Genre: Rock, Grunge, Alt
FFO: Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins
To preface these next few paragraphs, I would like to say that this is NOT an album review. I perceive album reviews in a very negative light. Music, along with most other subjects in life, is indefinitely a topic of subjective opinions. It is impossible to conclude without biased opinion that, per say "The Beatles are the best band of all time" or "Paranoid is better than Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", but we all know that. So this read is one that I call my "album experience", or a personal account of my thoughts and overall experiences with a certain record. After reading some absolutely hysterical album reviews of the Dream Ritual self-titled record, including those comparing the sound to the likes of August Burns Red, Breaking Benjamin, and Linkin Park. If you haven't heard the record yet, go ahead and click on the above "listen" link, then maybe you will understand the perplexity that I was faced with when hearing those comparisons. I know, like I said earlier, its subjective, but to me, that's just flat-out wrong. After reading those misrepresentations, I knew that I had to talk about the record for myself. So here it is.
From 2009 to present day, the underground music era has come full circle bringing many old musical styles and ideologies back in. It seems to be an endless cycle of recurring trends... something gets big, fades out, and in x amount of years, gets picked back up again by nostalgic and in-vogue up-and-comers. However, something that I commonly find, is that most people simply do it wrong. They try their very hardest to recreate the past verbatim. Often in doing so they either leave behind so much originality and creativity that most people would prefer the original, or they completely butcher the replication. With that being said, allow me to rant for a moment about one of the most popular (and annoying) of the revivals: grunge. The term has become allegorical for any music that includes: loud guitars, fuzz pedals, long hair, flannels, shoddy singing, converse, and a list of various other things that make me want to put away my headphones for good. Don't get me wrong here, I love "grunge" and the "Seattle sound" that it truly represents. Nirvana, Seaweed, DJR, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins... are all bands that really get me going. In my eyes, however, this whole modern day revival thing is truly a sham.
Over the years I continued to completely deny the renewal and more or less whine on the subject. Until one day, unwarranted, I came by the band Dream Ritual (then known as Wish). At the time, they had only released one single, "Fade". The dynamic, stimulating, and overall aggressive intro featured all sorts of ear wrenching feedback, pounding drums, and a stomach churning bass line that had me attentively awaiting what was to come. Already feeling the "grunge" vibe and my pessimistic side taking over, I was waiting for the massacre. I said to myself, "this is off to a great start but just wait, thirty more seconds and I bet my suspicions will be confirmed". Thirty seconds later and that bet was undoubtedly lost by the timeless unison of the mesmerizing guitar leads backed by fuzzy rhythm and above all, melodious and surprisingly robust vocals. I was hooked. The song exceeded any expectations by a long shot. Days later, after only one listen, I found myself unconsciously humming and singing the catchy chorus "I will never fade away....." repeatedly. It was a glorious eureka moment. I truly felt like I was back in the 90's, watching Kurt dive into the drums and smash his Mustang. At the same time, I also felt like I was listening to a band that I hadn't heard anything like before. It was not just a straight rip off, but twelve inches of creative, fresh gold.
For times sake, I won't give a break down of each song. But overall, this record blew me away. "Fade" was just a surface level introduction to a truly deep and intuitive record that holds its ground in all aspects; from those heavy, head banging, make you want to jump off the stage riffs (notably the song "Little Speck"), to the enthralling and dazzling feel good components (notably the song "Hamptons"). Most songs take you on a wild roller coaster ride of feelings, like the aforementioned song "Little Speck". The song, or ride, takes the listener from a spacey and flangey introduction, to a foot tapping, sing along chorus. Next, the ride takes an upside down spin, with a hair tearing heavy riff that will make even the most serious of metal heads hold their PBR's and "horns" up high. Seamlessly, the song takes the listener from that aggressive mood, back to floating in space to close out the song. The record clocks in at just around 27 minutes of pure blissful anomaly.
To accompany all of the excellence that the music provides, the vocals and lyrics pack a punch that cannot be ignored. I personally found each song relatable and relevant to me in one way or the other, most notably my favorite line from the song "25", being; "I don't want to die at 25, I want to live for forty more. When life becomes a chore, its such a god damned bore. So when I die, at 25, don't let the time pass me by." The mix of exuberantly aggressive screaming/singing with the calm and tranquil vocal patterns really take the already great instrumentation, and amps it up even more.
In conclusion, this is a record that cannot be missed. Due to the band's unfortunate origins, I am afraid this record is one that could catch a blind eye from some listeners. Dream Ritual is a band from, as they say, "the middle of nowhere", and knowing some of the ins and outs of the industry, it seems to me that if you aren't from NYC, LA, Seattle, or other major cities, it is near impossible to have your music heard. As another testament to this band's quality, they were quickly picked up by a small but well known label, 6131, respectively. The label must have had a similar experience as myself, knowing that they had to give this band a chance. The overall mix of grunge, rock, and even sometimes dream-pop makes this record a must mention in my top album lists of 2014, as it is a top contender. If I had to compare them to bands myself, I would mention some like The Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Green Day, Swervedriver, and Nirvana. An interesting mix of bands, I know, but it makes sense, at least in my opinion. Be sure to give it a listen for yourself and prepare for what is to come from the band, you won't regret it.