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Factory of Dreams - A Strange Utopia CD (album) cover

A STRANGE UTOPIA

Factory of Dreams

Neo-Prog


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Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This second effort from Hugo Flores' Factory of Dreams is a step up from the début album, at least if you like his rather elaborate take on the operatic female vocalist sings metal type of bands.

Stark contrasts is a main feature of this album. Soaring and often operatic vocals take the lead when the guitars or synths are soloing, soaring over a musical backdrop where dark guitar riffs and lighter, symphonic textures creates a backdrop that itself is contrasting to the lead vocals or soloing instrument patterns soaring on top.

And while superficial listening will focus on those contrasts, the compositions are actually rather elaborate. Most of them features many shifts in pace, mood and stylistic expression, and there's quite a few detailed additions to these sonic tapestries as well. There are few really challenging features though, melody and harmony are the driving forces on these efforts, and by preference as parts of a big-sounding, melodramatic multi-layered progressive metal landscape.

In short: This is prog metal with operatic lead vocals and symphonic backdrop, and warrants to be checked out by those who generally enjoy bands of that ilk.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#272529)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars One of my kids, when he was about a year and a half in age, had such issues regarding texture concerning food that I was forced to make these bizarre concoctions using a blender just to put some weight on the bugger. His favorite turned out to be my special creation, the "vanilla ice-cream and sweet & sour chicken frappe". Chances are, it probably tasted about as good as it sounds (I never crossed the Rubicon to try it myself), but it did the job in filling the tummy.

A Strange Utopia combines various appealing elements, and blends them together in such a way that I'm not exactly sure that what I'm digesting is necessarily healthy, but it's intriguing and surprisingly very tasty in an uncanny sense. Despite the neo-prog tag, this release sounds more like a gothic metal album gone hog-wild with neo-prog and occasional industrial influences, resulting in this mix of styles that can overwhelm the senses upon initial listens. There are times when a song morphs into a borderline chaotic mess of keyboard, guitar and violin soloing over battering drum programs and Jessica's vocal arrangements, like a chunky bit still in the frappe after blending, but focusing on one instrument reveals the potential for smooth and gorgeous moments.

Certain tunes possess elements of sheer beauty, such as "Slow Motion World", which begins in an otherworldly tranquil stripped down fashion before the inevitable crescendo of instruments and distortion start seeping into the sound, thus by the tune's end, it's all 'organized chaos'. Maybe, though, that's the point. Hell, the song "Chaotic Order" sums up the overall sound of this material quite well, musically and otherwise. The album's theme, concerning a Utopian vision that eventually falls apart since any sort of "enforced state of harmony" is doomed to eventually fail, accompanies the style of the music quite well.

Along with some ambient, texturally smooth moments, there are sections so jagged that it almost seems like two separate songs spliced together, such as the sudden neck- snapping shift near the end of "Garden Of All Seasons" that still cracks me up a bit after numerous listens. Real jarring, but deliriously engaging as well. Utilizing drum machines as opposed to a live drummer is fine for the more industrial and simpler rhythm sections, but sometimes during heavier moments, trying to ape a living drummer through the overuse of frantic drum rolls makes things a bit sloppy, almost sounding like a cyborg behind the kit in a state of minor malfunction.

Flaws aside, for the most part this is quality stuff. Hugo is fantastic on the guitar & keyboards, never letting his technical skills completely overwhelm the song structures, cramming in melodies just below the breaking point at times, but nevertheless, these songs are far more adventurous than many similar acts. Jessica compliments the music well, which is not an easy endeavor, and possessing a rich voice that veers between operatic and somewhat even witchy at times.

It's a bit of a mess on occasion, which can happen when blending appetizing dishes that maybe weren't originally meant to be consumed as one whole, but I found myself replaying this thing a lot, looking to dig out even more layers of cool and enticing moments during each listen. I can say this frappe went down easier than I was expecting.

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Send comments to Prog Sothoth (BETA) | Report this review (#952235)
Posted Wednesday, May 01, 2013 | Review Permalink

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