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The vocals kill this album - 60%

SnipeBob, December 15th, 2004

What drew me to buying this album was its concept. I am a fan of well executed concept albums such as Opeth – Still Life or Iced Earth – Night of the Stormrider. I won’t go into detail about the story behind Dreaming Neon Black, as it has been explained thoroughly in previous reviews. Intrigued by the story, I purchased the album and gave it a listen.

The instrumental aspects of the album work great. The main riff to “The Fault of the Flesh” is heavy and in your face. Both guitarists display their ability to make exceptional solos, as in “Beyond Within” and “The Death of Passion.” Technical, but not overly technical, these guitarists are quite talented. This talent is also seen in the various acoustic and classical guitar breaks throughout the album. The classical guitar break in the middle of “Deconstruction” doesn’t clash at all. The beginning part of “No More Will” has an excellent acoustic intro that sets the mood for the sorrow portrayed in the song. I have no complaints for the drumming or the bass work either. Both are solid, even if they do not stand out as eye-poppingly good.

Where the album fails is in the vocals. My first few listenings of the album had me left wondering what was wrong with the album. I liked the riffs, and I noticed that there was something peculiar about Warrel Dane’s vocals. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was about his vocals until I gave the album another listen very recently. The fault of his vocals lies in his delivery. There are many moments where some of the ways he chooses to sing the lyrics just do not make sense and sound jarring to listen to. Case in point, the song “The Lotus Eaters” is a moody piece with a plea to God for understanding. The chorus is sung in rough manner without flow. First he sings “Please God why” in a relatively high voice, pauses, and then vocalizes “can’t you hear us” in an absurdly low voice. There’s no flow. A chorus should have some kind of continuity to it. The song “The Death of Passion” has a verse which is clumsily sung. He begins with falsetto, and for one word he drops down to his normal voice, then quickly goes back to falsetto. Dane’s vocals do not come off as melodic. Having heavy riffs does not excuse this, as Iron Maiden, Iced Earth (especially Night of the Stormrider) have heavy riffs with vocal melodies that can be sung along to. It’s not even a requirement to have cleanly-sung vocals to have catchiness. Alexi of Children of Bodom sings harshly, yet many of their vocal lines are memorable. I challenge you to sing along to the vocals of Dreaming Neon Black, and then sing along to songs of Iced Earth or Iron Maiden. You will notice a huge difference. The lack of continuity and coherence, plus the feeling of randomness to his vocals, would make singing along either sound strange or hilarious, especially on the title track where he sings the chorus in an oddly chosen low voice.

Speaking of the title track, there is a female vocalist present here. Well, her vocals are off as well. She sounds just fine as the backup vocalist singing “Swim through me” in the chorus, but her singing solo reeks of 80s hair metal. It’s all in the tone of her voice; she works fine in the background, but not up front.

I can’t bring myself to listen to this album on a frequent basis. There are good elements to it, but nothing to really draw me back to listening.