Dreamslain – Tales of Knights and Distant Worlds Review

This past summer, I and a pal did some back-country mountain biking. We chose to ride a 35 km trail that had been washed out in the floods we had seven years ago. It involved a lot of bushwhacking, riding across three passes, through streams, losing our way, carrying our bikes up the backside of two mountains, and being eaten alive by black flies. We made it, though, and because we are stupid we did it again a month later. When we found a review of the trail, several years old by this time, the summary read, “I can only recommend this ride to the most foolhardy of idiots.” Where am I going with this? Read on, dear friend, read on.1

Tales of Knights and Distant Worlds is the debut double-album offering from Norwegian trio Dreamslain. The band’s lineup is what intrigued me: a drummer (Daniel Paulsen Figenschou), a guitarist/singer (Igor Jakobsen), and a keyboardist (Anna Loppacher, who also plays bass pedals). It reminded me of The Doors,2 and with an epic/prog metal promo description, why not review it? As it turns out, these three musicians are pretty good, especially Loppacher, who delivers some incendiary organ leads throughout this incredibly long album. Her talents are most obvious on opening track “He Who Rises in Force,” where she pretty much obliterates her keyboards.

The other two are no slouches, with Figenschou laying down intricate drumming patterns and Jakobsen delivering multiple tasty lead breaks throughout Tales of Knights and Distant Worlds. Between Jakobsen and Loppacher, this album has a plethora of superb leads. But that’s about as far as my praise can extend after a month of spinning this album. It’s one thing to be outstanding musicians, but playing eighty-three minutes of poorly-written songs3 exhausts the weary listener. Top it off with awful vocals, and it quickly becomes a hot mess. As mentioned, this is a double album. Outside of the final song, which is more of a bonus track, the first eight songs range from seven to fourteen minutes in length, and all of them are at between three and ten minutes too long. The songs meander and noodle aimlessly and the loony vocals are eye-rolling. At their best, they sound like bad Bull Elephant vocals. At their worst, drunken bar patrons.

In a move that completely does not fit in with the rest of the album, Dreamslain delivers a short and sweet blues-rocker as a bonus track to end things. “In Memory of Sister Rosetta Tharpe” is by far the best song on the album, for three reasons. First, it is short, clocking in at 3:28. Second, it is restrained in its musical approach, remaining authentic to the woman they are paying tribute to.4 And third, it’s an instrumental, so we are spared Jakobsen’s vocals. Normally we would wax poetic about the strengths of certain songs, but with this album, the bonus track is the only time I find myself able to do so.

I would say Tales of Knights and Distant Worlds sounds like three madcap Norwegians gathered around an organ shouting, but that’s a bit mean. There are also drums and guitars. As musicians, Dreamslain clearly has a huge amount of talent. Moments throughout the album show this abundantly. It’s a shame that they couldn’t rein in their instincts a bit and trim the fat from these songs. Oh, and maybe arrange them a bit better. That would alleviate a lot of the issues, as would better (much, much better) vocals, but as it stands I can only recommend this album to the most foolhardy of idiots.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: dreamslain.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dreamslain
Release Worldwide: January 29th, 2021

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Clickbaiter!! – Dr. Master Baiter Grier
  2. Because they had no bass player. That’s really all.
  3. As I will allude to soon, the final three minutes are actually excellent, so that’s a slight exaggeration.
  4. For those not in the know, Tharpe’s gospel/blues was an early influence on rock music, and she was one of the first to add distortion to the electric guitar.
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