After an eleven-year career, only now am I seeing some real buzz about Dream on Dreamer on social media and music publications, when I have personally rarely seen anything big on the Australian band prior outside of Aussie media outlets. It is so unfortunate that it took the announcement of this band's demise to now generate such an online commotion. Too many people take bands for granted; thinking that they'll always be around. Of course, that brings up a very big question about the quality of the actual music. For if the music isn’t that memorable or doesn't impact someone - either in a negative or positive manner - then many people will easily forget it just as soon as they heard it. Whether you like it or not, that's the honest truth of the matter. At the very least, with their send-off record, 'What If I Told You It Doesn’t Get Better,' Dream on Dreamer has generated some decent attention before they bow out, and for many fans, this will be a great finale.
Personally, thinking back to the older days when these kinds of metalcore/post-hardcore bands were basically all I listened to, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t actively listen to Dream on Dreamer more. I occasionally spun their records, but they never quite stuck with me despite my heavy consumption of the other similar bands. Now that I've given their discography several run-throughs to familiarize myself with them better prior to this new/final album and subsequent review, I quickly realized that my initial lumping of them into the middle-of-the-road, generic-core bands arena wasn’t that farfetched. 'What If…' is not at all a bad record (except for one glaring track) but being a final outing, it is kinda disappointing. It's disappointing as it has just as many flaws as it has real shining moments in which the Aussie group latch on to something great. Only to then not take those grand moments anywhere else exciting, potentially dooming this LP to obscurity in due time.
Starting out with 'Feel So Empty,' you may notice that the opening riff sounds akin to the main riff of 'Wonderful Life' by Bring Me the Horizon, which is also an off-shoot copy of the lead riff from Gojira’s 'The Cell.' (I can't help but notice. What's funny is that 'Who We Are' also copies a different part of that same riff.) Aside from that similar riff making up the intro and outro to 'Feel So Empty,' the rest of the song is pretty damn catchy, especially those well-placed echoes in between the vocal phrases that would otherwise feel quite empty (ha) without during the chorus. This is the most intoxicating track off their final record and a major highlight - lifted riffs and all.
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Many of these 10 tracks feature an intro with fast, heavy technical riffs alongside pissed off vocals similar to that of Oh, Sleeper or Architects, while the rest of those very same tracks - the cream in the middle - utilize chords, ambient tremolos, or synths/electronics alongside chiller, catchy vocal lines. It all feels incredibly forced, almost as if they're inserting a great alt-rock song into the middle of a faster, heavier metal song for the sake of contrast instead of it just being natural, leading to a lukewarm overall fell that isn't the sum of its parts, I'm sorry to report. That argument has been made for countless other metalcore acts, but at least some others weave these different colours together into a cohesive manner.
'Don’t Disappear' is just as catchy as 'Feel So Empty' but is almost tainted by the Architects-like riff and the harsher vocals that come out of nowhere at the end of each chorus. As much as I love Architects, this particular song would’ve really benefitted without the need to throw in such monotonous riffs and screams just to seemingly tick off a box. The songwriting on 'What If… reminds me greatly of Beartooth’s 'Disease,' what with its immensely formulaic patterns, as most tracks follow a safe, similar structure and it grows stale fast. All of this then results in me not really gelling with the emotional content behind the songs, sadly.
'Explicit' sets the bar for one of the cringiest tracks of 2020 thus far. From the first few seconds of this train wreck, you’re made aware it’s a no-shits-given track for all the “haters” because the band apparently isn’t “heavy” anymore, what with this awful, put-on vocal skit of someone saying "why don't you guys scream anymore?" before vocalist Marcel Gadacz starts yelling expletives and raging about the fucks he used to give, feeling frustrated with listeners who only like their older material. In reality, though, Dreamer hasn't changed that much in terms of overall heaviness; they've always kept the heavier riffs, breakdowns, and screams close to the heart of their core sound. With it only being the third song in, 'Explicit' makes me want to immediately drop the rest of the LP (if I wasn't reviewing it) because there's almost nothing in the remaining seven tracks that could redeem such an embarrassing moment. This is their final record, and in this swansong, they're still wanting to play into this genre's old-haat cliche about calling out people who don't like their new music? Sorry, but I ain't here for that. Across 'What If...', there are slower, ambient electronic parts to be found, but these tracks still mostly qualify as metalcore tunes given the forced metal passages pasted in, something that's fairly obvious with 'Don’t Disappear.' I’d argue that 'Explicit' is the best example of the heavy parts ruining a song, as the rest of this track is catchy and easy to vibe with, but the heavy passages just instantly derail all the momentum that was built up by the other parts of the song.
Throughout the rest of Dreamer's last LP, there's plenty of cool moments to sink your teeth into, mostly taking form as these cleaner, melodic atmospheric sections that are really quite beautiful and resonating. Whereas the mediocre heavier areas are unnecessarily slammed down one's throat. Such dynamics can be executed to an exceptional degree, such as 'A Flood of Light' by Rolo Tomassi, my go-to example of such a powerful dichotomy. You cannot tell me that Rolo track isn’t a near-perfect ebb and flow between abrasive and dreamy. I'm not saying that Dream on Dreamer should’ve suddenly become an odd-time signature-loving, progressive math-core band like that particular U.K. group - not at all - but their specific blending of these two sounds, these tones between light and heavy, leaves A LOT to be desired.
However, there's more than a few moments on 'What If…' in which the heavier passages do actually contribute, like on 'Feel So Empty' or the darker, low-key mood of 'Sentimental,' but those are few and far between. So it's clear that the band can achieve it, it just didn't follow through onto all of these songs. More often than not, those heavier detours subtracted from the music more than they ever added. For it's the songs in which the band focused purely on the textured atmospheres and infectious vocal lines rather than breakdowns and blistering riffs that definitely came out on top; making for the most cohesive tracks on the LP. 'Spirit is Moving' starts off incredibly slow and ambient, soon picking up the pace to a mighty chorus with more of those satisfying muffled echoes that masterfully fill in the space between vocal lines, making it an utter joy to sing along to. Making one's way through the album's Side-B comes with the realization that they're stumbling onto some true potential, as the second-half sees Dreamer really hone in on this record's strengths, surgically focusing more on that super catchy, vibey alternative sound. Dreamer could've easily trimmed or outright cut that metalcore filler and dabbled deeper in the emotionally charged atmospheric post-hardcore, but as 'Regrets' fades out, it’s a little too late.
While I do think it's a shame that Dream on Dreamer are going out on a mostly forgettable record, as long as they're all proud of themselves and what they've accomplished over the last 11 years, then what does it matter what I or anybody else says? If you're a fan who's followed their career up until this end, then you'll likely find plenty to enjoy here in Dreamer's final moment. For me, the inclusion of 'Explicit' does make it confusing on where they as artists stand; like they want to be a metalcore band but without the association or stigma that might come with that style. Yet 'What If I Told You It Doesn't Get Better' works real wonders when the group targets the more atmospheric, dreamier alt-rock aspect of their sound, as per solid numbers like 'Spirit is Moving,' 'December,' and 'Regrets.' While this new and final record wasn't for me, farewell Dream on Dreamer; we wish you all of the best!
Feel So Empty
Spirit Is Moving
Who We Are
'What If I Told You It Doesn’t Get Better' is out Friday, April 10th: