are really, really, really good at what you do – and then there’s Neil. Neil’s in a class by himself, proudly, and rightly so. If everyone had this guy’s level of creativity & skill, the entire planet wouldn’t just spin anymore, it’d be rockin’ non-stop 24/7, that much I can tell ya.
Up in a comfortably high-spot in his vocal register to start out the final track “I Wanna Feel Something Else” after its lengthy intro builds – he’s almost part Mars Volta, part Toad The Wet Sprocket here for a moment or two before the heaviness of this cut kicks in just prior to the two-thirty mark. I get it, you’re thinking – Mars Volta, sure…I can maybe…maybe understand that – but Toad? Aren’t they a 90’s Alt-Pop or damn near Adult Contemporary band? First of all, they’re awesome for entirely different reasons – but secondly, listen to a masterpiece like Dulcinea and tell me that on a production/atmosphere level, a song like “I Wanna Feel Something Else” couldn’t actually slide right into that lineup and not even be noticed, were it not for the inherent heaviness that will continually pop into the mix along the way. Hard to explain what it is or what causes it, other than expert production techniques – and whatever it is, I’ll certainly take it – I love the sound of Dulcinea, and if anything wants to possess similar vibes, I’m definitely willing to listen, every time. Many of the cuts on Still A Sense Of Disease really seemed to embrace that space in sound and keep the atmospheric aspect sharply focused on; obviously D.Ni.L is a million times harder and more aggressive than the most up-tempo Toad rock song could ever be, but on a melodic level, in the most slow-burning, emotionally-driven, hauntingly soulful, and thought-provoking moments, you’ll find the comparisons justified. The IMMACULATE crunch and thickness that comes pouring through your speakers when D.Ni.L hits the switch is beyond unreal – it’s essential listening this year and a highlight example of how to get the maximum potential out of the low-end in a melody. “I Wanna Feel Something Else” ends the album on deceptively addictive sound…this will be that cut you’ll think was a pretty damn good conclusion on that first couple spins, and be straight up needing the main hooks more than you realized very shortly afterwards. Not too shabby of a way to end a record that already warrants every minute you can spare to listen to it – D.Ni.L’s loaded up his last cut with hooks that are guaranteed to keep you coming back, and given that it’s the last cut on the album, that basically equates to pushing play right away & taking the full ride all over again, wash, rinse, repeat. Backing vocals-wise, dude’s just losing his mind back there like he just busted out of the Arkham Asylum, revealing the incredible commitment and confidence that Neil Card brings to the mayhem of his music in all its spectacular glory for ya one last time. I literally can’t say enough about this guy – but I can tell ya for sure that I’ll never get tired of trying, or listening to whatever the hell this madman cooks up next.
Find out more about D.Ni.L from the official website at: https://www.d-ni-l.com
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