D.Ni.L – V – Album Review
The perennial music all-star D.Ni.L returns!
Always completely stoked to hear new tunes from this relentlessly innovative & creative hybrid of the independent scene – Neil Card has proven himself time & again to be a complete asset to the industry and to our speakers, up to & including the award he took home this very year in 2019 for being the Inspirational Leader of the year at the Youth Music Awards. We couldn’t agree more – he genuinely is an inspiration; both in his own music as D.Ni.L and his assistance with countless other careers out there getting underway, he’s clearly working around the clock all in a sincere effort to make this planet rock.
The ambition of D.Ni.L’s creativity makes itself immediately apparent with the staggered timing that runs through the opening cut from V, called “Drop.” As versatile and dynamic as we’ve come to know him to be – “Drop” nearly recalls something close to how Silverchair morphed their sound over time to be a lot more substantial, including additional theatrics in sound direction and nearly opera-esque harmonies and vocal parts. I can hear how the everyday listener might take this opening track in – and admittedly, it’s a really large ask of the average set of ears; to listen to a song like “Drop” and fully stick with it, is to reveal your real love for adventurously progressive ideas on the inside of what you listen to. And believe me when I say, if that’s the side of the fence you land on, you’ll find plenty that’s highly rewarding to listen to on “Drop” and throughout this record – dude’s a top-shelf musician & songwriter and he gives you a perfect dose of what he’s capable of on the opening cut. The way he transitions into the second gear of this song around the 1:30 mark is magnificent – the return around 2:15 is equally so – “Drop” has a solid combination of Alt-Rock/Hardcore/Metal sound and a core built around Funk…then you add the high-art moments like how he’ll end “Drop” in an almost Radiohead-esque fashion through his vocal performance & songwriting…ya can’t really ask for any more than the man gives ya, you dig?
“Backhander” comes out swinging with a verse that hits the mark for sure through the deadly rhythm & movement you’ll find…chances are, the hooks you’ll find will outshine the ones in the chorus to follow. Ain’t nothing wrong with that…the chorus has hooks too, just arguably not quite as accessible as those that you’ll find in the verses is all. What I instantly loved and appreciated about both the way “Drop” and “Backhander” are structured, is that you can hear so many impressive things happening in the vocals that you’d easily run out of fingers if you tried to count’em all on your hands. “Backhander” goes from Rap to Rock to beautifully expressive falsetto vocals that show D.Ni.L has the chops & skills to back up his ambitions. He’ll give ya screaming, he’ll give ya serenity…and like the true innovator he is, you’re likely not to see any of it coming…dude’s a master of musical surprise. LISTEN to the sounds that start happenin’ around the forty-five second mark and how the guitar layers interact…the warm glow of the organ filling in the sound of the chorus…the all-out deadly vocals…the punishing of drum skins…the incredible transitions he makes – in particular around the two-minute mark…that’s magic right there is what that is. “Backhander” still flashes those elements of Jazz & Funk inside its core…D.Ni.L gets his Rap/Rock combo goin’ on…the chorus is super strong, the energy is up, the production is flawless.
The punch of “Painted” hits hard when he wants it to, and slips into sweet psychedelically-inclined & melodic moments at others. While it’s always clear that D.Ni.L is nearly incapable of sitting still or being satisfied with just one main idea to fuel the fire in any song, it’s that sonic diversity that’s also his main asset. “Painted” will find extraordinary moments along the way that have the most universal appeal to be found from the opening three tunes, once again uncovering a true beauty in amongst the darkness and rage surrounding. It occurred to me when listening to “Painted” – that D.Ni.L is well on his way to becoming the next Mike Patton…I can verifiably hear the skills to push his art that far and become equally well respected in the industry one day. Listening to the transition around the two-minute mark of “Painted” is like a damn near transcendental experience…or the highlight ending he brings to this track is…it’s audible euphoria coming outta the speakers dear readers, dear friends. I’d say mark my words, but do better than that and want more for yourselves – go get this freakin’ album & the rest of D.Ni.L’s catalog while you’re at it. I’m not here to advertise, I’m just here to tell ya what you need to make your LIFE complete…if you wanna ignore my advice that’s up to you, but I hope the ears on your face go on strike as punishment…I’m just sayin.’
To make a basketball analogy out of nowhere, D.Ni.L is like the James Harden of the music universe; his awesomeness occurs so often that it would be easy for people to take it for granted and not give him the credit he so truly deserves. Damn near nobody out there is making music like D.Ni.L is right now – and even attempting it would be a daunting task for 99% of the artists/bands in the scene. Listen to a track like “Licked” and again, appreciate greatness when ya hear it – because it’s really not every day that an artist like this comes along. In fact, we know that to be true – dude’s so busy and immersed in his art that it was nearly a year to the day since we reviewed his last record, Do You Know Who I Am? back in December of last year. As per a great many of D.Ni.L’s cuts, you’ll find his deepest cuts are highly personal ones, quite often raging against his own thoughts and experiences more than the machine if you catch my drift. “Fell beneath the standards I set” is a brilliant hook in “Licked” and one of the strongest you’ll find on the record – but so too is the way D.Ni.L sings it all with such versatility…it’s undeniably interesting to listen to and another huge checkmark in the win column for the lineup on V.
Dialing-back the immediate rage and punishing sound he’s put into the beginnings of the first four cuts, “Wallowing” heads forlornly in the opposite direction to great effect. With all the in-your-face ideas and songs that D.Ni.L creates, switching it up ends up making a massive impact here – the desolate and chilled-out sound of “Wallowing” is something you’ll instantly notice. He uses space and pace brilliantly here, keeping his aggression on the shelf when it comes to the music and delivering a powerful set of lyrics that are both thought-provoking and clearly personal. He’ll even give ya one of the slickest additions of spoken-word on this tune that you’re likely to hear this year…a perfect part that gives a genuinely haunting element to the experience of “Wallowing.” LISTEN to things like the way the percussion and drums play a role here…the mix on them is absolutely mesmerizing…the tone on the bass is equally fascinating…could be synthetic, could be muted…whatever it is, it’s amazing. Vocals are great and contain a dark melodic cadence & vibe…the effects give the words that distance to make the experience real as hell. The spoken-word might be a small portion of the song overall, but what an excellent inclusion…every time I heard this song come on I appreciated the little things like that, and the sheer diversity in style that D.Ni.L sings with…he could go low, he could go high, he could scream right in our bloody faces and every one of us would probably still stare right at him with a huge grin of approval.
He doesn’t fully spark his rage back up too quickly, giving you another low-key structure & pace on “Fuck Right Now,” containing harder-hitting sound, but still a more atmospherically-inclined cut on the record. D.Ni.L is ultimately always killer when it comes to his vocals, but big-ups to this performance all the same, I think this is a noteworthy highlight on display from the man. Everything about a track like “Fuck Right Now” is about as anti-typical as it gets, but the way he’s able to combine such straightforward aggression with his more melodic moments deserves real credit. Transitions are so entertaining and so damn flawless when it comes to D.Ni.L’s music that you can’t help but appreciate how he moves through a song – “Fuck Right Now” is one of those cuts that sounds jagged in the right way…sharp AF and determined to be as in your face as possible…the sounds of mayhem & menace, beauty, and a lil’ Funk driving the pulse & soul of this tune lead the way to another solid cut in the set you can rely on.
“Crawled Out” reaches nearly into Deftones territory…and I’d imagine based on the amount of falsetto parts D.Ni.L includes in his vocals and the chops of his music that they’d be a massive influence on him. I mean c’mon now…dude IS like a cross between Patton and Moreno…you know how much street cred a comment like that buys ya where I’m livin’ in the musical realm? All of it. That’s right, I said all of it. And as usual, I’m not blowin’ smoke here – I’m tellin’ ya like it is…whether you think he’s already at that level and able to compete with legends like Mike and Chino yet or not, you gotta recognize that the potential is certainly there – that’s how badass this guy is and the powerful skills he’s got to contribute with. I’m talking about his mind-tools folks…dude’s got a brain for making music, full stop. The music D.Ni.L might be hard AF for the most part, but it’s as high-art as music can really be through its design. Even when he’s yellin’ at ya like he’ll do on “Crawled Out” at times. The breakdown that occurs around the 1:25 mark was one of my favorite moments on the entire record; it’s as stripped-down as we’ve heard him so far on V, and once again, dialing-back the sound and increasing the space works perfectly for him. Plus, when he comes storming back in around the 2:35-ish spot, ripping into a guitar solo and pounding the drums, the virtuoso in him gets the spotlight, as it should. While the complexity and sheer amount of twists & turns he can pack into one song will definitely make many of these tunes more difficult to follow for the everyday listeners out there, he wields his diversity in sound like a weapon, sharply pointing it from your speakers and poking your ears in bold ways that deserve your attention.
Being a self-confessed addict to melody, tracks like “Touched” capture my interest immediately. I’ve heard enough from D.Ni.L over the years to know to never expect that he’ll remain in just one gear – I fully suspected that “Touched” would find its nuclear core and detonate soon enough, but I also think that there’s no denying the impact he can make even in the quietest moments. Like I’ve been tellin’ ya, he’s one hell of a musician…like for real, the skills on display and the effort he puts into his material could never be ignored – but as a songwriter and singer, he might somehow actually be even better. He brings in a malleable vibe here at times…almost like the early days of Incubus on “Touched,” something around the S.C.I.E.N.C.E. era where things were really clicking for their creativity and savageness. I dig the bendable melody D.Ni.L has written and performed here…I think the movement and pace in the structure is built to have this cut stand out as noticeably as it does…the hooks are among the finest you’ll find on V, and ultimately I’m certain he’s got one of the most accessible songs in his catalog here.
“20/20” also puts melody front and center…he’ll switch it up more gently on this song; it might still carry the niche sound of an innovative and inventive artist, but there’s an argument to be made for this being one of the more universally accessible songs on this new album, if not the most accessible overall. Again, it’s strange in the sense that, “20/20” would be an A-side cut on just about any record out there – but here in the confines of a D.Ni.L album, anything that could be somewhat perceived as more ‘normal’ or ‘straight-ahead’ in terms of structure would likely have a tougher time standing out for his hardcore fans. And I’d say that “20/20” nearly goes far enough in that direction to question it a little inside of the more creative, artistic, and atmospheric tunes he’s put out on the record beforehand by comparison. Still a good tune…for many people out there this could definitely be the favorite…I think for me, I found myself appreciating how I know this could be that song that brings a lot of new fans into the fold for D.Ni.L – the crossover potential is pretty large and it’s contemplatively single-worthy, even at a slower pace. Where I really thought he brought it to “20/20” is towards the surge to the end in the final transition…he saved some genuine fireworks for the end of this song, and indeed still to come on V.
LISTEN to the awesomeness in “Bunch Of Fives” will ya? Sometimes I really just have to sit and marvel at the genius of this guy…this is innovative and brilliant as fuck – everything you’ll hear is so freakin’ enticing and unique that you have to wonder what planet D.Ni.L comes from sometimes. The depth in the selection of gritty sound and the use of the loud/quiet dynamics absolutely slays on “Bunch Of Fives” – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, not many out there make anything close to what this guy creates, and even fewer would be successful if they dared to try. For myself personally, this is where I’m at – everything about “Bunch Of Fives” is exactly what I wanna hear from this guy and I’ve felt like that since I started listening. The all-out ferocious stomp and storm of the bass & the beat, the 100% killer hooks of the guitars, the award-worthy brilliance in the way D.Ni.L sings this song…if you ask me, this whole song stacks up so large and in-charge that we all live in its shadow! What I can tell you objectively though, is that “Bunch Of Fives” probably would be a harder sell to the masses given the extremes that it goes to at its most intense…I can totally get that the shocking levels of aggression you’ll find might not be for everyone…but I’ll be damned if I don’t tell ya it SHOULD be. I wanna live in that world! Songs like “Bunch Of Fives” challenge listeners without apologies, muscling its way through your speakers to punch you in the gullet & force ya to listen, or reconcile with the fact that, you’d kinda suck a little if you didn’t.
At nearly double the length of any song on the album, D.Ni.L finishes off V with a massive tune called “Lying In Wait” that flexes his professional finesse as an artist over the course of nearly nine minutes. He’s stretching his musical talent even further here, branching out with the addition of delicate string sounds alongside him, while he transitions between the menacing slur of his verse, the beauty to be found in the serenity of his falsetto, and the gripping aggression he pours into the microphone at the most intense moments of “Lying In Wait.” Like c’mon people…listen to the sonic brilliance he stumbles on into around the five-minute mark and how genuinely wonderful the sound of this song becomes, even while declaring “You’re not so special after all” in his words. Consider D.Ni.L as the smorgasbord of sound he truly is…I’ve acknowledged plenty that I know many of his songs would be a struggle for people that turn on their stereos once a week, but even if that’s the case, there’s still something written into every one of these tunes that could potentially hook you in. For you musician-types and dedicated fans out there – the music D.Ni.L creates is a must-have experience…this is the level of innovation in ideas and stunning execution that you’re always hoping to hear, but so rarely ever find. Let it be said – the man doesn’t just detonate on “Lying In Wait” – he all-out explodes into savage sets of vocals that will rampage your playlists – but listen to the amount of melody he can bring to the SAME SONG, like within the fifth-minute – and then of course back to his throat-ripping best right afterwards, and so on. You get the point I’m sure…and make no mistake, he’s the kind of singer that can seriously control the tone of even the harshest scream…everything is so remarkably well layered and sung that you can’t help but FEEL in your own throat just how these notes from the face of D.Ni.L end up sounding to our ears. Someone get the man a tank of oxygen for Christmas will ya? With “Lying In Wait” at the end, drifting between its highlights of serenity & rage, the man leaves you with zero doubt about the fact that he puts absolutely everything he’s got into everything he does – you can literally and audibly hear that’s true. D.Ni.L is an unstoppably powerful force in the independent music-scene…and V proves it again.
Have a listen for yourself and check out D.Ni.L’s new record V at: https://www.d-ni-l.com
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!