Deep Sun – Dreamland – Behind the Shades Review

Wherever I end up in life, I’ll always have a soft spot for symphonic power metal. As much as I’m happy to malign the genre for its general lack of innovation, I always try to make some time to let it prove me wrong. Discovering Dreamland – Behind the Shades, the third full-length release from Swiss Deep Sun gave me what felt like my first chance this year to do exactly that. Listening to “Dreammaster,” the album’s lead single, didn’t give me the impression I was about to witness spectacular innovation, but it was solid, fun, and made me want to hear more, which really is the goal here. I always come back to this style in the end, and, in this case, I’m glad I did.

The core sound on Dreamland – Behind the Shades is something most of us have heard before. The ever-present orchestrations are secondary to the singing of Debora Lavagnolo, with guitars pushed back a bit in the mix. In all three of these elements, Deep Sun reminds me very much of Epica, and in particular the Epica of The Holographic Principle. But what Deep Sun is doing here is a lot more immediate, much less flashy, and ultimately more enjoyable—to my ears—than that reference would suggest. “Behind the Shades” demonstrates why, giving the guitars a moment to shine before introducing orchestrations that, while grand, are far from overbearing. In moments where you just “know” that the band is about to do something ludicrously over-the-top, Deep Sun takes the opposite approach, giving “Behind the Shades” a quiet, introspective feel that helps its seven minutes to fly by. It’s familiar, yes, but it’s done well.

The highlights on Dreamland – Behind the Shades are the songs where Deep Sun combine catchy orchestral melodies with memorable vocal melodies and heavy riffs. Which, again, isn’t exactly a novel concept, but they do it well! “Dreammaster” is cinematic in scope with a surprisingly catchy keyboard lead and superb vocal performance. It’s a serious song, but the band has a fun side too. “Rogue (Dreaming Leprechaun Pt. II)” may have a ridiculous name, but its folky influence (think Nightwish post-Dark Passion Play kind of folk influence) makes it a lot of fun, with a solid guitar solo, bass solo1 and a chorus that has no right to linger as long or as well as it does. It doesn’t always work—I’m sad to report that while I get what they were going for, I find “Mitternachtstanz” leans way too heavily on the title phrase to feel folksy or charming—but when it does, it’s good-quality symphonic metal. Closer “Euphoria” seals the deal nicely, seeing Deep Sun finally explode into the over-the-top grandeur they’ve been teasing the whole album through, and their restraint pays off very nicely.

So what’s with the low score? First of all, that’s not a low score. Also, how dare you skip ahead. And thirdly, it does feel as though Deep Sun are playing things a little safe with this album. The stark difference between the aforementioned “Euphoria” and its preceding tracks is a good example of why the album feels slightly stagnated towards the middle. The whole is 47 minutes, with eleven tracks, which means there are a lot of 3-5 minute songs present, and there’s always a risk of some tracks blending together with this particular style. I’m never bored listening to the album, but the folk influence is very restrained, the bombast rare, and the truly “heavy” moments few and far between. On their own, none of these observations are bad things. Together, they contribute to a feeling that Deep Sun has a much higher potential than is realized here.

Sometimes I itch for new, capable metal in this style, and Deep Sun has made me happy. The band has a strong and unique identity with plenty of talent to back it up, and I daresay I’ll be returning to this one the next time I want to listen to something grand. If Dreamland – Behind the Shades is, as I’ve assumed, the sound of Deep Sun testing some waters, I cannot wait to hear them when they opt to dive right in. I’ll be looking forward to the next one either way.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 10th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. I might be reaching a bit with that description, but who cares, bassists deserve spotlights.
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