In Flames get a lot of flack (very deservedly so) for their gradual movement away from melodeath into a sort of generic Euro-styled pop-metal. The problem is that they were so damn good in the “good ole days”, and their diminishing returns have been quite noticeable of late. I bring up the legendary group to hit on a parallel between them and Swiss group Dreamshade. The short take is that Vibrant is everything latter-era In Flames has tried to be, except that it succeeds in marrying big riffs and bigger hooks, without having to dumb anything down. If the idea of pop-metal is attractive in theory, yet you too often find yourself frustrated at the uneven results in practice, Dreamshade’s third album is here to prove that poppy metalcore can be done well.
Of course, it helps that Dreamshade proved over two albums that they knew how to produce quality modern melodeath-tinged metalcore, and the sonic shift on Vibrant isn’t a complete and total shock. Really, the meaty riffs and massive choruses are quite reminiscent of Howard Jones-era Killswitch Engage or Demon Hunter, in a good way. The album runs out of the gate with its best feet forward. “Autumn Leaves” and “Where My Heart Belongs” have nice guitar riffs and dual-melodies aplenty, and the hooks are eminently hummable. Even the cheesy lyrics in “It’s Over” aren’t enough to ruin the song’s fun. That hits on part of the album’s charm: the band’s optimism, or at least resiliency, in the midst of personal tragedy gives the songs a triumphant feel. So when the song’s title is repeated in “The World In My Hands”, it feels more elated than hokey.
Not everything works, unfortunately. “Don’t Wanna Go” is a significant misstep, with its weird rapping and DJ scratching. It’s like a mix of modern In Flames and Linkin Park, and it should’ve been left on the cutting room floor. “Another Me Another You” is an unfortunately mediocre synth ballad. That said, the rest of the album gives a great name to the idea of pop metal. Dreamshade will certainly be labeled as a gateway band to more extreme metal, and it’s definitely true that these hooky tunes will appeal to a greater number of people than a Behemoth record. However, that shouldn’t diminish how damn enjoyable and, well vibrant, this album is. It’s a real late-year treat, for sure.