Every now and then, a band comes along and redefines how you feel about a certain genre — whether it’s a band doing the genre justice and underscoring what makes it great, or throwing everyone a curveball that makes them rethink how they feel about that certain type of music. In Dream On Dreamer’s case, it’s sort of a mix of both in a way that’s refreshing and familiar at the same time.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, this six-piece outfit simultaneously falls right into line under Rise Record’s lineup of post-hardcore outfits like Of Mice & Men and Attack Attack! with the genre-defining screamed vocals accompanied by pop-like choruses sung by a clean vocalist (in Dream On Dreamer’s case, these are provided by bassist Michael McLeod).
What sets Dream On Dreamer apart from the other bands that have come to define how people think of the genre (and who have been headlining music festivals like Vans Warped Tour) is the raw display of emotional content in their songs. I stand firmly by my claim that there are certain emotions best communicated through screaming that regular singing just doesn’t capture, and Dream On Dreamer’s Marcel Gadacz excels at doing just that.
Right off the bat, the introductory track of their debut full-length album “Heartbound” leads right into a flurry of hard-hitting drums rhythms and atmospheric lead guitars on “Yourself As Someone Else.” It’s fitting that this song contains just about every element that defines Dream On Dreamer’s sound — between furious verses and breakdowns layered with frantic screaming and catchy choruses, listeners will know what to expect from the rest of the album.
Even though some of the guitar work is rather standard for this type of music, both guitarists Callan Orr and Luke Domic do a pretty good job of writing lead guitars that flow well with the overall feel of the songs and give them another level beyond all the in-your-face rhythms throughout the album.
The only song thus far off the album with a music video out is “Downfall,” which is one of the heaviest (if not the heaviest) on the entire record. Starting off with a bang, the pace doesn’t let up even during the chorus where soaring vocals and the driving drumming of Aaron Fiocca keep the adrenaline pumping. It is here that the emotional lyrics and strong messages truly begin to shine with lines like “I’m making the same mistakes over and over again, will I ever be left alone to mend?” and “When the dark throws you down, and you learn to survive, you wake up and remember what it’s like to be alive.”
While the group vocal chants have been appearing more and more in post-hardcore music, Dream On Dreamer really takes the time to make them meaningful and memorable. Concluding “Downfall” is the powerful chant of “Stop pretending, our world will keep turning.” It’s clear through such lyrics that Dream On Dreamer conveys a message of hope and the idea of rising up out of the mistakes of the past for a better tomorrow — fitting, for a band with a name such as theirs.
Also highlighting this lyrical effort is the fourth track, “A Path of Its Own.” The song’s extremely catchy chorus details the struggles of following one’s dreams in music even as breaking into the industry becomes increasingly difficult: “On my own for so many years, been trapped, been chased, been fighting fears” echoes the sentiments of many who have also experienced the trials and hardships that one must face in trying to promote their respective art.
Even though the first half of “Heartbound” comes out swinging (and swinging pretty hard), the album starts to lose a little bit of steam as it moves on. While tracks like “Downfall” have defining features like the “We are living dead!” chant and subsequent breakdown, tracks like “Blinded” hit hard on an instrumental level but struggle lyrically. By no means does this mean they are bad lyrics or bad songs, but in a scene where lyrical originality is becoming more and more hard to find, it’s easy to completely overlook these tracks and focus more on what makes them unique instrumentally.
It’s a good thing Dream On Dreamer is filled with talented musicians, as every single one of their songs (even the ones that get lost in the shuffle) sound great because of the well-written guitars and drums and the spot-on vocal performances of both men responsible for the vocal content of the album. The only thing that keeps “Heartbound” from being a perfect post-hardcore album is the lack of a flawless tracklist containing more than 10 songs. Instead, we have an album with some great songs and others that are simply good, but within the context of what the album could have been I can’t help but think they’re just passable for what they could have done to make this album one that would have set a new standard for the genre.
As the album regains what makes it special in the final track, “Lifestream,” atmospheric guitars, passionate singing and screaming bring back the epic feelings of grandeur that define the Dream On Dreamer experience. If only the few songs that drag down the nigh-flawless experience would have received just a little more attention, “Heartbound” could have joined the ranks of atmospheric post-hardcore masterpieces like Of Machines’ “As If Everything Was Held In Place” and Oceana’s “The Tide.” After all is said and done, “Heartbound” is an album I would recommend to any fans of the post-hardcore genre looking for something familiar but refreshing all at the same time.
Rating: 4 out of 5