Music Review: Messgram – Cheers for the Failures

Photo Credit: Official Messgram Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Official Messgram Facebook Page

Hello everyone, it sure has been a hot minute since I’ve posted something here, so here I am breaking the radio silence by delivering to you my review of Messgram’s first full length album Cheers for the Failures.

Messgram is an electronic/screamo/metal band hailing from South Korea that consists of the following members:

  • Jiyoung – vocals
  • Jahnny Shin – vocals, keyboards
  • Yushik Shin – lead guitar
  • Chanhyun – bass
  • Soojin Lee – drums

Messing Around With Messgram

I was first graced by Messgram’s existence in 2017 and 2018 when YouTube’s algorithm recommended to me their covers of Drown and Avalanche by Bring Me the Horizon. I was instantly intrigued by how the female vocals added a whole new emotional dimension to Oli Sykes’ heartfelt lyrics, and that the band had their own keyboardist who helped maintain the cinematic feel of the originals.

This made me grow curious of what Messgram’s original songs would sound like and so I checked them out. Even back then I knew they were talented musicians and that they definitely deserved more recognition, but for some reason none of it really clicked with me.

At least not yet, anyway.

Every few months since then, YouTube would remind me of Messgram’s existence and I would watch their videos, have a little fun, but then move on to whatever other random A.D.D. riddled YouTube watching I typically do.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, Friday April 17, 2020, Messgram released their first full length album Cheers for the Failures along with the music video of their lead single Karma. 

And what can I say?

If I thought Messgram was talented before, I now knew they were also incredibly skilled, and that shows with how much they’ve grown as musicians with their release of Cheers for the Failures. It is now that they have clicked for me because I have been listening to this album, along with their previous EP’s, nonstop everyday ever since this full length release.

So without further adieu here’s a quick preview of the album and my review for each song:


Messgram – Cheers for the Failures Review

(Quick disclaimer that this is all my personal opinion despite making claims through seemingly objective statements. This is just a way to cut back on the over use of “I think,” and “I feel like,” statements that would bog down the flow of the review.)

1. Little but Fierce

This opening track comes in hot with a very brief soft section, just to showcase the kind of electronic samples to expect throughout, and then wastes no time having the full band jump in with the pounding drums, blazing guitars, and Jahnny’s wild screams. Jiyoung’s clean vocals come in at the pre-chorus and chorus while Jahnny still screams in the background to emphasize certain lines during the chorus.

The bridge also simmers down long enough for you catch your breath with more of that soft electronic stuff found in the intro but this time with the addition of soft vocals, all before bringing the full band back in for an epic heavy and emotional outro. It all happens pretty smoothly so there isn’t much more you can ask for here.

This is Messgram at their finest balance of heavy metal verses and instrumental sections, and emo choruses to emphasize melody more over instrumental complexity and intensity.

Song Score: 9/10


2. Rockstars

Following the opening metal track comes Rockstars which showcases Messgram’s pop-punk/emo side. This song reminds me of early 2010’s screamo, but with keyboards to keep it fresh and to continue the cinematic feel brought from Little but Fierce. It also kind of reminds me of the Final Fantasy theme to a little degree so that helps boost the nostalgic feel brought from the lyrics and the song’s overall feel. The second chorus getting the extension also helps pack a bigger emotional punch to it.

The bridge has a lot going for it, mainly how it brings back the intro riff with a few electronic and bass changes. However it’s difficult to appreciate the new string section and slightly different bass line with Jahnny screaming over it all. It could have worked better as an instrumental section since the following rhythmic pop-punk breakdown, and soft electronic section are already so vocal heavy.

This brings us to the final chorus which teases us with a momentary modulation that makes me wonder how the song would have fared if the chorus got a full key change for the outro, but that would detract from the synth outro, which itself could have been longer by another measure that faded out slowly, instead of ending abruptly.

Overall still a damn good song. It has a grand and epic sounding instrumental section that gets repeated a second time for a nice callback to it, even if it is mired by misplaced screams. The catchy chorus thankfully gets an extension the second time and even gets a momentary modulation the third time as to keep the song staying fresh.

Song Score: 8/10


3. Karma

Karma wastes no time endearing you to its emotional intensity with the heavy guitars and both vocalists belting it out with no restraint in a pretty damn cool trade off with each other. They reverse the order of their vocal trade off in the second verse while the guitars get a little more dissonant than the first time around, while also adding new lead riffs between the chord strikes.

The chorus is quite lengthy right away, but that’s fine as all three sections of it are awesome and help keep the pace going. It would not have worked if they saved the two extra chorus sections for later in the song, You got the first part where Jiyoung belts it out with a lot of sustained notes, the second section that has those backing “whoa” vocals with more subdued main lyrics to follow, and then finally the non-verbal vocals to soften it out momentarily before bringing in the heavy parts back in for the second verse.

The third part of the chorus is ommitted after the second chorus, which was a good call because the mid-section of the song very much calls for a cathartic heavy section and this is where Jahnny really shines. If his screams did not fit well with Rockstars’ pre-bridge, they fit perfectly for the pre-bridge for Karma. 

If it weren’t for Yushik’s super bluesy guitar solo coupled with Jiyoung’s backing vocals, the brief piano and vocal solo rendition of the chorus that follows would feel too abrupt with the full band interruption–but for the outro and the way it simmers out makes it work well enough. Part of me wishes that  the piano part was a bit longer, but it probably would have dragged the song out too much.

Awesome lead single, it was the one to make the band finally click for me so there isn’t much more I could ask for from this song. Once again it’s Messgram at their finest striking the perfect balance between heavy and emotional, neither veering out too be too metal nor emo.

Song Score: 10/10


4. A Handful of Light

I fell in love with this song right away because of that cinematic intro carrying on with the hard rock riff to come in hot right after that. The verses for A Handful of Light are a perfect showcase for Jahnny’s screams and how his synths compliment the more spaced out guitar riffs. Even though there’s a lot of layering with the screams happening in the background, it doesn’t come off as messy, rather filling in some gaps as they should

The chorus showcases more of Jiyoung’s belty vocals that I am so glad she is pushing herself to do to match the heaviness of the instrumentation. She definitely has a damn good melody for the main chorus as well the chorus tag that comes after the second and third choruses, but Jahnny just steals the show for this song. His bridge screams and the lyrics to go with them feel very empowering. Makes you wanna tap into your badass energy.

Keeping it heavy with the metal and hard rock feel, A Handful of Light is another one of those songs that screams Messgram at their finest, but doubling down more on their metal side. The energy and the feel of it is just so uniquely them.

Song Score: 10/10


5. Signal

Signal is one of those mid-album songs where it makes sense to slow and simmer things down, but makes you feel disoriented that the energy has dropped after songs like Karma and A Handful of Light.

As a stand alone song alone, it’s a very good to showcase Jiyoung’s range between soft emotional vocals with slightly restrained power vocals to match their softer pop-punk side. They definitely doubled down on the emo sound for this one!

But as a song that comes after two intense ones, it felt too soft and abrupt of a vibe change. Having random screaming in it doesn’t help ground it and remind you that you’re still listening to a metal album, they just feel out of place as they tend to for these more pop-punk/emo songs.

One thing it has going for it though is perfect pacing with a much needed extended bridge section where the clean guitars and drums take their time to build up to the post chorus. And what a post chorus! Soojin stops holding back on that drumbeat and gets more intense with the keyboards before bringing the song to a close. The guitars, bass, and vocals take a step back here so it’s good to have the drums become the centre stage of intensity.

Decent song on its own, but not placed well to mark the mid point of the album. It’s straightforward with a few misplaced screams, but overall gets the job done in being one of the more hopeful sounding songs to bring some light into an otherwise gloomy sounding album.

Song Score: 7/10


6. Purgatory

If Purgatory and Signal switched places in the album it would actually flow a bit better. I know it sounds like a very menial nitpick, but Purgatory is just a bit heavier than Signal due to its melancholic feel and would flow better after A Handful of Light. And since it does pull you down to a pretty melancholic feel, Signal would have worked to bring some hope back into you instead of having that hope torn away by the somberness of Purgatory.

This song doubles down on their emo side and the synth sound for it fits so perfectly for it. Extra points for the first chorus teasing us being so brief because the chorus tag added for the second and final choruses really hold down the emotional weight this song conveys. That bridge build up is also pretty awesome with the drum rolls and the atmospheric synths. Or is it the guitar with volume swelling? I can’t tell. Either way I love that sound to break apart the usual crunch of the distorted guitars.

The chorus revisiting outro with altered and intensified vocal lines real bring the emotion alive. Good call on having the chorus tag repeated to really emphasize those lyrics and to make good use of that catchy melody we just didn’t get during the first chorus and not enough of after the second chorus.

Another pretty straight forward emo song to give us a little bit of respite mid-way through the album, but done a lot better than the ones that came before it. The chorus tag repetition for the outro was great, along with the electronic instrumental slowly fading out at the end was very much needed so it can prepare us for the upcoming song.

Song Score: 8/10


7.  As Times Goes By

Now that we’ve gotten time to catch our breath with slower and softer songs, why not bring back the heaviness? Once again Jahnny just rocks the verses here with the screaming, and I gotta say this is the best riffage Yushik did in this album. The chugginess never ends, and carries on into the chorus. Speaking of which, is Jahnyun doing a sick tapping bass riff before the chorus or even throughout it? It’s the grooviest bass I’ve heard throughout the album so far, we definitely need more of that. He’s gotten the job done so far, but it would be nice to have the bass get more of a spotlight in Messgram’s songs.

Soojin’s calculated beats in the intro and chuggy parts are only rivaled by Yushik’s bluesy hard rock guitar solo 3/4 into the song. And since I’m such a stickler for soft electronic bridges, I get my wish with the best soft electronic bridge in this song: softly sung version of the chorus under a new instrumental context. It doesn’t out stay its welcome and gives you the right amount of time to take a breathe before bringing the heaviness back in. There’s just something about this song where the instrumentation’s complexity and flavour is ramped up more than they already were throughout the album.

This is the perfect lucky track 7 to bring the metal energy back into the album with its speed and intensity. It would be redundant at this point to mention how well written Jiyoung’s melodies are and how awesome her power vocals are, but along with the band she just really brings it up a notch as well in this song. It catches me off guard because I get used to a certain standard before the bar gets raised once again.

Maybe this is why it helps to have had two emo songs back to back? To downplay the expectations a little bit since the album has already set huge precedence, it doesn’t need to impress you anymore until it does when it wants to on its own volition in this incredible track?

Anyways, I’ve spammed the line “Messgram at their finest” already,  and I’m not gonna say that here because As Time Goes By is Messgram beyond their finest.

Song Score: 11/10


8. Omen

Omen feels like the band went, “let’s do a similar intro to Rockstars, but wait we’re also a metal band, so let’s rip the listener’s face off with this moshpit worth riff!”

Ah yes, the good ol’ metal is back in full swing some more in this song. The ominous synth section before the rest of the band comes in eases us toward Jiyoung’s soft vocals finally doing something foreboding over a chuggy verse riff.

This is also the first song where she sings in Korean on the album and it’s a very welcomed surprise. It makes me wish she sang more parts of the other album in Korean because damn it sounds so badass in metal.

The chorus opts out for a “brighter” sound, but continues to pack the heavy hitting punch it needs to. The lead guitar in this song whether during the chorus or to compliment the chugs during the verse, are a nice reminder of Yushik’s guitar chops since there’s no room made for a guitar solo in this song. It definitely could have benefited from one, but beggars can’t be choosers.

What can I say? The energy was picked back up thanks to As Time Goes By and is maintained greatly by Omen. My only gripes with this song is that it’s too short and that it makes me wonder if their songs would benefit with more Korean lyrics either sprinkled in, or if they had more songs written fully in Korean.

Basically I have nothing bad to say about this song and I’m straining to find something because I’m getting self conscious about sounding too much of a fanboy at this point.

But screw it, this band deserves some more fans!

Song Score: 10/10


9. Poena

Poena is a very strange song and I’m still trying to figure out whether that’s a good thing. This is the song where they tried to blend the metal and pop-punk in one song and it comes with very mixed results. The intro reminds me of Paramore’s song Misery Business, but heavier with synths and screaming so it makes me think, “okay for this track they’re going the pop punk route again?”

Not that that’s a bad thing, of course, since they do well with either genre.

The verse’s chuggy riff is pretty damn heavy, though Jahnny’s screaming was dialed a little too far here on the high side. He really shines when he can add more lows for variety, but there weren’t enough low screams here. Although they aren’t layered like they were in A Handful of Light, they seem messy here due to being sustained for too long.

I’m also pretty sure I can hear Jiyoung and some random electronic samples coming in to add a bit of melody in these sections, but they’re pretty hard to hear over all the overdone screaming. The clean vocals in the verses could either have been extended or removed completely, and somehow that would have made it better than being interlaced here and there.

It also took a few listens, but I can finally anticipate when the choruses come in now, because this is an epic and uplifting anthem for a chorus. Catchy and empowering both lyrically and melodically. Upon my first listen it was hard to tell when it was coming in and works as a double edged sword for a surprise. Genre changes within a song are always welcomed, especially when they’re unexpected, but this one was too unexpected. It doesn’t help that the second chorus’s beginning is further obscured by clean sustained vocals that overpower the start of the second chorus.

The second half of this song, however, is a bit of a smoother listen and that long and soft electronic bridge really helps slow and clean this song up a bit. The disorientation kind of continues with the key changes, but those are great to allow the emotional guessing game to continue. The outro is also a nice opportunity to spam that anthem of a chorus with more melodic variation and harmonies layered on top of them.

Probably my least favourite song on the album, but definitely not a deal breaker this far into it. While I do like songs with experimental structures and genre mixing, Poena was a bit too messy, even for my liking. That anthem like chorus does help in being the other hopeful sounding song on this album so at least it’s got that, and its experimentation going for it.

Song Score: 6/10


10. Lightfall

And finally there is Lightfall, the final song that carries the burden of being the album closer. Now we finally get to really simmer down with the chill electronic sound and more of Jiyoung’s soft vocals, and in Korean no less. This is a good way to help you catch your breath once again and lets us feel the entire album’s sense of a roller-coaster ride with the mostly appropriate switch ups between rise and fall.

Ominous synths also really bring this song home and entire album home as the verses sound reminiscent of the darker K-Pop you can find when a group does a bad-ass or girl crush concept–but it doesn’t go too poppy because then the electric guitars come blazing in for the choruses that give the song’s overall feel a deeper depth than it begins with.

For an album outro, it doesn’t go out in a bang as hard as it first came in with Little but Fierce, but still gets the job done by switching up the vibe and formula enough to really signify things coming to a close. It’s a side of Messgram we haven’t seen before where there’s even longer emphasis for the electronic side during the verse, as to serve as a subdued counterpart to all the electric guitar we’ve been treated to.

While Lightfalls’ outro could have been stretched out a little longer with an electronic fade out section, it still gets the job done by adding more variety to Cheers to the Failures.

Song Score: 8/10


Cheers to Messgram and Their Future Success

So there you have it, my somewhat in-depth and comprehensive review on Messgram’s first full length album Cheers to the Failures. This band definitely has a decent enough range in genre exploration, excelling both in the metal and emo categories, and while I do appreciate both genres, it’s quite clear which genre I lean more toward. Especially since most songs on this album clearly declare themselves as either more metal than emo, more emo than metal, or just straight up emo.

Modern metalcore elements and 2010 emo makes for a pretty good sound that, while we’ve heard it all before, Messgram does it their way and it’s nothing to scoff at because when they bring it, they really really bring it! I am still blown away by this album and will continue to listen to it from start to finish in the following days, possibly weeks, months, and years because I think I’ve stumbled upon quite the gem of a band.

On a selfish level I’m hoping Messgram sticks more to their metal side while sprinkling in some emo and pop-punk sections in their next release, but at an objective level they’re definitely free to do what they did here with Cheers to the Failures with switching between genres in a manner that kept it fresh for variety sake. They keep you guessing and that’s good to prevent becoming too formulaic and predictable.

And although their previous albums followed in this vein already, there’s just something about the entire songwriting quality that has been greatly improved in this full length release, and I hope I did a good enough job in explaining how.

I definitely look forward to more from Messgram, and will continue to rock out to everything they have so far in their ever growing discography!

Final Album Score: 87/100

Be Sure to Support Messgram by Purchasing/Streaming Their Music:

  1. iTunes
  2. Apple Music
  3. Spotify
  4. YouTube
  5. Bandcamp

What are your thoughts on Messgram’s first full length album?

What are your thoughts on my thoughts of the album?

Agree or disagree, let me know in the comments below!

Music Review: Dreamcatcher – Alone in the City

Wudup, fellow Somnias?! Dreamcatcher is back to grace us with yet another comeback today!

With the huge success of Escape the Era and its lead track YOU AND I attracting even more fans than ever before, does What continue to build on the Dreamcatcher legacy?

Well let’s take a look and find out by first enjoying the music video together (if you haven’t already spammed it a couple times this morning like I have):

What? What. Wat? Wot? What!

What is a very breathtaking thrill ride! No that was a statement, not a question. What do you mean, “what’s a breathtaking thrill ride?” What is! The song What! By Dreamcatcher.

Okay, I had to get that out of system. Excuse me.

Go to any YouTube comments section for a Dreamcatcher video, and I bet you’ll find a handful of comments saying their music sounds like anime music. If we’re going to think along those lines, then this song sounds like the appropriate fresh new sound an anime’s 5th season should sound like.

You know, the cast has gone through so much together and have grown a lot since the 1st season. They have a brighter outlook on their journey realizing how powerful they can be, so it sounds brighter, but not too bright as to imply their journey is over. There’s still a hint of much more ahead, but they have even that much more confidence in taking it on.

All in all, strong intro to the song and I welcome the change more, surprisingly much more than say how Fly High kind of threw me off guard at first. For What, my enjoyment of it was more instantaneous.

The verses are mostly identical sounding to me and that’s okay. Notably for the second verse, I like how the distorted guitars come back immediately rather than being built up to as they are in the first verse. They’re sparse with a couple power chord strums as to not overshadow the vocals and busier synth and violin combo. And of course give space for the vocals to shine as they should.

Melodically I don’t think the verses are that interesting. Every member definitely gets the job done when it’s their time to shine. We’re still treated to a very short Handong moment in the second verse and it makes me sad that they didn’t give her another line for the bridge because hearing her sing in that range I realize her vocal timbre does seem to fit better with the more laid back sections of songs.

And now while it’s easy to fanboy about Siyeon and Yoohyeon’s power vocals, Jiu’s soothing yet hauntingly soft voice, Sua’s badassery, Gahyeon’s innocence and charm–I think it’s time to admit that I’m a closeted Dami bias. My growing fondness for her is growing the way it has for Moonbyul of Mamamoo where they both started off as the underutilized rapper now allowed to reach their potential by getting some actual vocal lines, and by golly does Dami own both of her sections in this song like a bawss!

The chorus is composed a lot simpler than previous tracks, but that doesn’t take away from how catchy it is with its 90’s sounding dance melody, and the syncopated What’s help keep the song going. After all, who doesn’t love a little syncopation and accentuated break beats that the “break up my dream” part provides. It goes well with the lyrics like moments in a nightmare where you think you’re about to wake up, but there’s still more to haunt you because the second post chorus treats us to a nice chuggy riff.

This could just be the metalcorefag in me, but I want to hear more chuggy riffs in Dreamcatcher songs. I felt they were too short in Fly High (why do I keep comparing this song to that one?), but even if they’re short in What as well, it’s a nice smooth transition into the bridge. We get that intro piano riff again with Jiu singing over it this time before we’re blasted with the final chorus.

It’s strange that this is the second longest lead single by Dreamcatcher, but it doesn’t feel that long at all. It actually moves along at a brisk pace, none of the parts drag on, and ultimately feel like they transition together quite smoothly. Though it’s not structurally or even compositionally complex as their other songs (as far as I can tell), What gets the job done in introducing us to a new era in the Dreamcatcher world.

For delivering the goods, feeling shorter than it actually does, and somehow manages to impress me even if it had less dynamics and simpler verse construction than previous releases I give it a 5/5


What vs Alone in the City

I actually love What just as much as any other lead single Dreamcatcher, and I definitely welcome Happy Face Entertainment wanting to experiment with their sound a little bit. But it’s for that reason that I feel a bit conflicted about the rest of the album.

Intro: Epic as always and builds the expectation that Dreamcatcher will continue to deliver the rock sensibilities that distinguish them from their peers. And this time with more electronic sounding synths, dare I say EDM and dubstep-ish even if ever so slightly. It would be a nice welcome changed from the more classical strings sounding synths from previous releases.

By default I usually love short instrumental intros that build up the hype and tension for the title track that follows them so it gets a score of 5/5!

Wonderland: The track following What on the album is a nice dark sounding R&B track. It’s a nice pallete clenser after the adrenaline rush What is as it does slow down the pace a bit. It has some nice wub wub wub sounds for the chorus and I generally EDM and dubstep so that stuff is pretty cool.

Though I can’t help compare its post chorus vocal melody to Loona’s track Perfect Love off of their OT12 debut album. Because my ear is accustomed to Perfect Love’s pre-chorus, my brain tries to fill in the gaps during Wonderland with Perfect Love’s fuller sounding melody. Then before I know it, the song ends on a very abrupt note. It could have benefited from a short instrumental outro that sounded different from the rest of the song, but it didn’t.

Maybe this song needs more time to grow on me as its own entity, and it does have a nice overall vibe, but its abrupt stop and its similarities to Loona’s Perfect Love it gets a 3.5/5

Trap: After Sleepwalking, everyone seemed to want Dreamcatcher to explore what they can do with a more EDM sound and I’m actually happy we got that with Trap. The chorus has some decent wubbing and the vocals and their melodies are pretty good. I actually do like this song’s clean guitars comboing with the piano for the verses and outro, but that chuggy riff at the start kind of pisses me off!

Wait, didn’t you say you wanted more chuggy riffs in Dreamcatcher songs?

Yes, I did say that!

But it kicks so much ass that it’s so disappointing that it never comes back later in the song, nor do the distorted guitars at all. You know, the instrumental element that sets Dreamcatcher apart from other K-Pop groups? It’s a huge let down that they didn’t employ any more rock into this otherwise decent EDM track.

I would probably love it more if I wasn’t deceived by that distorted guitar riff at the beginning building up an expectation for me. And once again a very very abrupt stop to the song doesn’t give me time to savour the other good stuff that has going for it. I mean, I know What ends very shortly after the vocals do, but so far Wonderland and Trap both have that problem of ending with not much of a bang or climax. Or since they are softer songs than the rock infused lead track, they could have easily faded out instrumentally or have just a few seconds for us to savour the beat with a more definite finish.

Did I mention how much it pisses me off that they only used distorted guitars for the coolest part far too early and far too sparsely in this song? I mean with the tom drums pounding for the pre-chorus they missed an opportunity to put a palm muted riff! Why you gonna play me like that?

Sorry, but Trap gets a 3/5

July 7th: Is the date that Love Shake was released back when Dreamcatcher was Minx and had five members instead of seven. Hence it has a bit of a tropical kind of sound that takes a bit getting used to, especially after how much dark, aggressive, and fast paced music we’ve gotten so far from Dreamcatcher.

Yes, yes, I know. There were the ballads of course and those were nice contrasts to the heavy lead singles.

And speaking of the ballads does the July 7th chorus sound familiar?

If it does, then you would notice that it’s the same vocal melody as Lullaby, but slightly altered to better fit this tropical house track that I suppose also needs time to grow on me. But once again. What is up with the abrupt endings to the songs on this album?! July 7th does it also…

It’s a shame too because the bassline to this track is quite groovy and does well to compliment the swankier vocal style they were able to experiment with. I would give this song 2/5 because reggae and the whole tropical feel is not really my cup of tea…because…it’s a glass of pineapple juice instead–

(Yeah let’s pretend I didn’t make that shitty joke…)

BUT! I do like the vocal melody and style of this song as well as the nods to Lullaby by not only borrowing its chorus melody, but also having a piano riff that’s similar to Lullaby’s that is snuck into the end of the bridge. So that much I can give them credit for 4/5


Final Thoughts

Like any other Somnia I am proud of what Dreamcatcher has accomplished in the past year and a half since they’ve redebuted. They took the K-Pop world by storm with a unique rock and horror concept with powerful choreography that can only contend with the likes of GFriend whose only similarity to them is the anime intro shtick. But otherwise, the two groups are drastically different from each other in genre.

Despite of the negative criticism I’ve given to this album I think it is still a nice step forward for Dreamcatcher to continue expanding their genre range. It’s interesting to hear what their voices are capable of adapting to, they can do it all; they can rock out, soothe us with a lullaby, or get us to rave dance very embarassingly by accidentally knocking things off your desk, which is something I totally didn’t do when I first heard Sleepwalking off of Prequel.

But yeah…the rocker in me is sorely sorely disappointed from the lack of rock tunes and sensibilities the group is meant for. I loved Escape the Era for them totally owning that sound and I love that the company delayed its release as it gave us a much more polished product with better overall song structures and dynamics, whereas Alone in the City feels a bit rushed to me. There weren’t any memorable moments where I feel like constantly rewinding the song to re-experience them.

For instance when Yoohyeon blasts her power vocals back in after Dami and Handong’s vocal trade in Good Night’s second verse, or when Mayday goes for a soft rendition of its chorus after the bridge right before the full band kicks in. And let’s not forget the pre-chorus of Chase Me, the song that started it all, surprising the hell out of everyone with the distorted guitars there being introduced for the first time ever.

Anyways those are my initial thoughts on Alone in the City. My opinions may change upon more relistens, but that’s how I felt upon a first impression. I am usually conscious of how my expectations for artists cloud my objectivity to enjoy any new music from them, but it always goes three of the same ways:

  1. They defy expectations and I am instantly in love with the new direction.
  2. They defy expectations, but I’m on the fence about it and need time to let it sink in.
  3. They defy expectations and I can’t stand it because either my expectations were too high and/or they simply failed to top what they delivered before no matter how much I try to re-listen to their new stuff

Let’s hope for option number 2 because I like to retain some amount of optimism in life.


Be Sure to Support Dreamcatcher By Purchasing Their Music Through:

  1. iTunes
  2. K-Pop Mart
  3. Yes Asia

 

Music Review: Dreamcatcher – YOU AND I

dc eteWhile we’re just a couple days away from Dreamcatcher’s comeback with Alone in the City, I figured I should finally review the final chapter of the Nightmare Era with a breakdown on the song YOU AND I and its music video.

I wrote my Dreamcatcher Trilogy Review last year during the Fly High era and somehow in the past couple months, that full page where I review all of their first three music videos has been a getting a ton of hits. I don’t know how and a part of me is curious to know if someone’s been it around or if people just so happen to find my review through Google searches.

Whatever the case may be, I am eternally grateful for your readership, and as always remember to leave a comment and a like to let me know what you think of my take on the music and their music videos. Now without further adieu…


YOU AND I 

The Song: Quite the soft start for Dreamcatcher with the piano riff and straight into singing where we’ve gotten used to their explosive distorted guitar driven intros. But despite the soft start, we are still treated by the spooky sound Dreamcatcher is known for. It sounds like any other K-Pop with synethic ambience probably just to draw attention to newcomers, but still fits well within the context of Dreamcatcher’s overall feel.

For my first few listens I didn’t like that doorbell sound and thought it would only be included for the music video. However, I realized that its tone was actually in key with the piano and even serves to compliment as a strange and unique way to harmonize with the piano riff. It almost sounds part of it, but it sticks out enough to catch your attention. To this day I’m still ambivalent on whether or not I like it being there.

Anyways, we’re treated to the proper lead vocals from Jiu as we have come to expect in Dreamcatcher songs, and as always she slays. She does some vocal trades with Gahyeon who I didn’t realize actually had a lot more lines on this comeback, and rightfully so, she can pull off the edgy spooky thing that Dreamcatcher vocals require.

What I liked about this comeback was how it fulfilled my thirst for the distorted guitars. It’s what I look forward to with DC because no other K-Pop group, at least that I know of, employs aggressive electric guitar in their songs as the main instrument to back the vocals.

The build up to the chorus is awesome with that chaotic electric guitar slowly taking over the spooky string synths that provide a bit of atmosphere for us. And then bam! The bass kicks in and it’s groovy as hell. The full band is in swing with hard pounding drums, rockin guitars, and of course some more synths that ground the instrumentation to remind you this ain’t just straight up rock. There’s a horror element that you gotta pay homage to in regards to Dreamcatcher.

And do I really have to mention Siyeon and Yoohyeon’s power vocals being the most fitting trade for the catchy ass chorus? They are the ones powerful enough to contend with the heavy instrumentation before it starts to simmer down with more sparse vocal lines to give the more active guitar riff some space to shine.

Now we get to the second verse, and if you know me by now, you know I’m really picky about them. I really want them to unique from the first verse or it gets boring for me. You can use the same instrumentation or even the same vocal melodies, but change it up in some significant and noticable way so the song continues to progress.

My verdict? Well damn…now I see why her name is Dami. Makes me wanna say “damn!” a lot because I remember her singing voice being pretty good in their Minx ballad “I Just Like You,” and it made me wish they would employ her singing into Dreamcatcher more instead of sticking her to only rapping, sometimes only for very short bursts per song.

Well I got my wish! Dami’s deeper singing tone sets a nice contrast to the high pitches of Jiu, Yoohyeon, and Siyeon, and if that wasn’t enough for Dami biasers, she also gets to do what she does best to end her extended section off with a bit of rapping, along with those harmonized vocals continuing in the background. If that’s her harmonizing to herself, then damn, HappyFace finally realized how much she’s actually capable of because her higher end voice is pretty sweet too.

Anyways, enough Dami fanboying, she’s not even my bias…or wasn’t before, but now…?

Ok, let’s settle down, folks.

You calm down!

You know where I thought that HappyFace underestimated Dami being only suited for rapping, I felt the same way about Sua, but to my surprise her vocals are pretty powerful too as she delivers the first half of the second chorus. I am so sorry to her and Sua biasers. It’s not like I looked down upon her or anything, I always thought she and Dami were simply the dance and rap line this whole time, and you know I probably look stupid for not noticing Sua’s vocals in their other releases that I should probably revisit after this review.

Anyways we get treated to a different post-chorus as we approach the simmered down bridge. That palmed muted guitar riff is pretty awesome and the late introduction for the lead guitar to kind of shadow the vocal line is a nice touch before the full band slides out again to make room for softer vocals and atmospheric synths.

The final chorus could have easily bursted into a copy and paste of the first two, but what I really really appreciate about is how instead of doing that, it’s an appregiated piano version of the chorus instrumentation. Or at least that’s what it sounds like to me. Someone with a better ear and understanding of music theory is free to tell me if the piano riff is indeed using the same chords as the distorted guitars do.

But yeah it’s perfect to re-introduce the chorus this way so that Jiu gets one more chane to shine since she is the lead vocalist and the leader of the group, she deserves that spotlight. Plus her vocal timbre is much more suited for soft parts anyway and I don’t think she can pull off the power Siyeon and Yoohyeon are capable of.

That’s not to say she’s a bad singer, she’s an excellent singer, as they all are, and is much more fitted for this kind of section. I feel like her softer voice would have been buried by the heavy instrumentation if the composer would’ve gone the route of copying and pasting the original chorus for the outro.

And speaking of the official outro and the way the song ends, I always feel this way with Dreamcatcher songs, but basically I think it could have been a bit longer. That palm muted riff that leads to the very end to me still sounds like it ends the song too abruptly.

They could have went maybe four or eight more bars without vocals and extend the guitar solo. Though I would understand if the composer was being considerate for the girls since they already do some exhaustingly powerful moves throughout the choreography. Not to mention how Dreamcatcher is one of the few groups who actually do sing live all despite their tricky looking choreography and manage to sound stable for the most part.

Others would argue that the song ends when it needs to and it’s best that it doesn’t over stay its welcome, and I can agree with that too. I would personally prefer a bit more instrumental sections in K-Pop songs in general and for a group like Dreamcatcher tackling my original love for rock, it would be a welcome addition. It’s a tiny gripe, but it doesn’t sour my overall experience in any way. The only time it does is Fly High’s bridge that a lot of people feel like switches up too abruptly.

Nonetheless, good job on Dreamcatcher’s part for nailing the vocals and choreography, and as always HappyFace for hiring LEEZ and Oullander to compose this track. They never disappoint and continue to rock in the other album tracks of Escape the Era, which if you haven’t gotten it yet, I would strongly advise doing so.


The Music Video: Right away you have to notice the huge leap in production value for this music video compared to their previous titles. HappyFace has gotten increasingly more ambitious with Dreamcatcher music videos and I think that is indicative of probably how much the group is raking in for the company because they do have a lot of international fans the love and adore them. So I’m pretty sure those album sales, especially the unique and beautiful aesthetics of the photobooks and posters are definitely sure to please fans enough to buy these works of art en masse.

But anyways!

Let’s actually take a deeper look at the music video and how it relates to the rest of the Dreamcatcher lore.

Now I do have to admit that I’m the best theorist for either of the groups I stan (maybe I’ll start reviewing Loona someday!) so take what I say at face value and feel free to educate me on what you think and/or what has been confirmed when it comes to the overall storyline of Dreamcatcher.

So YOU AND I finds the girls in two distinct settings. One is the dark gothy house and the other is the bright and spacy Heaven like world with the giant portal swirling about with its ethereal energy. Yoohyeon is running toward the portal and we get a cut straight to Jiu and the girls in pretty hot gothy attire to match the decor of a gothy reneissance looking kind of house.

Now right away you will notice a whole lot of webs in both worlds; the house and the Heavenly like place. That is to remind us that it was revealed in Fly High that Yoohyeon killed a cursed spider that in turn cursed the girls to become nightmares, or so the theory goes.

Here and there we cuts of Siyeon developing pictures in a photgraphy room and using some kind of magic to burn a few images. I’m not quite sure what any of this is supposed to mean so I’ll cut straight to the whole ritualistic scene where we’ve got Yoohyeon laying on a stone pentagram and the girls surrounding her in the Heaven scene, and sitting in a chair with a ghost escaping her in the house scene.

To me this implies she’s the main character and the main cause of their curse, and the girls are now attempting to purge the demon out of her in the belief that they can free her and themselves for their curse.

And quick mention as it was the talk of the town, but Dami’s moves with the staff in the choreo is so badass. I kind of wish the music video emulated their live performances where the stick extends out of nowhere almost like magic instead of just being already out in the open. But either way, she twirls that mofo pretty bad assedly, and with the addition of the use of scarves by the other girls I think adds a nice new dynamic to the choreo. Makes me kind of wish that more groups used more props for the choreography. So props to the choreographer for coming up with these two cool additions to it.

Anyways we move on to a shot of Yoohyeon about to take a photo for a woman. I hesitate to say old because she looks middle aged but still youthful anyway. Asian genes, am I right? The ajumma looks up creepily at Yoohyeon as she takes the picture, and the flash reveals a spider shadow being cast on the wall and backdrop behind Yoohyeon. Oh and she passes out either from shock or an attack that happens off camera.

We finally see Yoohyeon running toward the portal in that Heavenscape and the portal closes on her as she just mere steps away from it. Jiu has also been running around being chased by an apparition throughout the music video if I failed to mention that earlier. Might be that the curse is trying to find a new human host for its evil bidding in Jiu?

The music video ends with Yoohyeon kneeling before the closed portal and the choreo shows Yoohyeon with her head flipped back and her eyes closed while Jiu has her hand on her throat. I think this is implying that Jiu is responsible for killing Yoohyeon in order to free Yoohyeon, herself, and the rest of the girls from the curse, but something went wrong during the exorcism.

At least that’s how I interpret it.

We saw in Fly High that Jiu wanted to capture spider, and for whatever reason, Yoohyeon took out some sadistic insecticide on it, and the spider’s spirit ended up killing Yoohyeon and her classmates turning them into nightmares. And there’s always been this duality in Dreamcatcher that I find interesting. The rock songs and music video imply that they are ghosts that haunt people in their sleep much like what they did to that ghost hunter in Chase Me and in Good Night.

But then their ballads imply that they’re not always evil and actually act like Dreamcatchers to protect people from nightmares. Whether or not they are the same beings, it’s all up for interpretation. Maybe we’re dealing with the same 7 girls throughout the entire lore of Dreamcatcher, or they have several groups of dopplegangers that serve different functions for people’s dreams.

Maybe there’s one group of Dreamcatchers committed to creating havoc in people’s dreams, and another group of Dreamcatchers that happen to share the resemblance that like to protect people in their dreams by giving them good ones. Or maybe they are the exact same group either haunting the evil and giving good dreams to good people, or their nature is completely arbitrary and they do as they please.

I don’t know. I haven’t entertained Dreamcatcher theories in a long time so I am kind of rusty on my knowledge of it.

If you have other ideas or know of good theory videos that explains that stuff significantly better than whatever I attempted just now, please feel free to share in the comments below!



Alone in the City

Dreamcatcher’s comeback is a couple days away! September 20, 2018 will mark a new era in the Dreamcatcher lore with a fresh new aesthetic and fresh new sounding music. From what I heard from a short album preview they have decided to go on a more electronic sounding route as opposed to sticking with heavy guitars. They’re still there, but not as prominent as they have been, and so far only appear to show up in their upcoming title track What.

Now this can go in either direction: this new sound they’re going for might alienate fans who strictly like them for their rock sound and/or attract new fans who are much more used to the poppier more EDM based kind of K-Pop.

Whichever the case is, I bid Dreamcatcher a whole lot of damn good luck in attracting new fans and pleasing veteran fans alike with their comeback which I will review for next week’s Tuney Tuesday.

Thank you very much! See you then!

2018’s Newest Linkin Park Fan

Hey, everybody, I just discovered a really cool band lately!

They’re called Linkin Park, and they’re really really good.

Wait, what? You’ve heard of them before? Same with everyone else?!

Yes, yes, I know. I am highly aware of how they debuted 18 years ago with the smash hit In the End an dominated the early 2000’s with several other hit singles. They were among the most popular bands at the time getting a ton of radio and TV time. But somehow I have only started to listen to their music and truly appreciate them now in the year 2018.

When I was your typical teen, faced with the growing of age pains, I listened to a whole lot of nu-metal with Korn being my top favourite band above them all. Metal was and still is a pretty cool gebre and all, but nu-metal felt more experimentive in terms of instrumentation, and the lyrical content is usually more personal and direct. So naturally, I felt like I could relate to lyrics expressing all shades of angst and anger, all the while headbanging the stress away. (In the air, not against solid objects, of course.)

So how in the hell did I miss out on Linkin Park when their music was ripe with the most authentic and direct lyrics possible?


The Egos of Elitists

When I was 14, I had a best friend who was a passionate metalhead and together we really enjoyed Korn and all the other nu-metal bands coming out on the scene at the time, like Limp Bizkit and System of a Down. Back then, and probably even now, nu-metal was a pretty niche genre. It was indeed popular, but still paled in comparison to pop and hip-hop which continues to dominate the charts even today.

So because of how we were in a small minority of people who loved this kind of music that others deemed as too loud and aggressive, we kind of felt special. Though at times it went a little too far as to denounce all other genres of music, especially if it was mainstream, and even going insofar as to denounce other metal bands if they weren’t heavy enough by our elitist standards.

Yeah, I cringe just writing about it right now.

Now I don’t think this former best friend of mine intentionally conspired to keep me from enjoying Linkin Park, but his elitist mentality sure as hell rubbed off on me and I ended up developing my own ego around music. And since I can’t remember with any certainty if he ever said anything against Linkin Park, I’m going to have to take full responsibility for shooting myself in the back and actively choosing not to like Linkin Park.

Especially since they were so popular, maybe too popular a really ignorant part of me wanted to maintain some sense of true individualism by going against what everybody else liked. Even if I did have moments of enjoying some of Linkin Park’s songs, I wanted to vehemently divide myself from other people in high school that loved them. Because I had this really strange notion that liking Korn made me cooler than all these other people who “fit in.” Being a misfit was like a badge of arbitrary honour, just as arbitrary as some non-existent force in the universe that made it impossible for my teenage self to simply like two rock bands,

Man, I’m really embarassed just writing this…

The Ego Will Always Resist What Can Make It Desist

In those aforementioned moments in which I enjoyed their songs, I particularly remember catching the music videos for Somewhere I Belong and Breaking the Habit on two separate occasions. On both occasions, I got lost in their lyrics and felt like I could relate to the desire to heal from pain both songs express. Not to mention, the intensity of Chester’s power vocals drove that feeling home for me.

They were strange experiences because of course the sonic signature of their music in the early days naturally resonated with me, but instead of having pure rage in their lyrics as I preferred in Korn at the time, some of Linkin Park’s lyrics also expressed a desire to actually be happy.

Which is something my teenage self didn’t want because being a cynical nihilist was just soooo much cooler.

Yeah, no, not really.

But I definitely thought that way at the time.

Listening to Linkin Park now as a 31 year old man as opposed to a 14 year old boy, I can see how much I could have loved them back then. They could have easily been included to my library of nu-metal with more of a push toward a positive direction rather than always focusing on the negative. And that’s not to say nu-metal is nothing but negativity, but when it came to a desire for positivity, I think Linkin Park took the cake.

Unfortunately, as a teen, I actively wanted to remain angry and resentful so I actively ignored anything that could have helped me out of my rut. I truly do feel like if I did listen to Linkin Park back then, I would be influenced to sort myself out earlier in life. Not just because of their lyrics, but also because of the friends I could have made if I had only let myself like them. The band, and the people.

I grew up with the strange notion that popular were all pricks (thanks American high school media), but as I opened up slowly throughout my teen years, I came to realize that some people were popular at school because they were legitimately cool people. And likewise, Linkin Park was so popular because they too were legit cool.

Of course they were!

While there are definitely other factors that affected my capacity to make and maintain friends in high school, I think choosing not to like Linkin Park was a huge component to it, along with what it represents: my close mindedness at the time. Along with my own ego gratification thinking that it was a wise mode of being to elevate myself above others by arbitrary means like music preference.

Which of course is why nowadays I try to keep an open mind to all genres.

I mean for crap’s sake, I’m in love with K-Pop these days!

Oh, if my 14 year old self only knew. Live and learn, right?

Novelty vs Nostalgia

So after getting the first three Linkin Albums a couple weeks ago, it has been an uphill battle in the way I’ve experienced their music. At first, it was a huge slap in the face to find that not only were their singles are incredible, but so are the album tracks. I can listen to them all from start to finish and not get bored for even a second because of how easy it is to listen to them, they really knew how to structure these songs and the song order for the full album experience.

At first it made regret how I wish I didn’t sleep on them after all these years, along with regretting how I closed myself to friends I could have had, or did have, but drifted from due to my elitist ego that had a lot to do with music preference among other things. And of course how their music was exactly what I needed back then, and I missed out.

But did I really miss out?

After all, I am listening to them now.

It all feels so new and refreshing to me even though so many others have already enjoyed their music long before I did.

After a whole lot of listening back and forth, I think I’m finally at a place where I can just enjoy the novelty of listening to Linkin Park and enjoying them as if they’re a new up and coming band only coming out today. Even if they have been around for quite a long time, in my mind new music is always welcome.

Besides, their music seems to have a timeless quality to it. Even if I heard all of their singles before, within the context of accompanying album tracks, they too still feel fresh and new to me because now I’m finally deliberately listening to them and enjoying them fully with high quality headphones and many many repetitions.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get into any of their other albums after Minutes to Midnight, but whatever the case may be, and as it stands now, I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of Minutes to Minutes to Midnight along with Hybrid Theory and Meteora for what I feel is going to be a really really long time.

Who knew letting go of my egoic illusions could reap such great benefits?

 

Music Review: Dreamcatcher – Fly High

img source: https://www.soompi.com/2017/07/28/watch-dreamcatcher-showcases-vocals-new-live-fly-high/

Alright we are now at the final stretch of this music video review series! Thank you for taking this journey on with me as I still cannot contain my excitement for this group that marries my two favourite music genres packed into one powerful group.

Today we take a look at the Prequel to the Dreamcatcher lore, before they were became nightmares with their latest release Fly High.

The Music:
The song starts off with a brief piano intro and once the full band kicks in there’s a noticable drop in the heaviness we’ve grown accustomed to, yet some heaviness is sprinkled in for brief moments throughout the song. It works for and against the group for a few reasons.

It took me a moment to accept this brighter side of Dreamcatcher, but the YouTube channel manager did remind us in the comments that this is indeed a prequel to their other two music videos. Keeping that in mind it makes sense that it does have this bright, happy sound, though despite the distorted guitar being a little less bassy and crunchy than before, it’s still there and brings the heaviness here and there throughout the song.

At first I felt like the pre-chorus with the chugging riff was too short, that it could have gone another couple bars. With Dami rapping “it’s like a big black hole in my heart, I’m trapped in the dream,” and Sua bringing back the melodic vocals, the vocal trade it initially made it sound like an abrupt transition. But then I listened to the instrumental version of the song and it made sense to have that transition happen between the palm muted power chords to the regularly strummed ones.

On top of that, the benefit of listening to the instrumental version made me notice the second verse features a more groovy bassline than the first one. It’s not just sustained root notes of the palm muted power chords, but a groovy and melodic bassline! So that harmonized rap part that Gahyeon does is extra special to me now, because not only have I not heard many harmonized rap sections from other songs, but it’s also backed by a sweet instrumental modification that I appreciate.

Then we get to the bridge that makes me feel ambivalent. The heavy breakdown part is amazing and so is the clean vocalized part, but the transition between the two feels rushed. The thing with all their songs in general, I still feel like they can benefit from an extra 10-20 second instrumental break where the rock riffs can shine, along with the complex choreo that the girls do.

Even from listening to the instrumental version, the bridge transition feels abrupt. It’d be better if the palm muted riff was repeated with regular strums while the lead guitar did a more melodic solo. Some nasty licks are happening at that part and I was disappointed that it didn’t go anywhere else before the girls start singing again.

With that said, the rest of the song is still pretty epic. The vocalized bridge does rise gradually enough to help deliver the epicness of the final chorus. It’s complete with Siyeon doing some high pitched harmonizing, while the chorus has been modified to include instrumental break beats that emphasize percussive parts of the main vocals.

The outro leaves us with a gentle departure and Dami now saying she’s trapped in a nightmare, instead of a dream. There’s a cool visual for that part in the choreography, but I’ll let you see it for yourself in the dance version below.

The Video:
Well damn, where do I begin? Even if this music video is shot in brighter lighting and more vibrant colours, it still carries the weight of impending doom with it. Aptly so seeing as we finally get to see more about Dreamcatcher’s lives before they met their untimely fate.

It looks like it could have been a deliberate thing seeing as it starts off with Jiu capturing a spider, and Yoohyeon later in the video burning it to death. It has been confirme by the group that the spider was cursed and killing it put them in danger. But that’s quite curious seeing as there’s some strange happenings even before that sequence like Gahyeon being held down in bed by a bunch creepy hands. It’s reminscent of the forest scene from Good Night except it’s not happening out doors, and extra tatoo’d hand comes out to shut her eyes.

So I don’t know, man? Maybe the house was already haunted no matter what and killing that spider was just another way to curse it even further. Also curious is when Siyeon and Sua standing by the forest entrance, and at first they’re in their pyjamas, but later emerge with the hooded cloaks similar to the ones from Good Night.

I’m still racking my brain wondering if they have body doubles that kill them, or if they become those hooded figures themseles. It’s confusing considering  that at the end of the music video, it appears there’s already an old timey photograph of the girls. I guess we’re not supposed to know if it’s them, or just look alikes that have lived in the same house before them.

My theory is that the boarding school is cursed to operate in a strange time loop that involves spiritual dopplegangers that haunt their living duplicates. The dopplegangers either kill or posess the bodies of their victims to continue their bidding, and are in need of physical bodies to inhabit to do so. Otherwise they are just formless ghosts that roam the house.

That’s what I originally thought when Jiu catches another version of herself playing piano in a room before she starts running down the hallway and out of the house. Coupled with the confirmation of the cursed spider playing a big part in it, and not being just a random act of sadism on Yoohyeon’s part, it kind of confused me more than clarified things.

Either way, it’s fun to speculate what’s happening in a medium that presents all this imagery at such a fast pace so it definitely requires multiple viewings to fully understand. And why not? Fly High is an awesome song with an equally awesome music video. So awesome that it left out a lot of the choreography shots as always, so below is the pure dance version.

Hope you enjoyed my reviews! Let me know what your theories are on the narrative, or if you have some more canon info confirmed by Dreamcatcher themselves, I’d totally appreciate it.

Make sure to check out my reviews on Chase Me and Good Night, and if you like these songs, please support the group by purchasing their EP’s and mini-album at:

  1. iTunes
  2. Kpop Mart
  3. Yes Asia

P.S. Physical copies come with beautifull crafted photobooks, a randomized trading card, a poster and of course the CD itself. Either way you go, show your support and get these hard working girls up on the charts so we can more rockin K-Pop tunes from them!