Hang around the AMG blog dispensary long enough and you’ll quickly discover that we don’t have a lot of love for EPs. As recently outlined by our Supreme Leader, a lot of fucking albums make their way into the promo trough, and we’re almost certain to overlook them in favor of more fulfilling and fleshed-out full-lengths. So when Steel Druhm actually caves to a request to review an EP – one that we weren’t even provided a promo for – by a foaming-at-the-mouth Eldritch, you can be sure of two things. One: HR is almost certainly on its way to my tenticubicle. Two: British trve metal outfit Dream Tröll has something really special on their hands with The Witch’s Curse.
Dream Tröll‘s 2017 debut The Knight of Rebellion was quite a solid start for the band that didn’t quite warrant a TYMHM piece, but this EP practically stomps all over it. A condensed heavy metal epic with the kind of theatrical flair expected from a classic concept album, The Witch’s Curse is bolstered in part by newly recruited singer Paul Walsh, whose full, emotive voice and exceptional handle on syllabic emphasis completely sells the record’s melodrama. It’s rare to call a metal album captivating from a lyrical standpoint, yet this tale, a relatively simple revenge yarn told through a fantasy lens, is downright gripping thanks to the dramatic vocal performances and the imagery conveyed.
The drama wouldn’t be half as convincing if Dream Tröll wasn’t so damned adept at weaving rich tapestries of layered guitars. Stock power chords are rarely the anchor of the tracks’ steadfast rhythmic drives; rather, combinations of kinetic guitar lines and broad backing chords are frequently employed, the latter of which can sound downright mystifying when paired with the refreshingly restrained keyboard work. There isn’t a lot going on outside of the solos when it comes to pure displays of instrumental skill, but rare instances such as the soaring prog harmonies that kick off “Blood Moon” allow for bursts of stunning showmanship. Admittedly, the riffs could stand to be a bit more adaptive when stacked against the superbly dynamic vocal work, but they work wonderfully in the context of Dream Tröll‘s aesthetic nonetheless.
The three tracks presented on The Witch’s Curse are tied together by warm tones and a well spaced mix that’s a spot-on fit for Dream Tröll‘s modern-retro approach. It’s a damn good thing it’s so pleasant to listen to, because if this record hooks you like it did me, you’re going to be spending many, many hours replaying its twenty-two minutes. Its songs could stand for a bit of trimming down in spots, yet all of them are Song o’ the Year contenders in my eyes, as I think each of them has been my favorite at some point during this review process. Such a concise yet consistent selection of tracks is an excellent display of the EP format at its best, and it feels like The Witch’s Curse is tailored specifically to Dream Tröll’s strengths. If all goes well, it should serve as the perfect springboard toward a show stopping sophomore LP.