Nothing to Urge For and Nothing to Lose
2014’s Elegies in Darkness sees a a return to a more electronic sound – it’s their synthiest album since ‘Freak Perfume’. The dark, emotional nature of the music is never lost, but on this occasion the most successful songs are the ones which fully embrace the wonders of technology. The Luxury Of Insanity with it’s harp-arps, theremin-like lead and pizzicato pluck is the kind of instant appeal tune that sets you up for the more complex material to come. The Game, meanwhile, is the closest they’ve come to a new wave pop song. Without actually being pop, or course – Cure fans learned as far back as the mid-80s that no amount of synthesized ear candy allowed Robert Smith to carry a happy tune. And if he couldn’t manage it, Adrian Hates certainly can’t. He doesn’t DO happy tunes.
A point made clear by the song A Dark Embrace, which stands out with compound time and a very personal theme, a song that essentially sums up why Diary of Dreams sound the way they do. The remainder of the album is for the most part least consistent, the solid rhythms at least providing impetus to the lesser songs (something their more conceptual albums typically fail at), but eventually repetition sets in. There are further attempts at rhythmic and structural creativity, notably on the tense and purposely unnerving House of Odds and furious stop-start guitars in The Battle, but these come across as self-conscious attempts at breaking the cycle rather than natural variations on a theme.
Versions: The US and Russian-specific CD releases are no more – there’s the option of limited and regular CD editions on Accession or a download. The limited CD and download both offer an additional 3 tracks – indeed, I only realised when writing this that these songs weren’t officially part of the main tracklist. That’s actually a good thing – whilst “Mythology of Violence” and “An Empty House” simply follow the pattern of the rest of the album, the achingly slow, drawn-out “Remedy Mine” has a very ‘final’ feel about it, working well as an album closer as well as a bonus.
Grau Im Licht arrived a year later. The guitar/synth balance seems to have found a comfortable, if not happy, medium at this point and initial signs are promising. Opening number Sinferno does that sinister, reverb-heavy, edge-of-seat horrorshow thing that is now something of an obligatory presence on the early stages of a Diary of Dreams album. It would be on my own playlist, too, if the songs key refrain wasn’t so triggering – but that’s a personal thing. Then Endless Nights finally nails that oh-so-catchy Shaffel Synth thing that every Euro-scene band with a sequencer masters eventually, and we’ve already got our choice DJ cut.
A pity, therefore, that it never really progresses from there. The increased proportion of German songs might give DoD’s core fanbase ‘home advantage’, but despite my lack of any real linguistic talent, I’m not totally ignorant of the Teutonic Tongue either, particularly when used in song. It didn’t take long to get the essential meaning of classics like “Traumtanzer”, “Giftraum” and “Menschfiend”, for instance. Here, nothing leaps out in either language. It’s the usual run of low-to-midtempo beats, angry riffs and synth details. Other than some further rather clumsy attempts to vary beats and patterns, it’s standard issue. Something that wouldn’t be a problem if Adrian’s knack of knocking out a memorable tune or catchy turn-of-phrase (in either language) hadn’t deserted him from the third track onwards.
Versions: Available as CD, download or stream – same 12 tracks in each case. I’m bored of writing these variant side-notes anyway.
Our chronological run through the studio albums ends for now with 2017’s Hell In Eden, though if we have to describe it with biblical references, it’s more a kind of Limbo or Purgatory, a combination of indifference and (admittedly temporary) suffering. All the usual tropes are in play, with all the usual instruments and lyrical devices appearing at some point. But despite several listens, I could not find one track that demanded repeat listening. This is the only Diary of Dreams album absent from my personal playlist.
Not that it doesn’t put in an effort. Epicon really wants to grab your attention, a dramatic synth-rock anthem which throws in guitars, synths, choirs, booming drums, apocalyptic references – everything in the arsenal, in fact. Yet somehow it comes across as trying too hard, firing off all their ammo in an opening salvo. The rest of the album sounds like everything else I’ve covered in the past few thousand words, but it’s been done and done better before. There’s live strings on a couple of songs, but as with the guest vocals on Ego:X, talents are wasted on very ordinary songs. Maybe it’s just listener fatigue, but my Bank of Goodwill Towards Darkwave Musicians ran out at this point.
Versions: Initially issued on CD and download but for some reason a double LP version was issued a year later, treatment stronger albums were denied. Same songs across the board, though.