Review Summary: 5 songs, 45 minutes, 120 stories? Adventure Metal? And the music is good too!? Dream Quest wins again!
When I was a child, I was a fan of the Goosebumps books. Sure, they were campy and repetitive, but I was 8. Then, I got a book in the series that did something different. On the bottom left portion of the front cover, the words "Choose Your Own Adventure!" were plastered in stylistically dripping Goosebumps fashion. To make a long story short, the idea was fun, for a few pages. Then it just got tedious and the novelty wore off, and I vowed to never read another of these "Choose Your Own Adventure" books again. 10 years later, a favourite band of mine released an album with the potential to sway my formerly set-in-stone opinion on the idea of 'choosing your own adventure'. The band is Dream Quest
, the album is their sophomore release, Centralia
, which while originally intended to be an EP is considered a full length according to WCMA standards.
Dream Quest is, and it's a rarity for me to be so sure of myself, one of the most entertaining and fun bands I have ever listened to, so when I heard they were working on a follow up to The Release, I was excited. Then I heard the album was only 5 songs long and I was slightly disappointed. Finally, I read why it was only 5 songs long. The album is a concept album, though not in the contrived "it was all a dream" sort of way. The album has five songs, which don't need to be played in any specific order to tell a story. The band actually encourages you alter the default track listing, as depending on the order of tracks the story will vary. For those of you who enjoy doing math, that's 120 different stories. The album isn't even all that short, really, at 5 songs it still surpasses 30 minutes. Each track begins with a short narrative care of Ken Morse, and depending on the order played, the narration will mean different things. Each track links together regardless of order because each song begins and ends with an interlude tied to a natural key (E). As you can see, the band definitely did their fare share of planning to make this work.
Musically, the album doesn't vary too much from their previous release, but since I severely doubt any of you have heard it, I'll give you a brief description. While technically a power metal band, Dream Quest play a genre they themselves have 'created' known as Adventure Metal. This is the official description from the bands website; Unable to easily define their style of play using common vernacular, the band coined the term Adventure Metal. Combining blazing fast drums, mesmerising guitars, soaring melodies, and cascades of harmonies, it's catchier than speed metal, heavier than pop-punk, and more innovative than hard rock.
Basically, it's a very fun take on power metal. The band is well versed in each of their instruments, though the vocals and guitar work stands out to me, as well as the occasional bass passage. Phil handles the vocals, and while they're simplistic, they do a great job at making the album accessible and fun to listen to. At times, he goes over the top; the last minute and a half of the 10 minute track Magnified
, for example, is a speed metal passage where Phil shrieks in a voice not all too different from King Diamond
, though a little harsher. He also handles the bass-work, and while it does typically just follow along with the guitars and bass, he will at times show he's got the chops by throwing in some complex, occasionally finger-tapped parts. Mark handles the guitars, and loves to throw in a healthy dose of shred. Don't expect 5 minute Herman Li style solos, though, because the guitars are there to compliment the music and not the guitarists ego, but Mark is more than technically proficient. The Fuse that Burned to Fast
is perhaps the most indicative of his talent, but the jazzy swing-like passage midway through Magnified
shows he's more than capable of variation. The drums, while perhaps the least flashy of the three, are also impressive, but nothing really stands out, though in the same sense, nothing sounds off or wrong.
was, first and foremost, a Christian album. Christianity on Centralia however, is implicit. While you will notice some Christian influence in terms of morals, the lyrics never make mention of anything overtly Christian or Biblical. The story has five main variations; the character can be a hero, a monster, a huge monster, he might have murdered someone and he may or may not be forgiven, assuming he did. At first, I have to say, it wasn't working as much as I'd hope, but as I continued to listen and really pay attention to the lyrics (the lyric book helped), I started to notice the changes in storyline. After a few listens, I really started to appreciate how moving just a single song can totally alter the story line. That in itself speaks to the bands talent; they've managed to create a relatively short album I actually enjoy listening to several times a day.
While it may not be for everyone, it was definitely a hit for me. It's fast, catchy, well thought out and well executed. The album, while quite dense in concept, still manages to let you know that the band never takes them selves too seriously. Phil, for example, is listed as 'Beard'
in the album insert, while Mark and Steve are known as 'The Ninja'
and 'Legolas Hair'
To be honest, this album has yet to get old for me, and I've been listening to it for months. It's good, clean fun, but it's not without substance.