Reviewed by John Hussey
Ghosts heroing front lines
On a lonely cove
And they left behind
A bit if sorrow
Continuing on from Part 1 of my The Dream Walker review let’s move onto track six, “Mercenaries“. This song is very different from the other tracks on this album as it feels like old-school Tom Delonge. Though at first the song is misleading. Upon first impressions you feel like you’re getting another emotional song that is gentle due to the slow electronic build-up.
And then bang! The guitaring kicks in. Though, like the rest of the songs on this album, the song isn’t heavy but it’s certainly the heaviest in this line-up of songs. The guitaring is quick, its destructive, and screams out throughout, especially when it has its moments to shine. This is the rare song of the album that holds itself together almost entirely on being a rock song. Though that is a little misleading. I’d probably be more inclined to say that this is a punk song.
As soon as the music kicks in you know what you’re in for and it’s fantastic. It’s great to just see Delonge don his youth cap and return to the genre that made him, morphing it with his modern style. Delonge’s vocals are very quick to start, and when they do you better keep up. Combined with the speed of his execution and the distortion process it’s sometimes really hard to understand what he’s singing about but it doesn’t matter because it sounds awesome.
The guitaring and singing style of this song really complement each other as they crash The Dream Walker party, pulling the rug from underneath you once more as if to say, “If you thought we were done being experimental, then you’d be wrong!” Then things die-down a little during the pre-chorus sequence, which is followed after a really long first section of Delonge going at it with both his vocals and guitaring. Even the music calms down, allowing the electronic sounds to take over just for a bit.
But things quickly pick back up again ounce the chorus starts. The guitaring ramps it up on its sharpness and heavy strokes, whilst Delonge’s vocals scream out with further emotion. I love after the first chorus is done we have a short, but sweet, transition with a beautiful sounding guitar piece (which can be heard in the background during the chorus). It’s very high pitched and mesmerising, complementing the song even further. And I swear every time I hear this section it reminds me of Delonge’s guitaring from Enema of the State, particularly the chorus of “Dysentery Gary”.
I’m guessing by the themes going on in “Mercenaries” that the song is about the Dream Walkers and their struggles protecting the lucid dreamers. It could even be about the war against REM, the main antagonist of the Poet Anderson series (who is first introduced in the comics later in 2015). Either-way, I really love this song and became a personal favourite off the bat because of its call-backs to Delonge’s early punk days, granting the album just a little bit more diversity.
A Ritual, the words creep out
Like a ghost, the heart sinks down
An Animal, teethe reach out
Holding on, we’re coming up strong, up again
“Bullets in the Wind“, like “Mercenaries”, comes out as a rock track but this time the song is more gentle. Though the song still packs a really good rhythm throughout. From the very start of the song the guitaring kicks in and signals what you have in store. And it is mostly a peaceful track that carries a kind melody, along with Delonge’s high-pitched styled singing.
Delonge really gets emotional with this track and the words complement that. Once again we have a track that seems to be talking about the Dream Walker’s and their mission. Looking at the track deep enough it could be referring to Jarabec protecting Jonas Anderson. It is a good song to listen to as it changes the direction of the album, moving away from electronic controlling music to a more traditional Angels & Airwaves vibe.
I’d probably say this song is one of the closest songs of the album to represent past AVA music. But that’s not entirely a bad thing because it just shows that with the addition of Ilan Rubin the band has shaken up its dynamics. It’s clearly obvious things are different because we have the absence of bassist Atom Willard and guitarist David Kennedy, and Delonge has allowed Rubin to utilise his own music style, pushing the band’s front-man to step back from the helm and do things differently.
However, “Bullets in the Wind” allows falls kind of flat during the chorus because half of it sounds really good whilst the other half sounds rather pathetic. You can tell from listening to the song yourself what I actually mean. Part of the chorus has really good lyrics and are sung perfectly by Delonge. But no matter how good of a singer you are it is rather hard to make the line ‘over and over again’ sound interesting. Even though from a lyrical stand-point this line fits in with the rest of the chorus it just never sounds right when spoken.
I always enjoy the pre-chorus sequence throughout the song as it has a nice gentle build-up as it excels the song forward, with the music calming down slightly to complement. But it always sort of gets ruined by the chorus because it only sounds half good. Then there’s the really good third section of the song where Delonge sings another verse but the music and distortion changes, becoming a more beautiful sounding piece and contrasts against the rest of the song.
But overall I feel “Bullets in the Wind” is a bit disjointed, despite sounding good and different to other tracks on the album. My partner likes playing this one a lot but for me it quickly loses its excitement. Also I remember reading on the YouTube comments section that somebody thought the introduction to this song sounded like the music from “Chemical Plant Zone” in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I don’t quite see that myself but kudos if you do.
And I, await you again
I can feel your touch
I call your name to the wind
And into the nightfall my love
As we approach the end of The Dream Walker we are hit with another love song but once again Delonge and Rubin make it sound unique. “The Disease” goes back to feeling more electronic but its done to create clear atmosphere and a real sense of drama. It begins with a very haunting note before the electronic beat kicks in, creating an almost techno vibe as the different tones combine and build-up to the vocals. What I like most in this section is the music which almost sounds like an electronic orchestra.
Delonge’s vocals go for the emotional sounding punch again as he dons his infamous high-pitch singing style. Though it has to be noted that certain words almost sound like they are squealed through the microphone and can sound rather uncomfortable. There’s also a nice guitar rhythm being played in the background, distorted with the electronics.
It’s a very emotional song that explodes with delight throughout each chorus. The music intensifies and Delonge’s vocals scream out. I find the song delivers yet another beautiful segment about the journey, love, and development of the characters of the Poet Anderson universe. The lyrics talk about the difficult decision in front of Jonas and the path he must lead. As well as this it feels like a love letter from either Sam or Jonas to declare that no matter how far apart they are within the Dream World they will always find one another.
There’s a really good interlude section after the second chorus where a fantastic bass piece is put in. It’s deep and powerful, setting the mood further for this endearing moment. Added on top of this is a guitar solo that blends nicely within the rest of the subtle music to give you a breather before the final chorus kicks in to send off the song. There’s an extended section for this chorus, following on from the trait of previous songs in the album, and adds yet another layer to the atmosphere the song is delivering. The journey and the emotion is clearly extracted and given to us in the best way possible.
“The Disease” feels even more impactful because of its placement within the short animated film. The song builds up during Jonas’s final confrontation with his Night Terror, almost cementing the meaning of the song further as he has to face his destiny and become who is meant to be in order to protect the love of his life.
Meet me here half way
I get off this way
When I’m in love
Onto my favourite song from The Dream Walker album. “Tremors” came at me like a bullet and struck me down with such grace and precision that I’ve never been able to look back since. The track came out of nowhere and took me by complete surprise. The introduction at the beginning is rather odd as you hear a slow build-up of music, blended with the sounds of voices. And then pow!
The beauty of “Tremors” instantly kicks in as the guitar begins to play. It’s just so beautifully played. I can’t describe it any better than that. It just really captures your heart-strings and plucks them until you want to cry, it’s that beautiful. The guitaring is so gentle, so simple, and calm, that it adds so much emotion to the song. It’s so good that I happily listen to the instrumental version of the song just to examine it further.
And then there’s the vocals. I know I’ve been saying a lot over this two-part review that Delonge has brought emotion into his singing, but damn, nothing quite compares to “Tremors”. Delonge goes all out and really delivers everything. Every word is executed perfectly and he embraces every ounce of energy he holds in his heart and lets it out for this one song.
At first when you listen to the verses you might think, “Well, that’s a bit repetitive.” This implies to the fact that every line finishes with ‘Yeah come on’. Sounds silly and pointless but it really adds to the song, like Delonge is goading you to join in and share the moment with him. But what I like the most about the whole ‘Yeah come on’ parts is that it’s followed by the most brilliantly sounding ‘Oh’ I have ever heard.
I know I said that nobody could make ‘Over and over again’ sound impressive for “Bullets in the Wind” but fuck me Delonge makes ‘Oh’ sound so beautiful and becomes my favourite part of the song because it adds so much impact. I think its the way that the ‘Oh’ is prolonged and mixed in with the distortion to make it almost part of the music. A subtle, and random, addition but by-heck does it make all the difference.
Then there’s the chorus. This is definitely another highlight for the song as the emotion continues to increase in performance. Each chorus starts off subtle, gently easing you in before it explodes for the second segment, with the music getting louder to accompany the feeling. I love how when Delonge declares ‘across elation’ the song just loses itself in the moment, almost like he’s making a promise.
The guitaring, as I mentioned above, becomes the soul of the song and really comes together with Delonge’s vocals. I know I said that I love hearing the instrumental version but by adding in the vocals I always feel the song becomes complete. This is clear before the final chorus when the guitaring is let loose, creating one of the rare guitar solos within the entire Dream Walker album, and really brings passion to your soul as you listen to Delonge’s breath-taking ‘OH’s’.
The final chorus, like many of the other songs, extends itself with even more meaning and energy and sends “Tremors” off on the highest note possible. What I really love about this song is how it feels like Angels & Airwaves. This song, above all the rest in this album, channels the signature sound of AVA and conveys in a slightly new way, rekindling all the passion, meaning, and energy that previous albums brought to the table. I believe “Tremors” is here to show us what Delonge does best – making us feel love and hope.
I never wanted to say
How much I loved you
I never wanted to be
One of your, sad discoveries
And we wrap up The Dream Walker with the finale track, “Anomaly“. On the back of “Tremors” I was really excited to hear how the last song would end this album on an explosive note, but sadly “Anomaly” doesn’t do that for me. I think it mostly comes down to preference. I’m not the biggest fan of acoustic songs and one of the rare ones that comes to mind that I do enjoy is “Warning” by Green Day.
Now I know that Delonge can produce really gripping acoustic songs because I really enjoy the bonus track “What Went Wrong” from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. But here we have a very gentle, calm, and if I’m honest, bland track. I think it wouldn’t have been so bad had “Anomaly” featured in the middle of the album but using it as a final song to end the journey was a wrong move (at least in my opinion).
I will admit that it was a bold move to end the album with an acoustic track because it further established how Angels & Airwaves movement within this new album wanted to be more experimental and unexpected. Though I don’t believe that AVA grew too repetitive with their style, you can easily see why Rubin encouraged Delonge to step back and examine his work within the scope of a grander perspective, ultimately pushing him to strive for a new identity.
The lyrics themselves continue to showcase the strong emotion of The Dream Walker album, and the deep love within the narrative. I even love how gentle Delonge sings his words, almost replicating how he sounded in his youth. But unfortunately despite how nice the song sounds it still doesn’t alter the fact that it always leaves me feeling disappointment.
As you can clearly tell from my long talk about “Tremors”, you can see why I might feel cheated because this smaller song deflates the scope and electrifying intensity of the previous track, which would’ve served as a better conclusion. But again, it’s all down to personal preference. Does “Anomaly” ultimately take away from my experience? No. Absolutely not. I find it was a good song (even though its below par for an AVA song) and definitely doesn’t detract from the awesomeness that came before it.
The Dream Walker is certainly a bumpy ride in terms of its experimentation. But I find, for the most part, it works really well and displays Delonge’s growth as both an artist and a person. You can see how this album represents as new key stage in his life and that’s great to be a part of. My only real gripe with the album is it sounds less like an Angels & Airwaves album and more a soundtrack for Poet Anderson.
We barely get any moments that remind me of the AVA that I love before this, which is a massive shame, but it still doesn’t mean that the album is less special. It just means that it constantly sways in my list for Top Angels & Airwaves albums. But I do have to thank this album a lot for making me the AVA, and Delonge fan that I am today. I took a massive chance with The Dream Walker and it paid off. I couldn’t stop listening to it when I originally got it and that’s fantastic in my books. Because of my enjoyment of this album I wanted to go back and journey through the rest of the band’s discography. And the rest is history.
For the first ever on this site I’m going to ask for you to share your thoughts. Tell me your opinions, express your experiences, show me how The Dream Walker album made you feel, and even go ahead and list your favourite songs. Please write in the comment section below because I really want to read your opinions.