Sound — 7
In 2010 we've seen so many bands make radical style shifts that you start to wonder if the government is putting something new in our water supply. Arsis did a complete 180 in terms of sound, My Chemical Romance did a spacey upbeat alternative rock album, and Linkin Park just keeps getting weirder. In each of these cases (and plenty of others) we have seen split opinions on the new albums/ideas/directions of bands. Old fans are lost, new fans are gained, others remain indifferent. Nearly two years ago, I logged on to Ultimate Guitar to catch up on 2008's edition of This Year in Metal. It was there that I first heard of After The Burial. When I got their album, I was instantly greeted by excessive shredding, excessive breakdowns, and excessively technical riffing. And I loved it. In Dreams sees After The Burial take a more simplified approach to music. They go for a more straightforward metalcore sound on this release (which is really a misnomer considering how much metalcore has changed in the past decade). There aren't as many technical riffs on In Dreams, and the album probably has half as many breakdowns as Rareform. I'm ok with this, though, because I could eat a burrito and listen to Rareform and they'd still go into breakdowns more often than I'd pass gas. They've also toned down on the Meshuggah worship, but it's still visible on a few of the tracks. What this album does have, though, is melody. And I'm not just talking about the occasional melodic riff/lead that you'd hear on their older albums. I mean that there's a greater sense of overall melody, direction, and clarity on this album. Many of the riffs flow naturally from one to the next, and the songs follow what seems like a set path. It seemed like every other song on Rareform was a (tasty) riff salad with breakdowns instead of transitions. With a massive case of ADHD. They fixed that issue on In Dreams, but at the cost of losing some of those mind-boggling riffs. ATB are also exploring new sounds on this album by writing more laid back tracks which feature - you guessed it - clean vocals. It seems like every band goes through this phase these days. Some of these softer tracks like Pendulum have generated mixed reactions from fans. It's one of those "if it wasn't an ATB song I wouldn't mind as much" things. I enjoyed the songs because I'm a sucker for melodic music, but, melody isn't really what some ATB fans are looking for. The production on the album is crisp. If their last album went down like a Sprite, this album goes down like Sierra Mist. There's less distortion on the guitars than before, so the guitars sound naturally cleaner. But the tone is a little lacking in the huevos factor. While the tone on Rareform was drenched in distortion, it was balls-to-the-walls heavy. And even though ATB are still using 8 string guitars, the tone doesn't offer as much of a punch as it used to. I think this is due in part to the bass. It's always been clearly audible, but that slightly distorted sound doesn't really give the low end that makes bass so vital to a band's sound. But at least the drums don't sound completely fake this time around.
Lyrics — 8
I am so glad that After The Burial finally got a good vocalist. Yes, he sounds like he belongs in a hardcore band, but he's good at what he does. He's got a pretty good range (that screech in Bread Crumbs and White Stones before the breakdown is sick), and his clean singing also passes in my book. But there's so many weird effects going on over his clean vocals that it's hard to tell what's really going on. Good lyrics aren't really something that I ever looked for in After the Burial (or most other technical metalcore bands, for that matter). Although, I have to say, Your Troubles Will Cease And Fortune Will Smile Upon You sounds more like a fortune cookie than a song title. What I can tell you, though, is that the lyrics are overall easier to understand from this vocalist than the last. And after a few listens, I think the lyrics on this album are better than those of some of their peers (Within the Ruins, I'm looking at you and your new album).
Overall Impression — 7
Fans will inevitably have split opinions regarding this new release. After releasing something as techincally intensive as Rareform, fans set the bar high for In Dreams. But After The Burial weren't shooting for that mark, so some listeners took this album as a disappointment, calling it "Killswitch Engage worship". But people will always judge new albums by stacking it against old albums, especially if there's one significant album that catches everyone's attention. Any new Linkin Park CD will always be compared to Hybrid Theory, any new Between the Buried and Me CD will always be compared to Colors, and any new After The Burial CD will be compared to Rareform. In Dreams falls short of Rareform (see, look, I'm doing it too) for the sole fact that in Rareform there was so much more going on. Also, given the context, Rareform was refreshingly original. The whole metalcore/deathcore scene has been so stagnant in the past few years that it really takes something extra to set yourself apart from the crowd. Rareform did that by combining Meshuggah, metalcore, and steroids onto one album. Now days, every other metal band out there is doing the same thing, and In Dreams doesn't set itself apart the way Rareform did. That being said, though, it is still a solid album in my opinion. I enjoy the variety that it brings to the table. I respect the risk that After The Burial took by toning down, because it prevented them from doing exactly what Within The Ruins, their tech metalcore counterparts, did. WTR released a new album full of the exact same music, which was quite understimulating to say the least. ATB certainly didn't rehash their old music on this record. I recommend all metalcore fans to at least check it out. Listen to the tracks Bread Crumbs And White Stones, Sleeper, and Promises Kept to get a good feel of the album.