DreamCatcher – SoulDesign (2011)

Posted: May 13, 2011 in Music

It’s hard being a music critic and trying to stay on top of the metal music scene.

I listen to literally dozens of metal CDs every week in an attempt to give you the heads-up on what’s happening in the scene, who’s on the rise, and introducing you to bands you probably have never heard of but are worthy of your attention.

Much of what I preview and analyze is either crap or boring – and I try to review only the best of the best, so while sifting through stacks and stacks of digital garbage, it’s not a huge surprise when something slips through the cracks and doesn’t get it’s due recognition on The Nutwork.

Fortunately I have great readers of the site, who wake me from my blastbeat-induced coma from time to time and cattle-prod me with reminders of great releases that I missed.

Such is the case with the debut album from England’s DreamCatcher. I was apparently asleep at the wheel this March when the album was released, but thanks to my faithful followers, I was made aware of this album and was more than happy to take it for a spin.

And quite the spin it ended up being.

DreamCatcher’s premiere album – titled SoulDesign – opens with the track of the same name. A nice instrumental piece heavy with the keyboard stylings of Adele Pease. A beautiful, almost orchestral piece that sets the stage for the majestic tracks that follow.

That grandiose feeling carried over into the rest of the album. It’s not often that a debut album sounds as cohesive as SoulDesign does. The band has only been playing together for a couple of years, yet the sound they produce is as balanced and tight-knit as any other band of the genre, regardless of their tenure.

What makes it difficult to write about, but wonderful to listen to, is the perfect balance from station to station. The vocals – provided by Lukas Jackson – are inspired, melodic, and strong. I’ll admit that I was waiting for a growl or a female chorus, but the fact that it never came only speaks to the strength of Jackson’s ability to carry this album on his shoulders. It was a nice surprise to be able to understand (and relate to) his powerful vocal stylings.

Not to be undone, the tag-team guitar work of Alexei Green and Ben Scott fret their way through the entire disc without missing a lick. While it’s not immediately discernable who’s playing what, it still hits you like a boxer’s combination. They steal the moment when necessary, and drift back from time to time to showcase the other strengths of this sextet. The knowledge of when to shine and when to sit back prove these lads are far beyond their years when it comes to knowing structure.

If anything stood out as the strength of this album (considering all aspects were pretty profound), it would have to be the rhythm section. I’ve always been of the contention that bassists and drummers never really get any attention unless they are the best of the best, and while drummer Ross Lavery and bassist Matt Hudson aren’t exactly household names yet, they drive this album with the technical precision of an army drill team. At times, they are solely responsible for keeping the album on track, and the thunder they bring only adds to the strength of this release. Coupled with the keyboards of the aforementioned Pease, they set themselves apart musically from many of their mentors.

Anubis Gate’s Jacob Hansen is aboard this ship as producer/mixer. While Jacob is no stranger to production – having countless credits to his name including working with such artists as Deadlock, Hatesphere, and Amaranthe – every album is a challenge. This album has decent production, but I feel as though Hansen may have missed a few opportunities along the way to really showcase the bombastic side of this band. I can’t help but wonder if this would have sounded even more epic with the likes of Tue Madsen, Machine, or even Zeuss at the helm. But it’s a minor distraction, as the album has all the balance and quality one would expect, and only a perfectionist like me would even mention it.

All in all, this is amazing rookie effort from DreamCatcher. With the strength of the single “Take Hold” (which features guest vocals from Hansen), and with a growing fan base (myself included), the band is headed in the right direction for future releases while delivering a standout effort in 2011.

In a genre filled with tons of copycats and uninspired albums, it was vitalizing to hear a band putting their heart and soul into an inspired, technical, and majestic release. Let’s hope there’s more where that came from, not only for DreamCatcher’s sake – but for the sake of modern power metal as a whole.

8.5/10

http://www.amazon.com/SoulDesign/dp/B004WC470G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1305167832&sr=1-2-catcorr

MySpace: Link | Official Site: Link

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