We at AMG live for finding the next big thing. There’s nothing quite like picking a random promo and finding yourself immersed in a monumental album of epic scope and peerless execution. But there’s something to be said for a tasty bout of hard, fast, and stupid. And, although, it’s far from flawless, Lost Dreams delivers the goods on Exhale. This is the sixth album by the pack of Austrians with no sign of slowing down, packing a potent mixture of Sweden’s finest along with a myriad of other bands to form a sound that may not surprise but will surely entertain.
Of all these influences, the spirit of Gothenburg is dominant with Lost Dreams. The highly melodic riffing has immediate shades of the better side of In Flames, palm-muted chords with a light dusting of thrash, but the band is not afraid to branch out into blackened tremolo or adding a melancholic touch with a weeping lead guitar. The latter is found on “Deluded,” which stirs the Be’lakor pot gently and is among the strongest tracks. Elsewhere, the chorus on “Finding X” rhymes “glorious” with “victorious” and is thus obliged to channel Fate of Norns-era Amon Amarth. “Bitter Pills” pulls out a Soilwork melody and injects pummeling blastbeats and bite-size breakdowns. “Weight of the World” partakes in electronic orchestrations that add a shade of Mors Principium Est. All these influences are skillfully used to add diversity to the music, avoiding the pitfalls of ripping off other artists.
A common occurrence across all genres of music is the tendency to put the best tracks at the start of the album, what we call “front-loading.” Lost Dreams bravely buck the trend by putting the worst songs at the beginning. “Ego” and “Lethargy” adopt an off-putting gleam of metalcore, specifically in the DevilDriver-like tough guy attitude of “Ego.” I’ve never hated DevilDriver as much as most, but the bro-boasting (broasting?) was always my least favorite aspect and it’s not a pleasant introduction here. Worse are the clean vocals on “Crashing Beyond the Horizon,” which sound like the perpetrator was trying to imitate a Texan taking a dump. The album picks up from here, with one egregious exception. Like a horror movie villain, the clean vocals make a late-game return on “Purple Clouds,” along with the spoken word, to make sure it’s as shit as possible. The melancholic track is crammed with cringe in both lyrics and execution.
Confident performances make up for the weaker material. The vocals abuse their mixture of harsh-but-intelligible snarl and throaty growl to maximum effect, harmonizing at the right moments to give extra punch to key phrases and employing good reach on both sets of scales. The occasionally clumsily composed vocal melodies take little away from this. The guitars possess solid technique and bring a skillful fluidity to the table, while the rhythm section is tight and precise. It’s a modern-sounding album, which means that it’s too loud and lacking in dynamics, but thankfully it’s not to a deal-breaking extent. Beyond that, the instruments are clear, the mix is balanced and lively, and the band does not find itself lacking in energy.
The first couple of tracks did not grant me high expectations of Exhale, but Lost Dreams have won me over in the end. There’s plenty of catchy low-brow Gothenburg to be enjoyed here, despite a few duds and a sound not altogether original. The hooks, the solid vocals, and the plentiful energy more than makeup for these shortcomings. These guys are not out to reinvent the wheel, demonstrated by this well-rehearsed platter. They just want to jam away with the kind of music they grew up with. With a flavorful disc like Exhale, I have no qualms about that.