• Alex Swift

LOUDER REVIEWS:'A Pale Blue Dot' - Dreamshade

Ambitiously fusing sharp influences from alternative and metal, with a prog-tinged sense of cosmic exploration, Dreamshade are galaxy-spanning in their dreams. These Swiss experimentalists command a brilliant grip over time, melody, and atmosphere which encircle the listener in rich textures and intriguing soundscapes. At times the pure amount of elements swirling around in the mix can be overwhelming, yet upon further investigation, these compositions shine. Across ‘A Pale Blue Dot’, these musicians conceptualise the myriad of problems earth faces from environmental destruction to the pandemic. With most of the album penned and recorded during the lockdown, the experience as a whole doesn’t preach yet calls the listener to see themselves as part of a universe where petty concerns of selfishness and ego are insignificant in the long run. Kevin Cali’s vocals emanate conviction, Cicco and Magri’s guitars are impressionistic, while the animated sequencing and rhythms lend vibrancy, underpinning the complex chaos at the heart of the piece.

Ominous yet powerful, ‘Self-Harbour’ immediately makes an imprint, as dense layers of instrumentals surround and swallow in the crescendoing towards the liberating chorus. Theatrical contrasts in screamed and melodic vocals further the rich and vivid detail on display. ‘Lightbringers’ continues to exemplify this quality, the entrancing time-signatures, and subtle guitar and synthesiser accentuations summoning a feeling of seeing trillions of stars and planets reflected to you with each blink of the eye. Later, the slower, contemplative section which closes us out helps to bring the emotionality home. ‘Question Everything’ proves another visceral and deeply changeable number, the first half proving striking with the sheer extremity, and the second part becoming a beautiful and exploratory anthem imbued with intricacy. ‘Step Back’ practices a similar trick, scorching with dynamism in some moments and gently beguiling with a bright ambience in others. Continuing on the theme of pieces that are powerful if strangely hypnotic, ‘Stone Cold Digital’ makes precise, expert use of imperious bass and drum textures, which give the rest of the elements in the song room to manoeuvre, making for some of the most intriguing melodies and vocal patterns on the entire project. Poignantly and respectfully, the track deals with the issue of the virtual world and the cavalcade of information that surrounds us daily. In that sense, the erratic performances convey sensory chaos that we have all felt in our own lives. Preceding the ethereal intrude, ‘Impulse’ dials the sensory overload back significantly for a contemplative yet no less colossal anthem.

Unceasing in the desire to captivate the audience on a purely technical level, ‘Shanghai Nights’ beguiles with arresting arpeggios that rise and fall like sound and light waves in a digital storm. There’s an apocalyptic charm here which is salient yet oddly beautiful. This continues to the meticulous and multifaceted ‘Elephant’ which feels almost otherworldly, with the way the track twists and turns, adopting different guises and genres to psychedelic effect. By contrast, ‘Somewhere Else’ is borderline orchestral in the way the sanguine keyboard touches meld with the elegant lead accentuations in the intro and chorus. Diverging again from the fragments of what might be called a formula, ‘On My Own’ grounds itself in more traditional elements from within post-hardcore and even pop-rock. Far from being faults in the tracklist, moments like these help to lend a sense of accessibility, reminding us that at their core, Dreamshade intend to reach the hearts of many, while enticing with aspiring and impressive ideas. Featuring Darkest Hour frontman John Henry, ‘Nothing But the Truth’ is another brilliant piece that can just as easily serve as a cathartic piece as an introspective one. Taking cues from hip-hop and electronica ‘A Place We Call Home’ deferentially samples audio from news stories about audio while involved, sonically elaborate beats provide a guide for the moving spoken word material in the verses.

Drawing the album to a close is the distant and reflective ‘Save This’, which ends the record on a glorious if oddly bittersweet call to arms. There’s a yearning for change on this album, yet it's more so one which makes us think in the same way as being caught up by the magnificence of the natural world might. On that note, any sense of rebellion that does exist within ‘A Pale Blue Dot’ is through a willingness to make the listener appreciate its beauty and significance.

‘A Pale Blue Dot’ is out everywhere now- stream the record here:

Check out the video for ‘Stone Cold Digital’ below: