Dream State - 'Primrose Path'
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We live in a society where social media governs the youth, enforcing unwritten laws and legislation on a generation drowning in the depths of a mental health crisis left unaware of and uncared for. We live in a society where 240 characters can make you viral, but your voice can remain unheard. We live in a society where a generation of young people need a helping hand, a guardian angel to guide them through their darkest moments. Having come out of their own darkest corners, Wale’s premier post-hardcore poster-group Dream State share their secrets to walking, and surviving, the ‘Primrose Path’ on their debut album.

Following 2018’s stunning ‘Recovery’ EP, you’d be forgiven for assuming Dream State had peaked before they’d even begun, with the likes of super-singles ‘In This Hell’ and ‘White Lies’ packing post-hardcore punches and arena-ready choruses into one hell of a sandwich. However, on ‘Primrose Path,’ the band embrace evolution, most notably by the major inclusion of electronic flourishes and swishing synths that wash their post-hardcore pop-punk with a whole new lick of paint.

Five-minute opener ‘Made Up Smile’ builds and builds, the tick-tock of time pounding against the beat before synths explode in your eardrums and Dream State kick into overdrive. If you were coming into this looking for big-room sing-along choruses, you’ll find one on every track. For an album written in the midst of addiction and battles with mental health, there’s a hell of a lot of anthemic moments packed in.

Written in the wake of a critically-acclaimed EP, British Breakthrough award wins and signing to a major label, ‘Primrose Path’ was the product of a band close to crumbling under the pressure. Struggling with addiction, mental health issues and living in a society that simply doesn’t care about them, Dream State had to grow up, and grow up fast. Learning from their own mistakes as they made the record, ‘Primrose Path’ is an album that bleeds positivity: it’s ten tracks tackle dark subjects but spin them into optimistic tapestries. It’s an album this generation needs to hear, an album that admits it’s okay not to be okay, but that it’ll be okay eventually.

The personal lives of the band seeped not just into the lyrics, but into the music too. Their post-hardcore pop-punk is still beating at the centre of the band’s heart, but it’s evolved a la electronica and synth influences. Even more so, however, is the immediacy of everything. From Jamie Lee’s dramatic detonating drumlines to Aled Evans and Rhys Wilcox’s masterful guitarwork, there’s a sense of overwhelming emotion slipping into the songwriting and flooding the sound.

The ever-growing interchanging dynamic between vocalist CJ Gilpin and guitarist and co-vocalist Rhys Wilcox is more prominent than ever before on ‘Primrose Path,’ from the dreamlike passages in single ‘Hand In Hand’ to the harmonic interplay that riddles each and every song to Wilcox’s shining moment: ‘Chapters.’ Taking over lead vocals, Wilcox delivers the boldest song Dream State have written and it works well beyond expectation, hitting the heartstrings hard through his emotion-heavy delivery, driven by his metaphorical writing. Much like Rhys, CJ’s evolution as both a singer and a songwriter is shown throughout the ‘Primrose Path,’ highlighting her unbelievable range; whether she’s screaming from the rooftops over the pulsating post-hardcore pummel of ‘Out Of The Blue,’ singing sweet honey-soaked harmonies on the beautifully anthemic ‘Twenty Letters,’ or blurring all of the above with spoken word for one of the year’s most mesmerising and most heartfelt songs, closer ‘I Feel It Too.’

Debut albums are difficult. Get it right, you’ve hit the ground running. Get it wrong, you’ve dug yourself deep into a hole you’ll struggle getting out of. Dream State, however, have written one of the debuts of the decade. ‘Primrose Path’ captures the frustrations of a silenced generation across ten tracks of cathartic post-hardcore pop-punk that’ll have you singing your heart out in stadiums soon enough.

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