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End of the Dream - All I Am

End of the Dream - CD Review
All I Am

All I Am



CD Info
9 tracks
English Lyrics

Ah the Netherlands...the land of gouda cheese, speed skating, and windmills - and the birthplace of a lot of big names on the symphonic metal scene.  I don't need to list them, so I won't - I would be insulting your intelligence, anyway.  And now we have on that vibrant scene a band of relative infancy, End of the Dream, who on March 25 dropped their debut full-length CD, entitled All I Am.  Produced by superstar producer Joost Van Den Broek, who of course has collaborated with such huge names as Xandria, ReVamp, and Epica, All I Am is a solid, mature release by this young five-piece who are delving into a very competitive genre.  How did they do?  Read on and find out.

First off, I think to classify End of the Dream as purely symphonic metal is a bit of an over-simplification.  To my ears, it has a lot of progressiveness in it, which makes it a much richer listening experience.  The first song is always the most important, in my view, because it gives us that all-important first impression.  "Follow The Angels" contains all the stuff we know and love about this genre; it's got an epic intro replete with gorgeous keys and choirs, and though it's mid-tempo in speed, it is thoroughly headbangable.  We hear right away what we can expect from vocalist Micky Huijsmans, which is a lot of range and a lot of richness of tone.  The vocals are one of the definite strengths of End of the Dream; Mickey is lovely.  There is an ethereal quality to the band's sound, and that's another strong element in the overall sound.

By song two, "Away", I was starting to be reminded of other bands in this genre who have the kind of highly atmospheric, lush arrangements End of the Dream succeeds at doing very well.  There is a Danish band called Akoma that come to mind while I listen to All I Am; they are a favourite of mine and I encourage everyone to go check them out.  I like more complex backing vocals, and like Akoma, End of the Dream do backing vocals quite well without overpowering their sound with too much choir stuff, which is fairly typical of the genre.  Track three, "Colder", is a favourite of mine, and exquisitely shows off Mickey's vocal chops.

It's not till the fourth track, "Shadow's Embrace", however, that the listener starts to hear some aggression in the music, and I think this was where, upon my first listening, my ears really perked up.  Clocking in at well over seven and half minutes, this is the second longest song on the CD, and it's one of two that show off the band's speed and ability to their fullest.  Here the guitarist, Robin van Ekeren, and the drummer, Pim Geraets, really mesh together and make each other shine.  There is an epic breakdown mid-song, where Robin's fingerwork takes the forefront and totally impresses.  The overall ambiance of the song is dark and almost overbearing, but in a good way. 

Track five is a beautiful ballad called "Collide", and is one of the more straightforward songs on the release, and it's a favourite of mine.

"All I Am", the title track, is also pretty straightforward, and it's the other song I was mentioning that has some aggression in it.  In fact, it's the most aggressive this album gets, and it's great just because of that.  It's not particularly fast, but it's upbeat and catchy at the chorus, and there is some bombast.  Track seven, "Through the Dark" was pretty forgettable, in my opinion, but things pick up again on the eighth song, "Dark Reflection", which is the longest song at over nine and a half minutes.  It's also got some speed and bombast to it, and again shows off the guitar and drum talents this band has.  The finale, "Gone", is an acoustic piece with a simple piano accompaniment.

End of the Dream as a band definitely has a lot of strengths, as does All I am.  The guitarist, singer, and drummer are all obviously very talented musicians who get a lot of opportunities to show their stuff.  The keys, performed by Armen Shamelian, are very well-done, too and they also get their time to shine, especially in "Dark Reflection", where there is a big guitar-key duel that's really epic and fun to listen to.  This band also has mood and atmosphere down pat; each song has its own flavour and there is nothing "stock" in here that one often finds in this genre.  End of the Dream has managed to create a unique sound for themselves that will undoubtedly help them carve out a niche.

One thing I felt this album could have benefited from was more "oomph."  While having loads of atmosphere and mood is great on the one hand, the sparks of aggression I heard in songs like "Shadow's Embrace", "All I Am", and to some degree "Dark Reflection", were too few and far between for me.  I kept waiting for some speed and bombast throughout the rest of the CD.  The heavy sections of the songs were very good, but what was missing was a sense of "attack".  To me, there needed to be more of a balance to the music between aggression and atmosphere. There was a lot of softness, sensitivity, and emotion - which was great - but I felt throughout my times spinning this album that is was a bit on the mellow side of things, and that was a bit of a disappointment.

Overall, I think this is a strong, solid debut from a talented band.  They certainly have the chops to carve a place for themselves amongst their big-name countrymen, and All I Am should give them lots of inroads on the scene.