Dreamcatcher - Wanderer Of The Ocean
Power Metal
5 songs (22:49)
Release year: 2005
Reviewed by Ken
Surprise of the month

Occasionally a band comes along that you’ve never heard of, a band that seems to just come out of nowhere and simply leaves you baffled at how good they are. O’ Canada’s Dreamcatcher are one of those bands. While the mainstream metal community continues to disappoint us overall with substandard releases and a downpour of cookie-cutter metalcore acts, it’s good to know there are new bands out there intent on releasing quality material that doesn’t pander to the mainstream media.

The seeds for Dreamcatcher were planted in the ashes of Winterland and Atlantica in the Spring of 2003. In an attempt to keep Winterland from its looming demise, Jonathon Dagenais (keyboards) contacted Jim Hunter (ex-Atlantica vocalist) with the intention of keeping Winterland from breaking up. This attempt fails and by Summer Dreamcatcher was born. Over the next few months they both create the material blueprint of what the band would later become. That Fall they recruit ex-Atlantica drummer Nikko Cyr, a few months later ex-Winterland guitarist Lyes Benchabla joins the fold, and the final piece of the puzzle is set in place when ex-Winterland bassist Dominic Arsenault completes the current line-up of Dreamcatcher.

Simply put, this is power metal at its underground finest. Without the backing of a major label it is surprising when an unsigned band releases something as good as Wanderer Of The Ocean. The EP is 5 track deep and begins with the intro track “As The Sun Sets,” a little keyboard/synth piece that could have come from the hands of Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon). The first real track is “Break The Chain” and immediately you hear the EPs biggest flaw: the guitar tone. The guitars sound muffled and “soft” in the mix when every other instrument is playing along, it’s missing that meaty, aggressive punch that the songs are calling, pleading, for. Still, this is a minor flaw and “Break The Chain” suffers little from it; the soaring, catchy chorus is simply too overpowering. This song sets the tone of the EP, musically showcasing a talented cast of musicians including the excellent mid-range vocals of Jim Hunter, occasionally sounding much like James Labrie of Dream Theater fame on some of the more aggressive upper-ranged notes.

Next up is “A Maiden’s Kiss,” it begins with a little piano work, then kicks in with some nice crunchy guitar riffs, albeit short-lived for the rest of the band joins in then and the guitar tone is smothered once again. For a short time the song sounds very similar to both “Beauty And The Beast” and “Stargazers” by Nightwish. The comparisons end there, though, and “A Maiden’s Kiss” proves again that this band knows how to craft quality songs with a slight Rhapsody flare (sans dragons and wizards), a great chorus and some excellent drum and bass work. “Wanderer Of The Ocean” is the song that bares the most resemblance to the one other band I overwhelmingly hear when listening to Dreamcatcher, that band being Theocracy. The melodies, the hook, the vocals, the music, everything sounds like it could have been composed by Matt Smith, the Theocracy mastermind, himself—which, of course, isn’t a bad comparison at all—and been released on Theocracy’s 2003 self-titled debut. The EP comes to its almost 23-minute end with “Soulcaged,” arguably the EPs heaviest track, but the aforementioned guitar tone rears its ugly head and keeps it from achieving that underlying heaviness. You can hear exactly what I mean at the 2:50 mark of the song, the overall feel of that heavy part is simply lost in the soft, fuzzymuffled mix. This song features yet another great chorus, some killer leads—which are found throughout the EP—some more stunning bass work—is that tapping I hear?—and some more superb vocal work from Jim Hunter.

Overall this band seems to be influenced from all aspects of the Power Metal genre, and they borrow nicely from it without sounding like a copycat band and without being overindulgent. The songs are mostly of the mid- to fast-paced affair, the hooks are catchy, the vocals are crisp and strong, and the musicianship is exceptional and the symphonic overtones are at a welcoming bare minimum. This year we’ve gotten some amazing metal releases from unsigned bands such as Winterfell’s first full-length album, The Veil Of Summer, and Cellador’s Leaving All Behind EP (now signed to Metal Blade); you can now add Dreamcatcher’s debut Wanderer Of The Ocean EP to that short list. While not a complete masterpiece by any means, this band does manage to impress by sheer talent and songwriting capability alone.

Whether you’re waiting for your favorite bands to release new CDs, or you’re sick of continually being subjected to mainstream “metal’s” next big hardcore-cum-metal act pretending to be something it’s not, or you’re simply looking for something new to bite into, give Dreamcatcher a try. For a debut EP, Wanderer Of The Ocean is mighty impressive, minor flaws notwithstanding.

AUDIO: Break The Chain, A Maiden’s Kiss, Wanderer Of The Ocean, and Soulcaged (MP3s have audio interruptions to combat piracy)

Note: In time these links will likely becoming outdated.

Killing Songs :
Break The Chain, Wanderer Of The Ocean, A Maiden's Kiss and Soulcaged.
Ken quoted 85 / 100
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