Metalcore can be a curious beast; at its peak in the early 2010s bands were a dime a dozen and a significant number peddled mediocre, metalcore-by-numbers which unfortunately overshadowed some of the greats. After its moment passed, bands that had been plugging away in the shadows to evolve their sound and push the genre forward started to come out of the woodwork. Forming in 2006, the Swiss melodic metalcore collective Dreamshade have likely flown under the radar for many fans but are intent on making a much wider-reaching statement with the release of fourth album A Pale Blue Dot.
Opening to soft cascading drums and a solitary guitar line, ‘Safe Harbour’ soon kicks into high gear with driving riffs and sci-fi synths that underpin a frantic opening section. It slows down a little for the bridge before moving back to its fast pace for the chorus, a towering affair blending screamed vocals with a melodic shout. The breakdown, such as it is, uses ringing chords and glittering synths that add a new depth before the song ends. After this we’re into ‘Lightbringers’ that has an almost melodeath charge akin to The Black Dahlia Murder before it very quickly moves into its chorus - and what a chorus this is. Despite coming less than thirty seconds into the song, it doesn’t feel shoehorned in. With a melodic guitar lick and a stomping drum rhythm, it’s truly monolithic and the vocal refrain is just as gargantuan.
A Pale Blue Dot is a slick exercise in modern metalcore and there’s a strong sense of melodicism. Not only this but the band absolutely know their way around a chorus; ‘Lightbringers’ isn’t an outlier and almost every track features the kind of arena-bothering chorus that targets your lizard brain, designed to get heads moving and throats bellowing. A shining example is ‘Question Everything’ that has a soaring vocal line of the song title, gang shouts of “hey, hey!” and guttural roars.
There’s a strong latter-day In Flames influence on a number of songs, such as in the lead guitar flourishes throughout, the chorus to ‘Somewhere Else’ and shot through entire songs such as ‘Impulse’ that features lush guitar work in the chorus and ‘On My Own’. Vocally they run the gamut from punky shouts to furious roars and soaring melodic singing and fortunately the band don’t rely on the stale formula of harsh vocals on verses and sung choruses. Instead, they mix things around to ensure there’s enough variety.
There’s some left-field choices, too; the rapping in ‘Stone Cold Digital’ doesn’t land initially, for instance and the band don’t utilise rapping that often so it can feel incongruous. The pre-bridge to ‘A Place Called Home’ also features a flow that’s eerily similar to Run The Jewels’ ‘Walking In The Snow’. That said, on repeat listens these segments do feel more natural and don’t hurt the flow of the album.
The polished melodic leads and breaks are a particular highlight. The band weave them into riffs and choruses masterfully, leading to an uplifting feeling that brings an extra dimension. Not only that but the synths present throughout A Pale Blue Dot are understated but leave their mark, adding depth to songs and making them feel that bit more epic in scope. Though, as varied as they are, the lines outside of the chorus in ‘Shanghai Nights’ does feel very similar to ‘Lightbringers’ but otherwise the band avoid the trap of repetition.
On A Pale Blue Dot, Dreamshade have crafted a modern metalcore album that leans heavily into its melodic side while still bringing the heavy and even at 52 minutes, the sheer vitality and exuberance keeps the album moving. It’s impossible not to listen to this and not come out the experience feeling more positive, the earworm hooks demand your attention and to be sung along to and even the breakdowns manage to feel joyous. Over their run til now, Dreamshade have charted their own course and A Pale Blue Dot is not only their best work, but one of the finest examples of melodic metalcore you’ll hear.