Sunday, July 24, 2005

Review: Dream or Nightmare - Light Burning Bright Till the Dawn (2004)

Dream or Nightmare [ MySpace ]
Light Burning Bright Till the Dawn

Fans who recall the '80s Ohio metal band Axemaster will be pleased to know that the crunchy guitar sound of Joe Sims is alive and well in his new project, Dream or Nightmare. Forming his new band in 1999, Joe & Co. have released two demos prior to Light Burning Bright Till the Dawn, though it is this latest release that showcases the band at their collective best. Not only has the songwriting progressed, but vocal duties have been taken over by guitarist Jim Arnold and bass player Dave Rhynard. This shared approach to lead vocals is a risk, to be sure, but it pays off big in terms of variety and listenability.

Reminding me a bit of Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity), Jim has a fluid baritone that enhances the slightly doomy feel of the lead-off track "Lost Wish". Embodying versatility, Jim's keyboard accents add a "nightmarish" aspect to the track. Dave's bass lines, which are both elaborate and prominent, prance just beneath the surface of the crunchy riffs and buzzsaw leads to give the song a significant amount of groove without sacrificing the ominous tone of the music. "Tomorrow Aside", one of my favorite tracks on the EP, begins with a very Gothic sounding piano intro and an acoustic strum. The dark piano carries through the tune, complementing Jim's vocals and very fine leads from both Jim and Joe. I found this track to exude quite a progressive vibe, what with the fair number of time variations and complex beat patterns from drummer Russ Kirk and Dave's shimmering bass lines. Even so, the menace of the vocals and the meaty riffs leave no question as to the tune's heaviness factor. Lyrically one of the most self-examining tracks on Light Burning Bright Till the Dawn, "Self Inflicted Gunshot Wound to the Head" features Dave Rhynard as the lead vocalist. With a slightly higher tone than Jim, Dave nonetheless has a more gritty approach to his singing and is the perfect choice to deliver the subject matter of this song. Both Dave and Jim effectively convey, depending on the needs of the moment, despair, anger, and intimidation - making the band's choice not to pursue a new vocalist a wise one.

Besides the four named tracks on Light Burning Bright Till the Dawn, the disc contains two full hidden tracks. The first is an eerie soundscape of industrial-edged keyboards and bass guitar, coming across as something that would be a perfect fit for a Rob Zombie movie. Following that is my favorite track of the album, which is as far as I know untitled. Featuring a string accompaniment, a strong vocal performance from Jim, and Dave Rhynard on the 12-string guitar this track blends innocuous sound effects to create a dire atmosphere that is, however, quite infectious. Throughout the song I couldn't help thinking that it sounds like something that Alice Cooper would have put together. It's not fast, not hard, not raw, but still imparts an addictive feeling of somber tragedy. Definitely a quality track that I hope rises from its "hidden" status here to make it as a numbered track on the bands next release.

Dream or Nightmare is, ultimately, a band that defies categorization. Their music conveys a predominantly dark mood, but does so through a variation of tone, melody, and vocal styles. They are definitely a band on the rise, garnering attention not only locally but nationwide. Check out the band's website for clips from Light Burning Bright Till the Dawn and listen for yourself.

Track Listing
1 Lost Wish 6:28
2 Self Inflicted Gunshot Wound to the Head 5:12
3 Tomorrow Aside 6:46
4 Conflicting Addiction 4:08

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