Dream Tröll - The Witch's Curse - (9/10)
Published on March 31, 2018
Genre:Melodic Power / Heavy Metal
Throw away your preconceptions, because it’s time to step into the odd world of Dream Tröll. If you thought you knew what heavy and power metal were meant to sound like, this inauspicious five-piece from Leeds, England are about to give you an ultra-melodic education. Stripping away much of the NWOTM familiarity that debut album The Knight of Rebellion brought with it, new vocalist Paul Walsh steps in as well as full-time bassist Paul Thornton, distressingly bringing the total number of Pauls in the band up to three. However, too much happens during the three songs of this 22 minute EP to let that worry you much. In the first place, Walsh offers a smooth and slightly folky take on upbeat power metal vocals that stand at the forefront of Dream Tröll’s restless sound. If you’re allergic to sword and sorcery stories, you’re going to hate the lyrics on The Witch’s Curse because this is a concept EP telling a tale about – obviously – the curse of a witch and the battle to free Isabella from its dire effects.
Those afraid of copious melodies, group vocals, and theatricality in their heavy metal are also going to have problems, seeing as Dream Tröll can most accurately be described as Blind Guardian swallowing Queen and then vomiting out Freedom Call, who start playing Fates Warning songs with a modern rock sheen. Your greatest fears may not be realised though, since there are few moments that sound like any of those bands in particular, except for the opening of “Blood Moon”, which pulls off a melody and solo combination straight from Blind Guardian’s songbook, while the complexity of some of the vocal rhythms are also there or thereabouts. What seems strange about the finished product is that The Witch’s Curse makes almost every band on that list sound thunderously heavy (sorry Freddy, not Queen), with very few crusading riffs cropping up, one forming the “battle sequence” of “The Battle for Enki’s Tower” and one towards the climax of “Blood Moon”. Not surprisingly given the effectiveness of the release as a whole, these parts are flawlessly executed and sound formidable in the context of the songs.
Let’s head back to those comments about “Queen and the modern rock sheen”, because they seem most troubling in the light of Dream Tröll’s description as a heavy/power hybrid. Of course, there are a heck of a lot of guitar melodies being played by the dual tag team of Paul Carter and Matt Baldwinson, but there also seem to be keyboards forming a significant proportion of the melody in the complex opener “In the Name of Isabella”, particularly at the dramatic stop-start introduction, which sees the vocals immediately setting the scene and dragging the listener in by their hooky nature. There is also a minor synth presence later on, though the tone of the instrument is much less classical than in most of Queen’s output and other power metal, tending towards the sound associated with the kind of perky rock band that filled up the pages of Kerrang! magazine during the mid-’00s. The swiftness and lightness of the band around transitions, plus the energetic melodicism of the vocals is a stark contrast with the progressive song structures, extended guitar workouts, and the whole concept of the release, leaving one to question whether anyone has done this before Dream Tröll or if this is in fact a pioneering band.
Nevertheless, what is unquestionable is the effect of those stylistic choices, which turns The Witch’s Curse into an insanely catchy and fast-moving listen, which (barring the use of keyboards) is more or less what everyone in the trad metal scene has been trying to do since Iron Maiden set the standard nearly 40 years ago. Despite the unusual mix of influences, there are no sections of the three songs that seem questionable or clichéd, while most of the guitar leads and melodic movements prove difficult to forget, the rhythm section is not devoid of ingenuity, and the choruses will knock your brain out the back of your head and pin it to the wall with a volley of direct hits to the serotonin centres so swift and effective that you’ll have to read this sentence again just to remember how it feels. What should hopefully be obvious by now is that Dream Tröll have made something quite unorthodox with The Witch’s Curse and – while it certainly won’t be to everyone’s liking – you should start making a big fuss about this, one way or the other.