Being a child of the 80’s I had two choices, new-wave or rock. I tried to walk a tightrope between the two but, eventually, decided my loyalties lay with rock, be it heavy rock, hard rock or hair metal. I will always remember buying an album by the British hard rock outfit No Sweat. Self-titled, it was one of the soundtracks of the decade for me, it came in under the radar, not many people having heard of the band but, the catchy, guitar driven music and strong vocals sold it for me. Despite many attempts from my rock loving friends to get me to sell it to them, it still remains in my musical collection today. I have to add a caveat at this point, this record is in no way cerebral, intellectual or a seminal release in the world of rock music, I just like it a lot and it does one thing very well, it makes me smile and I love singing along to it (not sure that the people who hear me singing it are quite as enamoured though!). Music can have meaning, it can delve into the deepest reaches of your soul and be politically or socially relevant and motivated but, in the greater scheme of things, it can be there just so you can have a good time and rock out, you can live your life alongside it rather than because of what it stands for. Just before the holidays The Lady herself asked me to review an album by the Norwegian outfit Lucid Dreams, upon my first listening it became apparent that the album had strong similarities with my old favourites No Sweat. Not only was the album self-titled but it also had that tongue-in-cheek feeling of the band not taking it too seriously and delivering some balls out hard rock, me? I was decidedly intrigued.
Lucid Dreams have existed since about 2011 and have done a number of gigs in recent years. The band members have experience from a number of bands. After a period of songwriting and recording, their debut album has now been released. The album is produced by the band’s guitarist Rune Gutuen, and mixed and mastered by Tommy Hansen at Jailhouse Studios, Denmark in September 2013. Lucid Dreams plays energetic, riff-based and melodic metal, while the band also focuses on strong songs and arrangements. In addition to classic heavy metal riffs, the album is punctuated with interesting touches such as for instance epic instrumental passages where more progressive influences can be heard. The songs range from driving power metal and catchy hard rock of the 80’s, to mysterious instrumental passages and atmospheric ballads. As well as Rune Gutuen the band consists of Fredrik Sindsen (vocal), Adne Brandas (guitar, backing vocal), Jan Lyso (bass), Rune Hagen (drums) and Thorleif Ostmoe (keyboards, backing vocal).
The great instrumental opener is imaginatively titled Introduction and is 47 seconds of cinematic orchestration, very nice but just a precursor of what’s to come. Cassie’s Escape kicks off with a power metal feel, frenetic drums and hard riffing thunder. The vocals kick in with a bang and lend the track a slightly dark edge which is lifted by some excellent squealing guitar riffs and a solid solo. I particularly like the laid back piano interlude completing a short but sweet track with aplomb. The emphasis shifts to the more classic rock orientated For Your Love, another slab of catchy rock with a nice chorus and some great backing vocals, the corners of my mouth are definitely starting to turn up as my smile gets wider. Nicely worked keyboards give an 80’s metal style to the whole song along with some inspired guitar work, this album is building up very nicely indeed. And then, wham!, it’s back to the 80’s all over again. Daisy Dukes has a brilliant intro, all keyboards, smooth riffs and a fantastic vocal. The pace of the track is nigh on perfect, it’s almost a clone of that No Sweat album that I still own, I am now grinning from ear to ear. The song has a seriously good time vibe and is a quality slice of hard rock, I challenge you to listen to this sing and not be tapping your foot and singing along at the top of your voice, brilliant stuff. Closing the Deal takes a tad more serious note, hard rock but with heavier overtones. A crunchier riff, thumping drums and solid vocal combine in a nice slice of modern hard rock. The laid back acoustic guitar and soulful vocals at the start of Lucid Dream give note that this is going to be a rock ballad and a good one. A bit methodical and ballad-by-numbers in places it might appear to be at first but that’s not the whole story, the musicianship and song writing lift it above the average and ordinary and the song has a hard rocking ending that is in contrast to what has come before, a clever touch .
Half way through the album and I am impressed with what I’ve heard so far and the next track, Stormy, does nothing to change my opinion. A relatively low key introduction of simmering keyboards and an almost wistful, oriental note give way to a storming riff and excellent drums. The vocals take on a harder, heavy metal feel and the band move smoothly into a cracking progressive metal track. One of the longer tracks on the album at over 5 minutes long, Lucid Dreams prove themselves adept at many a genre, on this track the excellent bass playing really comes to the fore and the guitarists get free rein to really impress with their shredding and super slick riffing. Take Me Away (it’s a song title not a request before you say anything!) starts with some more classic rock influences, tasty keyboards and hard rock riffing are all there in abundance and Fredrik is beginning to prove he has an ideal voice for the music especially on the catchy chorus. Again, you find yourself unable to keep still as the music takes over, the extended solo just rocks, full stop! All through this record I get the impression that these guys are really enjoying what they are doing and putting everything they have into the music. Paranoia carries on the hard rock vibe with impressive riffs and smooth keyboards all overlaid by the quality vocal, the intricate keyboard and guitar solos that are intertwined is a neat touch, a solid track. Next we come to the track that gave me more smiles and nods to 80’s metal acts than any other, Wanton Conquest is a cornucopia of 80’s music styles, the intro is pure Extreme and funks along mightily, distorted, swirling guitars fly around haphazardly and then there is an interlude that is pure homage to Dave Lee Roth and Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher. It’s a frenetic funk/rock fusion that just works brilliantly. Take a breath and pause for a moment and then we have the calm and collected introduction to Light in the Sky, an anthemic track that rises and falls, almost ballad like in places. The brilliant guitar break in the middle of the song is genius, suiting the mood perfectly and showing yet another side to these talented musicians and Fredrik’s sublime vocals are laid over the top of everything. Well I’m sad to say that all good things must come to an end and this album finishes with another belting blast of hard rock, When I Die has a slow burning, coruscating intro before another classic 80’s style riff sounds off and away we go. The vocals are seriously catchy throughout and the whole song flies along with an undeniable good time feel, breathless and breathtaking. Excellent keyboards lead in to yet another scorching hot solo with incredible dexterity and the song is a fitting end to what has been an enjoyable ride of an album.
There is no doubt that Lucid Dreams are heavily influenced by the great rock and metal acts of the past but, they have taken that influence and used it to produce an incredibly strong album that rocks from start to finish. Whilst you wouldn’t call them unique or groundbreaking, their musical ability and song writing shines through like a beacon. As a debut album it has a few minor flaws but that only goes to show that a great band can only get better. One to watch out for in the future, I’m back in the 80’s big time!