|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Chris Hobson & Corey Edelmann|
|Record Label: Facedown||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 95%|
|Running Time: 70:43|
The seventies happened to be known as the “Me Decade”, an era characterized by not only the good (Pittsburgh Steelers, Star Wars) and the not so good (disco, Donny & Marie) but its quality metal and hard rock scene as well. And that is where San Diego, California based Thieves & Liars comes in with the unique seventies influenced hard rock of its 2008 Facedown debut When Dreams Become Reality. Unique in the manner in which the group captures the musical spirit of the decade in question, creating a work drawing upon the influences of Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Kiss, Uriah Heep, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Resurrection Band and many more. Also, unique in how this talented power trio used recording techniques from the late 60’s and early 70’s (most of the record was tracked live) to create what it refers to as a “very natural and warm sound”. As a matter of fact, When Dreams Become Reality sounds as if it were meant to be played on vinyl- not something you can say about most recordings these days.
Quality up-tempo hard rockers – a foundation upon which When Dreams Become Reality rests - such as “Betrayed By Blood”, “Run” and “When Dreams Become Reality” all stand out with their notable melodies as does the progressive underpinnings of “The Dream” and “The Author Of The Dreams”, a pair of creative pieces showcasing the strength of the bands songwriting skills (the two bring a Floydian – if not Zeppelin – edge to them). But Thieves & Liars can deliver a bit of variety as well. This is best found on blues rockers “Good Times” and “Seven Long Years” in addition to the acoustic based direction taken on “Alone” and “Forgotten”. The bands versatility, at the same time, is reflected in a couple of eighties style hard rock numbers in “Road To Nowhere” and “Slavin’ Away” that have that hair-metal-Sunset-style flair to them (kind of like Mainline Riders).
Musicianship is also a strength to Thieves & Liars. Just check out the monstrous riffs contributed by guitarist Corey Edelmann in addition to his impassioned and at times bluesy lead work (“Road To Nowhere”, “Slavin’ Away” and “Good Times” showcase this best). At this point it must be mentioned the confidence Thieves & Liars displays in its instrumental sound: the likes of ”The Dream”, “Betrayed By Blood” and “The Author Of Dreams”, for example, all feature significant instrumental portions that hearken back to the days of hard rock done classic seventies style. Laying down the backbone to the bands sound is the rhythm section of bassist Joey Bradford and drummer Kyle Rosa, the two combining pronounced bass lines with consistent and spot on drumming- the kind that proves powerful when needed but can deliver a more subtle punch when the moment calls for it as well. Finally, Bradford fills in on vocals and sings in a lower register, bringing a tasteful mid-octave style that hints at occasional touches of grit.
Lyrically, When Dreams Become Reality is a conceptual work that chronologically traces the life of the Old Testament figure Joseph. What proves significant is that Thieves & Liars do not give us a detailed biographical sketch of Joseph but rather convey his experiences – and the grief and hardships that went along with it – by putting themselves in his shoes from a first person standpoint. The end result is an overall theme of how faith and hope can prove significant in helping us get through the most difficult and trying times in life.
Seven minute album opener “The Dream” begins its first half to an ethereal tinged instrumental section carried by a wavy rhythm guitar backed by a distinct bass line. After three and a half minutes, the song settles down even further, slowly flowing ahead as a hint of keyboards decorate the backdrop- all the while a copious melody prevails over the atmospheric scene. “The Dream”, satisfyingly, returns to its instrumental ways for its final minute and a half. All in all, a great song that reeks of a refreshing touch of progressiveness.
The hard rocking “Betrayed By Blood” starts in commanding fashion to a hammering rhythm guitar as Kyle Rosa pounds away on drums. This one rates with the albums more lively – and hard rocking – pieces, exuding a ton of up-tempo energy as a hook driven chorus and extended instrumental jam with a searing run of lead guitar are certain to draw you in on first listen. Joey Bradford proves complementary with his scratchy lead vocal delivery.
The momentum is maintained on “Road To Nowhere”. This one proves a throwback to the “hair metal” scene of the eighties, giving rise to a raucous sound that brings to mind LA Guns, Kix, Mainline Riders and Bombs Over Broadway era Squad-5-O. Introduced to clanging cowbells and a hard hitting riff, the song aggressively charges ahead until breaking out for a chorus advancing at a catchy upbeat tempo (another great hook here). The cowbell makes a cameo appearance for an instrumental break driven by a spirited guitar solo. What also stands out about “Road To Nowhere” is its lyrical direction, focusing on how Joseph responds to the despair of his experiences – he was just betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery – but from a faith based standpoint:
Is this how it feels to be a slave?
So hard to forget why I have ended up here
A broken heart, a broken life
I can’t look back, I got to look ahead
I’m on the road to nowhere…
You gotta fight to be heard
In life you live and learn
I trust that God will bring me home
“Slavin’ Away” also heads in an eighties influenced hard rock direction. Upbeat from the get go, the song romps through its rapid-fire verse portions and a rollicking chorus giving prominence to another hook of the prevailing variety. “Slavin’ Away” does not taper off until, following a sizzling instrumental portion, it briefly slows for a passage under control of a forward bass line. This one also takes a faith based approach in the face of difficult circumstances:
Can’t tell which way is up or down
I’m crying out for the Lord to rain some grace from above
I give it to the one who knows my name so I can learn
Praying for my God to tell me how to keep moving on when life is getting you down
I want to know which way that I’m to turn
I give it up to the one who knows my name
Initiated by a drum solo, “Run” – another mirthful piece with an upbeat feel – is pushed ahead by a crisp rhythm guitar only to gain further initiative for a spirited chorus backed by an accentuating trace of piano. An extended instrumental section begins to a reckless stretch of lead guitar before the rhythm guitar carries things the rest of the way.
“Alone” begins the albums sixteen minute acoustic section, which also includes “Forgotten”- the lengthiest piece here in coming in at just over nine minutes. Both songs prove richly textured in highlighting abundant vocal melodies, accentuating string sections and hints of keyboards and piano whenever needed. Yes, the two are well constructed and allow When Dreams Become Reality to take a bit of an unpredictable turn musically. That said, they are a bit on the long winded side of things and, as a result, can at times turn into bit of a trite listen (this, if anything, prevents the album from achieving a perfect score). Irregardless, the lyrical direction taken highlights Joseph’s grief as he is falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison:
Always being tired and cold
Every day feeling a bit more alone
Sinking deeper in darkness
And blind to the Light of my life
But Jesus is there whenever you choose not to hide
Sitting alone in the dark once again
No light from above or from within
Brothers and strangers have all walked away
Valued in this place I will stay forgotten
In troubled times I would fade away
Forgetting all You’ve done
But you are God until the end of time and to You I will run
Oh my God I’ll sing it out
No, You’ll never go, You’ll never go away
“When Dreams Become Reality” slowly fades in to blowing wind and keyboards over its first minute. A bass guitar solo ensues before a thunderous wall of rhythm guitar blasts in, the robust scene upheld until a catchy chorus underlined by vocal harmonies is achieved. Up-tempo, exciting and memorable, the albums title track represents all that works best in the classic hard rock genre. Faith and hope are the subject matters here:
The Son will rise and wash it all away
Break these chains that hold me into a life of freedom
This is too familiar, visions I have seen before
I have been betrayed and I have seen the darkness
And now my time has come to make these dreams reality
“Good Times” proves a lively piece but with an overriding blues based feel. The song cavorts its way from start to finish, a driving guitar riff leading the way as an environment of a weighty capacity is established. The chorus, quite hook driven, will pull you in and refuse to let go. Lead guitar wise, “Good Times” gives us some bluesy licks and chops that bring to mind old school Rez Band.
The blues based tendencies are even more pronounced on “Seven Long Years”, a six minute lament that slowly covers its distance as a touch of organ accentuates the backdrop (I can see Glenn Kaiser Band performing this one). Give Joey Bradford credit for his heartfelt vocal delivery that aligns itself with the disconsolate scene. Edelmann shines on guitar as well, again his distinct blues based – and at times flashy – soloing carrying at what at times can be a melancholy day. A notable melody is projected on this one as well. The following best sums up the songs – and the albums – theme:
The Lord he comes to nourish our souls
Rain or shine He’s there in your life
“Reconciled” returns the album to a straightforward had rock direction. The song gets underway to a stretch of intensely delivered riffing before settling down to a pronounced bass line for its first verse. Building pronounced momentum, “Reconciled” culminates upon obtaining an emotionally charged chorus shored up by a steadfast rhythm guitar.
Closing things out is the progressive influenced “The Author Of Dreams”. The song opens to a four minute instrumental introduction sustained by an ethereal rhythm guitar that brings to mind a more hard rocking version of U2. Once things settle down for its first verse, “The Author Of Dreams” gradually flows ahead to a highlighting trace of organ until transitioning to a chorus in which a sublime setting is put into place. A Pink Floyd-ish feel is resonated throughout the instrumental section closing out the songs final minutes.
In summing up, Thieves & Liars has delivered nothing less than a true work of art in When Dreams Become Reality. With its musical and lyrical proficiencies, the album is certain to stand the test of time and rank with hard rock classics of the past. Once more, only some slight triteness in the two acoustic pieces prevents a perfect score. The bands brilliance, irregardless, cannot be denied. Fans of all genres of hard music would do themselves a favor by picking this up.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Dream” (7:12), “Betrayed By Blood” (4:45), “Road To Nowhere” (4:06), “Slavin’ Away” (3:57), “Run” (4:22), “Alone” (6:45), “Forgotten” (9:17), “When Dreams Become Reality” (6:08), “Good Times” (4:33), “Seven Long Years” (6:07), “Reconciled” (4:56), “The Author Of Dreams” (8:35)
Joey Bradford – Lead Vocals & Bass
Corey Edelmann – Guitars
Kyle Rose – Drums
Steven Bradford – Vocals
Josh Nelson – Organ
Robert Schumitsky – Violin
Erin Breene - Cello