Deadlights – Mesma (Review)

Brisbane’s Deadlights have left a huge impression on us already, with two stellar singles (“Invisible Hands” and “Attitude & Longitude”).

The Deadlights foursome of Dylan Davidson (vocals), Tynan Reibelt (guitar & vocals), Josh O’Callaghan (drums) and Sean Prior (bass & vocals), have a sound we can’t get enough of. Needless to say, we’ve been waiting impatiently to check out their debut album, releasing on 21st April through Greyscale Records. So getting our hands on Mesma prior to release date felt like Christmas.

By way of Mesma, Dylan Davidson explains: “There is a natural energy transference that occurs between all things. Mesma is an exploration into the relationship between the erratic chaos of life and the hypnotic undertones of order.”

In terms of energy transference and the unseen, Deadlights have already referenced ‘invisible hands’ in their first single; most famously used by Friedrich Nietzsche, describing that it is “invisible hands that torment and bend us the worst”. The idea of us being influenced by the unseen is an important one, given the stigma surrounding mental health and why we humans feel how we feel. Given that Northlane had simultaneously explored the same concept of energy transference in their latest album Mesmer, it is exciting to see this current (and further) exploration of ideas that inspire depth of thought toward the unseen ways we’re impacted in this life we’re living.

So as we begin listening to Mesma, it kicks off to a blistering start on the first track, with ringing guitars that scream for us to wake up and pay attention. The screamed vocals along with heavy guitars and slammed drums follow suit to this vibe, with listeners only given a reprieve from the bombardment at the clean vocals. The determination of Deadlights to inspire change and encourage awareness still holds firm. This is “Order Without Order” and it’s all we can do to hold on for the ride.

“We are not enslaved.
And if you’re done with these laws from the Stone Age,
Hear my words. Wipe the slate,
‘Cause we won’t last at our current rate.
Shut up,
What’s important to you in this day and age?
Hear my words. Wipe the slate,
Before it’s too late.”

Guitar raunch closes out “Order Without Order”, and you kind of just sit there for a moment like ‘Whoa’. We’re already deep in to the reality that is Deadlights’ Mesma with this fiery start.

A grinding bass and sultry sound carries us into the second track: “The Mad Scientist”. The sound feels weighed down and held back and it’s reflected all over the place; by the weight of frustration toward a logic-less reigning power and by sliding (clean) vocals and the bass. We’re still in ‘wake up’ territory, with frustration building into anger as the song progresses, the unclean vocals doing what they can to get through to you.

“It’s a rusted cog and chain response,
Slowing down the truth.
I have busted free from there and now,
I beg you to follow suit.”

There’s heavy questioning of what has been sold as being right, and Deadlights share an intensity of passion for awareness that’s so obviously apparent. We need to listen and wake up, or be run over by the drumfire (at 1:28) that threatens to mow down the entire track. But the song sections keep the track held together and they swing from hectic aggression, to bass raunch city and back again like it’s nothing.

And just when you think you’re impressed with this track, they hit you with 2:19:

“There’s so much tension in the room,
It’s boiling up my blood.
The spirits start to loom,
I can hear my heart thud.”

It’s a heart-tearing moment of stillness and clarity that kills me every time I hear it, pulling the song into something more introspective, tender, and escapist. As the track rides out, there’s competing vocals/lyrics and it gives the impression of being caught between feeling and fighting. There is nothing that’s not impressive about this track and it deserves an obsessive amount of replays.

But onward we go to “Preconceptions” at the third track, bringing with it a broad and easy alternative rock sound at the introduction. Little do we know (with a subtle warning by way of screamed vocals and looping guitar) that you’re about to have your ears and soul pulled into a deep hole of guitar heaven, bass-bliss, and holy-fuck-those-drums-are-incredible and who-even-am-I-anymore.

“Try to keep your wits about.
It gets difficult when you doubt
Everything and everyone,
And you won’t be outdone.”

And onward the track goes back to alt rock land at the chorus like nothing just happened. Each verse hits hard back into that awe-inspiring intensity and it’s so sonically impressive that it’s hard to focus on the vocals, which describe wrestlings with self-expression and identity. It’s another ‘wow’ track from Deadlights, and even with just these three we have gone for a deep dive into, I can imagine it was a very tough decision to choose which tracks were to be put forward as singles. The band shared that they’ve been developing their sound over the last nine years and it shows.

“Wavelengths” is fourth on the album, poking at the theme by way of the album title: Energy and the unseen. It’s angsty from the get-go and with a repeated melody and irregular timing feels tangled up and stuck. Impressive drum spotlights feel like an attempt for order, but the chaoticness continues, with only temporary space given for order at the choruses.

We’re all people just on different wavelengths.
We’re here for the same reasons, just our own takes.”

I’m just going to refer to the blend of semi-spoken/screamed lyrics set to heavy rhythms as ‘rap metal’. We’ve heard it on “Attitude & Longitude” already, and it’s heavily done on “Wavelengths”. It’s awesome beyond words, especially when mashed up with clean vocals, creating a fire and urgency to the message. This rap metal feel continues as the song comes to an end, with more fire via djent and ‘wake up already’ vibed vocals. The outro of “Wavelengths” is amazing.

The lack of conformity (for lack of a better way to describe it) with the structure of vocals/rhythm/rhyming is so impressive (ie. “Yet here we are, I feel it, we’ve come / So close yet so far yet so close yet so far.”) and stands out as something unique in Deadlights’ sound. The unpredictability it creates combined with the cohesive sound of the band has me hooked.

“Everything All At Once” is a heart wrenching rollercoaster of mortality and inner awareness. It feels like a question mark relating to living a normal life when you feel that you’ve seen a bigger picture beyond the everyday mundane. It’s awareness to the extreme, seeing yourself and your life with heightened clarity. And recognising your personal role in that, for better or for worse.

“Everything all at once from all times
In a single point for me to cast my eye.
I look backward and forward to all my decisions,
I’ve watched myself on my way to desistence.”

It’s musically brilliant with a moment of panic matched by erraticness vocally, rhythmically and by guitar. Deadlights have also captured the heaviness of realisations (heavy drums as well as lighter melody) as well as dreaminess of escaping (clean vocals), and a combination of two.

We already know and love “Attitude & Longitude”, the sixth track of Mesma. We gushed heavily about this track when the single was released HERE. “Attitude & Longitude” is a fiery wake-up call to notice what we’re doing to the world around us AND respond by doing something about it.

“It’s all talk without action,
So capable of more.”

The rap metal forces are strong on “Attitude & Longitude”, as is the presence of differing sections in the song which each impressively showcase what Deadlights are capable of. Unpredictability works well for Deadlights and expressing their powerful message musically.

At track seven is “Invisible Hands” which is the most beautiful and empassioned message of ‘stay alive’, and describing the effort behind making that happen. Or at least trying to.

“Lash out on me if it makes you feel better.
I’ve reached out enough times,
To know a bark from a bite.

The track shares a recognition that the ‘invisible hands’ are ‘bending and tormenting’ someone to be on the verge of taking their own life, most likely in a state of depression. It expresses a curiosity of what that looks like within them, and seeking to spark some aliveness and fight against the invisible hands, in any way possible. There’s fear and fight here on this track, with time feeling like it’s running out. It is so beautifully melodic in its grasp onto hope, as well as having crushing breakdowns in fight and refusal to see someone self-destruct.

The eighth track on Mesma is “Backwash”. I can only make assumptions by way of meaning but this track is to me a celebration of uniqueness and doing things in your own way. It feels like it could easily be commentary on the music industry and becoming contained and fitting into a prescribed box instead of keeping the heart and uniqueness alive. Especially given the Deadlights approach to creating. The track has irregular written all over it by way of timing, sound and rhythm and the message shared captures the same essence.

“So why have what’s shoved down your throat?
When you can find something that’s just for you,
Something unique.”

From 2:15 on “Backwash” kicks off something so powerfully amazing, I can barely find the words to describe the entire picture of what’s been created here. It’s a kickass celebration of personal power (“Keeping in touch with the solar plexus / Charges the light bulbs above our necks”), your own unique voice, and keeping in touch with that. It’s done so well on all fronts that I’m speechless and struggling to find suitable adjectives for this collective awesomeness by the entirety of Deadlights.

“Know Hope” feels like a middle fingered anthem to a hater (or haters). Similar to “Backwash”, the track celebrates uniqueness and not doing what ‘everybody else does’, and noticing how other people may react to that.

“I can see you looking down on me,
I can hear your snide remarks.
And on the day, I call you out,
You’ll be hiding in the dark.”

And in true Deadlights’ style we veer across sound sections which are all impressively done and all supporting the same message: enraged rock anthem, hardcore-esque breakdowns, punk pace, djent playground, drum solo city. “Know Hope” will be even more impressive when Deadlights are playing it ‘in front of thousands’, as the lyric goes, because their uniqueness totally deserves that recognition.

“The Translator” at track ten loses some of the fire of the previous tracks, with clean vocals only. Passion remains intact though and it’s speaking directly to the concept of energy transference, and reflection on another through this lens.

“You’re the Dead Sea.
Letting your current carry me away.
Floating on your waves while I stare at the moon,
The perfect way to let salt into my wounds.”

The layered and echoed vocals, pulse beats, and repeated melody support the feeling of waves and flowing. It’s beautifully done and feels like a heavy farewell.

“Suadade” is next on Mesma and heavily pushes into conflict and regret by way of a relationship. Drumfire and distaste are wrapped up in pointed guitar and heavy rawness.

You can take back the words you’ve said
But actions speak louder and yours scream instead.
Recognize the hurt you’ve inflicted.
Turn a blind eye to the ones you’ve affected.”

“Suadade” by way of definition of the word is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves’. This track goes deep into that melancholy, edging toward deathcore, leaving the clean vocals sounding ironic. The ending is impressively done; a last gasp of hate/confusion toward the experience.

The final track on Mesma is “The Shapeshifter”; already goosebump-inciting at the introduction. It feels unmistakeably like something is coming, and we soon learn what that is; a hard hitting sense of alarm as to what we’re watching unfold around us.

“Someone’s got in your ear
& Reminded you the strength of fear.
Don’t give it in you’re so
Much more than skin & bones.”

“The Shapeshifter” is an epic track, recognising ways in which we’re rendered blissfully unaware, and then seeking fight against this situation that we did not sign up for. It’s heavy in frustration and as the song peaks, vocals spark into flame of a passionate quest to make a difference.

If I could make my voice any clearer.
If I could make my point stand out.
Then maybe they would notice.
Radio silence echoes through the air.
I must’ve missed the headcount,
‘Cause there’s people everywhere.”

Having absorbed all twelve tracks of Mesma, I am left moved and wowed by this album. The brilliance of Deadlights is in no way limited to what they’ve put out in “Invisible Hands” and “Attitude & Longitude”. On the entirety of Mesma, every member of Deadlights brings their musical and soulful all, leaving a trail of passion, fire, and a distinct sense of giving a fuck about our humanly existence. The power of their introspective tracks is across all elements of what they have created here. This is simply an amazing album.

21st April update: Stream Mesma in its entirety now!

Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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