Lucid Dreaming – The Chronicles, Pt. I
Lucid Dreaming – The Chronicles, Pt. I (2013)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Nostalgia counts for a lot in entertainment. It’s the reason that we know that some music will *always* be our favorite; it’s why we continue to listen to old music that has nothing in common with our regular tastes; and it’s the reason that we look into or appreciate music that we otherwise would just skip over. To preface this review, I need to say that as a child, I was enamored of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles Of Prydain, and the mere fact that a power metal band (and one signed to Limb Music, no less) has created a power metal concept album based upon them is cause enough for celebration in my mind. I realized this going in, and I’m going to be up front about this: it’s a big part of why I enjoy The Chronicles Pt. I as much as I do.
Founded, it appears, by Till Oberboßel of Elvenpath, all indication points to Lucid Dreaming being a sort of solo side project for him – with guests, of course. Musicians from all sorts of underground heavy and power metal can be found peppered throughout this album: Illusoria, Skelator, Dragonsfire, Emerald, Roxxcalibur, etc.. Despite numerous singers taking the role of different characters of Taran Wanderer’s story, I would not call this a metal opera – despite the many voices, this is a clear conceptual story album at its heart, forgoing the bombast and hyper-symphonic nature of most “operas”.
Instrumentally, this album is really nothing special. Some will certainly falter when faced with numerous 8-10 minute, non-progressive power metal tracks. In fact, there’s not a song under six minutes on the whole album. Overall, the tempo tends to be fairly moderate, with a few exceptions, and there’s not an overabundance of guitar leads or solos – this is clearly a very vocal-centric album. There’s a whole lot of plot exposition and long stretches of fairly plain instrumentation, overlaid only with the narrating vocal melody.
A lot of the above exemplifies regular complaints of mine, so by most rights, I should think this album is kind of boring. Here’s where I re-introduce my kindly old friend, nostalgia, to the conversation. I love this story, and although my initial listen wound up with my attention wandering despite the concept, it has grown on me substantially over the last week or two. Within these sprawling tracks lies some very good singing from vocalists that I don’t usually enjoy overly much, and with some persistence, I’ve found a great amount of musical (as well as lyrical) enjoyment.
The lines constructed for the singers weave very good melodies together, and are often layered quite skillfully into a striking whole. Amongst my favorites include Eve Kreuzer (Illusoria) as Princess Eilonwy, the screams of Leo Stivala (Forsaken) as Taran, and especially the superb portrayal of the audacious and memorable character of Flewddur Fflam by Alexx Stahl. I’ve often found the placement of singers as characters to be somewhat ineffective in music, but this album is an exception, with many of them striking precisely the sort of emotional poise I consider appropriate for their character.
Interestingly, I believe that as a power metal aficionado and considerable Prydain fan, I am probably the precise niche market that Lucid Dreaming is targeting for The Chronicles, Pt. I. So, despite feelings that this can be a little long-winded, wishing for some more striking guitar work, and wanting more of a metal atmosphere overall, I am certain I’ll just keep coming back for the narration of this, one of the most dear of childhood fantasy tales. Recommended for fans of nearly all associated singers’ projects, as their vocal performances here are quite good, as well as those looking for a good metal narration of a well-established fantasy universe (I believe, without the lyrics booklet, that this album covers the first two books of the five-part Chronicles Of Prydain) . Naturally, power metalheads that like Prydain already should pretty much just put the proverbial check in the mail. A very specific sort of concept album for a very specific audience, but a great one in its own way.
3.75 // 5