Deep Sleep Operator is the moniker for Wisconsin musician Mark Ehlers. His debut disc While the Earth Sleeps is a total DIY project. Except for the mixing, Ehlers handled everything from songwriting to instruments to recording. At first pass, DSO reminded me of BMO, Babylon Mystery Orchestra, the one-man project of Allen Johnson from the deep south, but without the political insurrectionism and doom metal. The foremost reason is that Ehlers, like Johnson, doesn't necessarily sing; it's more like sing-speaking, and in the case of Ehlers with a pronounced snarl.
The lyrical themes of DSO mostly evolve from sci-fi ideas: aliens and apocalyptic endings; the music is interesting mixture of melodic hard rock and heavy metal with a pinch of prog and maybe even a dash of industrial. Ehlers makes extensive use of samples and sound fx, sometimes as segue, sometimes as accent or atmosphere. The main effect of these additions is to produce the sound of a planet being destroyed, an idea Ehlers got from listening to the Kiss song Destroyer where a car is devastated at the end.
Generally, however, Ehlers is pretty good songwriter and rather adept musician. His guitar work is particularly engaging, possibly the best part of While the Earth Sleeps. Despite his vocal style, or because of it maybe, the music is definitely intriguing. After one song, you want to hear the next; you want to find out where Ehlers is going with all this sound. He also creates some curiosity with his song titles, They've Entered My Mind, Tempo of a Frozen Heart, and Don't Take a Knife to a Gunfight, by example. Alternatively, sometimes, at least lyrically speaking, the album's theme isn't all that cohesive. Nevertheless, if While the Earth Sleeps is the intended result of his original vision for the album, then Ehlers' Deep Sleep Operator is certainly a fine achievement, and a rather interesting and entertaining one at that. Recommended.
Deep Sleep Operator is songwriter and musician Mark Ehlers creating While the Earth Sleeps, an interesting and entertaining album of melodic hard rock and metal, with a little prog, and sci-fi apocalyptic themes.
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