Call them symphonic metal, prog, ‘space opera’ metal or whatever other five dollar term that comes to mind; Factory of Dreams is a band that first impressed me with their unique grasp of style. Although the band was essentially a one-man project of Hugo Flores’, Factory of Dreamshad a tendency to sound larger-than-life. Even when you stop to consider virtuosity and ambition are virtually pre-requisites to be noticed in progressive metal, these guys still managed to blow me away with how bloody outrageous their sound was. It was akin to hearing an opera staged by Norse gods while speeding through hyperspace… Outlandish descriptions aside, Factory of Dreams caught my ear from the start. Hugo Flores’ latest outing with Factory of Dreams- Some Kind of Poetic Destruction- is relatively toned down in its orchestrations when compared to its 2011 predecessor, Melotronical. As ambitious in scope as they were, the last album’s hyperactive arrangements could be overwhelming, and scaling back the sonic density could well have been what Factory of Dreams needed to reach brilliance. Unfortunately, Factory of Dreams‘ fails to live up to the promise of its stylistic evolution; while certainly more song-based, the songwriting itself doesn’t any more focused or effective. Especially when compared to my first experience with the band, Some Kind of Poetic Destruction sounds like Factory of Dreams in lite or diet form. Downplaying many of the things that made the band such an engaging listen in the first place, Factory of Dreams‘ latest album feels close to your standard symphonic metal fare; the project’s core style and level of musicianship are still here to some extent, but I cannot help but feel disappointed.
Some Kind of Poetic Destruction marks Factory of Dreams‘ venture into the world of concept albums. Their past material has always felt like it was telling a story of some galactic import, but the band is more explicit here about the sort of story they want to tell. From what I can glean from it (and without spoiling anything), Some Kind of Poetic Destruction tells of the world’s apocalyptic end, through the eyes of a girl named Kyra. With this concept, Factory of Dreams explores the chaos that would arise from a cataclysmic event of this scale, and the metaphysical relationship a human spirit can have with physical matter or sound, IE: music. The concept has potential, and fans of Ayreon‘s science fiction fare will probably find themselves at home with this story. Some of the ideas are pretty interesting here, but the concept seems to leave much of its potential untapped. It hints at something profound (fingers point to the concept’s metaphysical conclusion) but the lyrics don’t go much past a surface-level description of the resulting chaos that has been inflicted upon the characters’ surroundings. The spoken word dialogue used to advance the story is completely lifeless and might have been best left off entirely. Luckily, the science fiction plot meshes very well with Factory of Dreams‘ musical approach, which retains the synthesizer-heavy, rhythmical pulse of albums past.
In regards to Flores’ composition style, I get the same impression here than I got from Melotronical. Although he’s not too strong from a place of proper songwriting, he’s an excellent composer and orchestrator. I don’t think there’s a single song here that stands out for its hooks or structure, but there are plenty of ideas throughout the album that grab the listener’s attention. The songs on Some Kind of Poetic Destruction suffer the tendency of biting off more than they can properly chew; the ideas are self-contained and don’t seem to relate to the rest of a song. Choruses and verse structures can be picked out, to be sure, but I’m hard pressed to find a song here that sounds like the ideas therein were arranged to really compliment one another. At their best, Factory of Dreams‘ songs feel like vessels for a string of engaging ideas. By prog standards, that might sound like a listener’s dream come true; after all, the attitude of an ambitious composer transposed onto rock music has often had the effect of working against conventional structures. Factory of Dreams‘ music can be wildly interesting, but Some Kind of Poetic Destruction has significantly fewer inspiring passages than I was hoping for from the band. The crazy, over-the-top cosmic madness has been downplayed to a more comfortable level, sure, but what does the album do to really fill the gap? Melotronical didn’t sound particularly well structured, but I was usually too overpowered as a listener to notice. The atmosphere still recalls the pleasant feel of rushing through the cosmos on the wings of orchestral fury, but it sounds so much more straightforward and restrained. Especially on the heels of Melotronical, Some Kind of Poetic Destruction seems to simply ‘exist’ in the presence of the listener; the loose songwriting and washy production rarely serve to create compelling, standout-ish passages. The album’s atmosphere often echoes or reflects the epic, but never becomes it.
In terms of being more ‘straightforward’, I should elaborate in saying that this impression is largely due to the greater emphasis placed on vocals this time around. Factory of Dreams have always been big on vocals, but it’s usually come in the form of arrangements nearly as dense as the instrumentation. Jessica Lehto’s soprano and Hugo Flores’ own operatic tenor would often pass the vocal duties between each other, offering far more stimulation than you would normally expect from a vocal performance. Flores has once again enlisted the services of the talented Jess Lehto, but the vocal writing favours melodic lead performances over the dense harmonies and arrangements. She has a beautiful voice with an ethereal tone befitting a soprano, but the downscaled arrangements this time around make the vocals sound like a fairly standard fare for symphonic or gothic metal. The album’s arguable standout “Seashore Dreams” features a vocal performance that dares to veer away from the generic (with an ethereal, floating ambiance that reminds me of Cocteau Twins) but it all-too often lacks the added power or identity needed to have really moved me. Instrumentally, Hugo Flores reprises his skill as a guitarist, offering some amazing guitar solos on the album – the Satriani-esque passage at the end of “Hope Garden” comes first to mind. The rhythm guitar parts are less successful; the riffs feel somewhat indistinct and washed down by the album’s murky production.
Perhaps I’m too harsh on Some Kind of Poetic Destruction, perhaps it suffers a more negative light from having the imposing duty of having to follow up one of the most original symphonic metal albums I’ve heard in recent memory. It’s certainly true that I may have been more optimistic about the album if this had been my first experience with Factory of Dreams, but it’s difficult to be as lenient when I hear this and know that they are capable of so much more. Going for a more song-oriented product was a logical choice for Factory of Dreams, but it’s been a near-fatal decision for the band in this case. In sacrificing some of their far-out density and adventurousness, they have gained nothing in return. Add to that a mediocre conceptual angle, and you have an album that I cannot help but feel disappointed by. If there’s any band that could make me love gothic-symphonic- space metal, I know it would be Factory of Dreams. This album looks like a misstep from where I’m coming from, but I remain confident in the band’s abilities and potential to release great things again in the future.
2 Strange Sounds
3 Escaping The Nightmare
4 Angel Tears
5 Seashore Dreams
6 Dark Season
7 Sound War
8 Hope Garden
10 The Neutron Star
11 Join Us Into Sound
12 Playing The Universe
13 Seashore Dreams (Video Version)
* Hugo Flores – Vocals and all instruments
* Jessica Lehto – Vocals
Guest Vocalists and Musicians:
* Magali Luyten (Beautiful Sin, Ayreon, Epysode) – Vocals
* Raquel Sch?ler (Hydria) – Vocals
* Lyris Hung (HUNG) – Violin
* Chris Brown (Ghost Circus and Roswell Six) – Guitar
* Tadashi Goto – Keyboards
* Shawn Gordon (Psychic for Radio) – Keyboards