For some bands, the dreaded “sophomore slump” is enough to derail a career. They pour a lifetime of musical ideas, experience and passion into that first album, only to discover that inspiration is in short supply when the time to make the follow-up rolls around.
DulceSky is not “some bands.” The idea of a sophomore slump probably never occurred to Oliver Valenzuela or his brother Daniel as they were growing up in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in South America — Santiago, Chile. Like so many other kids, Oliver and Daniel were raised on The Beatles, a band that didn’t know the meaning of the word “slump.” When that formative influence gave way to other heavyweights like the Cure, Ride and Catherine Wheel, Oliver knew he wanted to make albums of his own. He just had to assemble a band, find a new country and learn a new language first.
Years, miles and a series of fits and starts later, DulceSky was born in one of the least cosmopolitan cities in the United States — Salt Lake City, Utah. And as unlikely as it was that a band with aspirations beyond the boundaries of the Beehive state came together there, the fact that it consisted of three Chileans (Oliver, Daniel and Mitchell Razon) and one American who had spent significant time in Chile (Brett Kocherhans) was even unlikelier.
Maybe that unlikelihood is what gave DulceSky its staying power. It was the culmination of years of aspiration and unfailing self-belief, and you could almost be forgiven for wondering if it might turn out to be not only the band’s first album, but its last. Yet, four years — and what seems like a lifetime of experience later — DulceSky is back with a shimmering new record, Invisible Empire.
With the new album, they’ve tapped into something powerful, haunting and strangely optimistic. Like a bleak vision of a not-so-distant future (or would that be the echo of an only-vaguely-remembered past?), Invisible Empire feels like a sci-fi film — a call to arms against a seemingly inescapable reality.
With its slow-burning dirges and six-shades-of-midnight-blue palette, the album is an intense listen. It fairly glides on the back of martial rhythms and ambient washes before exploding into cataclysmic eruptions of urgency. Sure it’s heavy, but like the best sci-fi films, it’s massively entertaining.
If you’ve listened to Lands, the new record makes perfect sense. If not, no worries. Invisible Empire is a progression that totally obliterates any notion of a slump. In fact, if you were to ask Oliver if he ever worried about such a thing, he’d probably tell you he doesn’t know the meaning of the word.