EP REVIEW: Dream State – ‘Untethered’

Artwork for Dream State’s ‘Untethered’ - a doll falling from a hand, attached by one string to its finger

The coming months can be seen as something of a deciding time for Dream State. They’re plenty capable of seeing it through, but the spate of inactivity and some rather significant lineup changes make it necessary to acknowledge, as something of readjustment period. But let’s face it—the onus wouldn’t be as heavy had it not been a new singer coming into the fold. Jessie Powell has a pretty steep uphill climb in her wake from the start, taking over from a vocalist as regularly lauded as CJ Gilpin was, and also trying to match a similar force to keep Dream State present where they were in post-hardcore at their previous height.

But then again, there’s also the fact that any worries can be quashed by the consummate reliability of Dream State, as their taster of things to come places them right back on track as if they’d never left. And despite this only being a three-song EP, that doesn’t feel presumptuous in the slightest. When there’s not a trace of uncertainty or teetering to be found, that’s pretty definitive proof of a band regaining their feet with the utmost efficiency. They’re properly back in business, maybe even pointing towards something even better than before.

Now that’s a viewpoint that’s hard to fully qualify at this stage, but it’s the runoff from Powell’s new energy that she brings to the fold. Chiefly, she’s got a real commandeering snarl on her, whose impact can be felt right from the start of opener Comfort In Chaos with its refrain of “Say that you want me, say that you need me / Say that you want me and you’ll never leave me”. It’s a slightly different dynamic than previous work, but no less effective; if older Dream State could get the waves forming and the storm clouds rolling in, now they’re whipping up something more vicious.

It goes in tandem with a more metalcore-skewing sound they’ve exploring that, again, feels like a very natural progression from where they were. That big, unashamedly epic post-hardcore sound is a bit beefier and harder at the edges here, peppered with a few more electronics and production effects to get there. Crucially, it’s not overdone, generally here to shine around the edges of Taunt Me’s already enormous chorus to make even more so, or make Chain Reactions’ stampeding momentum hit all the more squarely. After all, the key strengths of Dream State haven’t gone anywhere, nor has the know-how to keep it all powerful and muscular. As ever, they avoid being swallowed by over-sanitised production by a fairly large margin. There’s still plenty of opportunities for the guitars to roar prominently, and although it’d be good for the drums and bass to have similar presence (as ever), it’s far from the worst example in this sound.

It simply is Dream State back on form and hitting the thresholds that took them so far in the first place. The fact they’ve managed to get there while being as unencumbered as they are is the most impressive part of it all, as they snap back to what’s always worked for them with a new vigour. Going back to Powell again, she nails the tortured, unequivocally open nature of songwriting like this, and brings a fresher dimensionality when Comfort In Chaos and Taunt Me so flexibly tilt into anger among the soul-bearing. Honestly, it’s the logical next step for Dream State to let their seething loose more readily, and when the ideal chance to do that presents itself in this rebirth, they’ve snatched it up.

Obviously, the caveat to everything said here is that Untethered is only three tracks long, and the real test of how well everything fits back together will come with a longer-form release. But in Dream State’s defence, nothing here indicates anything to worry about. As far as bands getting back on the horse goes, they’ve done so with an unparalleled grace and nimbleness, even with some added extra flair for good measure. Their past track record means that isn’t exactly surprising, but it’s still incredibly nice to see from one of homegrown post-hardcore’s perennial faves. So here’s to what comes next; it’s almost certainly gonna be good.

For fans of: Holding Absence, As Everything Unfolds, Acres

‘Untethered’ by Dream State is released on 3rd February.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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