Dreamwalkers Inc is the brainchild of the multi-talented Tom De Wit, when it comes to music (especially prog-metal) there isn’t much this high energy Dutch wizard can’t do with regard to songwriting, playing, production and, on top of that, he’s a really nice guy and someone who I consider to be a friend. Having said that, this review will be objective, like every one I write.
Tom is a storyteller and with ‘The First Tragedy of Klahera’, that’s exactly what we get. Music started as a way for the latest news to be passed around, the bards singing the stories (with a bit of poetic licence, obviously!) to a rapt audience as they passed through settlements that were starved of the latest news and were often vast distances apart.
Storytellers. Society has had a place for them ever since history has been recorded. And stories can be deeper than one might see on the surface. The simplest of fairytales can hold deeper meanings and social commentary that takes some time to digest.
The album’s concept stems from a story written by singer/frontman Tom de Wit which was adopted into a novel by Janneke Stam (to be released somewhere in the future). The story is a high fantasy/steampunk epic, that details about a girl found in a forest on a dark fated night that is adopted into a small village by a loving couple. The girl is clearly different from everyone in the village and seems to be at odds with everything. It feels like everything she thinks and stands for is ‘not normal’ according to the world around her. This leads to a dark conclusion at the end of this record that will be revealed as the songs pass. The story of this girl named Klahera forms the basis of this album. Subjects like social alienation & trying to belong somewhere are present here. But also concepts as justice, how history is written & the influence and interpretation of religion and it’s consequences are touched upon.
Aided by a cast of voice actors known from other work in the progrock sphere, the band has tried to craft a record that almost plays like a movie from start to finish. ‘The First Tragedy of Klahera’ is the first in a set of albums and the story will continue on the next record. With this new body of music under their belt, Dreamwalkers Inc is excited to get out into theworld, play shows and tell this story to whoever wants to hear it. Because some stories deserve to be told and the band believes this is one of them.
Dreamwalkers Inc creates a melodic blend of progmetal & progrock with influences from all over the musical spectrum. The pandemic has seen the line up change and the new 6 person band that emerged sounds fresh and new. Featuring newcomers Sander van Elferen on Drums & Bjorn van der Ploeg on bass providing the rhythmic backbone of the band. Guitarists Lennert Kemper & Norbert Veenbrink provide the melodic and heavy tapestries on top. And the vocals are provided by Tom de Wit & Radina Dimcheva who provided different yet distinct voice colours to the mix. Aided by a cast of voice actors known from other work in the progrock sphere, the band has tried to craft a record that almost plays like a movie from start to finish.
With an introduction like that this album has to be something special and, once again, Tom doesn’t let us down. I have a love/hate relationship with concept albums finding some to be brilliant, musically diverse, musical events that stun and impress, while others are overblown and overwrought and, simply put, not worth the time. To save on the anticipation, I’ll tell you now that ‘The First Tragedy of Klahera’ sits firmly in the former category, so let me tell you why…
There’s all that’s great about prog-metal in this album, and in Dreamwalkers Inc’s sound in general, the loud “aggression” and amplified guitar-driven sound of heavy metal combined with the more experimental, cerebral or “pseudo-classical” compositions of progressive rock and the band do it extremely well, you can hear it on Oldstead and the darkly delicious, brilliant It Lives especially. However, what you also get is the inventiveness of tracks like opener Justice My Tragedy which is almost hauntingly gothic in places as well as delivering huge, monumental slices of heavy rock and growling vocals, a pure melting pot of musical brilliance. Despicable is another sublime piece of music, it’s almost jazz/prog fusion in places and puts a big grin on my face, oh and don’t get me started on the brilliant, intricate and incendiary guitar playing on this song! The wistful, soulful wonder of Pushed is just beautiful and Tom and Radina’s vocals are as emotive as can be, it just a gorgeous song.
And what also makes this a phenomenal album are the performances of the musicians, van Elferen and van der Ploeg make one of the most cohesive rhythm sections you will ever hear in any band, never mind a prog-metal one and the guitars of Kemper and Veenbrink almost have a life of their own and speak to you through the music. It’s not just the solos, it’s everything, there’s a superb section in the middle of the opening track where they are bluesy and soulful before breaking out into something much more primeval, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! And, as twin vocalists, Tom and Radina make just about the perfect pair, his harder edged, powerful clean and harsh vocal meeting the perfect foil in Radina’s glorious, almost operatic delivery and it fits this concept perfectly. Broken Puzzle Piece is a particular highlight of the ebb and flow that their vocal delivery adds to the music but it really shines on the longest track, Mother Dearest, one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, and not just in the prog-metal theatre either.
The addition of the voice actors is nothing short of genius and does give the impression of musical theatre, storytelling at its pinnacle. I recently went to see Les Miserables in London’s West End and , in my humble opinion, this brilliant album and story would fit there very well indeed.
Music has the power to move you, the power to enthral and beguile and this utterly immersive and captivating ninety minutes of music does just that. Dreamwalkers Inc have that innate ability to entertain and bewitch at the same time and with ‘The First Tragedy of Klahera’ they have delivered as powerful a music statement as you will hear this year.
Released 24th November, 2023.
Order the album here: