Dream Tröll - The Witch’s Curse

Dream Tröll The Witch’s Curse EP cover
Dream Tröll
The Witch’s Curse
Independent Release
Oh boy! Dream Tröll has done it again; that is, fully captured my mind and spirit with its fuzzy brand of tingling, upbeat and fantastical power meets traditional metal, which only gets better and more invigorating with every listen. While the Leeds, England based quintet sent me spiralling into a veritable whirlwind of joy and revelry with its full-length debut, “The Knight of Rebellion” (released last year under Stormspell Records, one of my preferred record labels), its follow-up three track EP, (released on Feb 2nd), has further blown me away as it sounds even fresher and more verbose than its stellar predecessor.
The rich musicianship is as mercurial and gripping as ever whilst the inclusion of a new vocalist in Paul Walsh will surely seal the deal for those who were nonplussed by the original singer (to paraphrase a fellow metal maniac and purveyor of fine sonic goods, it made the band sound like they were taking the piss!); as much as I appreciate Rob Stringer’s amusing nasal twine, I have to admit this latent development has further upped the ante, in the process cementing the Troll’s impeccable status as the very first band I accord a perfect score to on more than one occasion.
Thematically, “The Witch’s Curse” spins quite a compelling, Old English/Knights of the Round Table style yarn: beginning with “In the Name of Isabella”, an evil witch has imprisoned said damsel, our hero Cyrian’s true love, and placed a hideous curse upon him whereas he’s forced to obey her every command, namely, slay his father Enki, an ancient wizard King who killed her son long ago, in return for his beloved “fillette”.
“The Battle for Enki’s Tower” depicts the actual carnage, which ensues as Cyrian, under the Witch’s control and imbued with supernatural strength and combat skills, takes on twenty thousand men Spartan wise before smashing the castle’s door to smithereens upon whence he confronts his old man for the final showdown.
On “Blood Moon”, good ‘ol Enki magnanimously receives his son and heir; instead of slaying him with his unparalleled magic he opts to pry the Witch’s curse from his blackened heart and send him on his vengeful way – this is where the fabled narrative turns cryptic as we’re left wondering if Cyrian successfully manages to separate the crone’s head from her body, in the process reclaiming his heart, soul and flame – Isabella. From the looks of it, we’ll have to wait for Dream Troll’s next instalment (a further EP or actual sophomore full-length) to find out. I, for one, am staying tuned!
For now, I’m unabashedly trolling the dream as I went from sipping this release like a fine wine to outright chugging the entire goblet to my heart’s content. I’ve also been wool-gathering for a month’s time in order to do it justice. Simply put, “The Witch’s Curse” is so friggin’ chock full of expressively potent vocals and wondrous guitar parts – which mesh so stunningly with the bedazzling keys – It’s difficult to tell them apart, especially on the 8.5 minute “In the Name of Isabella”, which commences innocuously enough to the sound of Walsh’s crystal clear and lucky charms evoking, fairy-tale-ish vocal delivery as well as a choppy and phantasmagorical, stage setting guitar riff and smoothly incepting drum patter before duly taking off at 0:47, when the bass slinks its cozy way in alongside the now-steady beats and Walsh’s “Only the cursed can be cursed” (as well, he distinctly – and haughtily – evokes spunky 80s Brit-pop on the following couple of verses, which mimic the nefarious, antagonist witch). From this point on, the song powerfully shoots up and twists about like Jack’s massive beanstalk as the insanely atmospheric vocals drive it towards its catchy as Hell chorus and further jig inducing drum fills, the lot unyielding in its sheer kaleidoscopic awe. A brilliantly unfolding guitar solo comes at the behest of: “Where monsters lurk in the dead of night, fear is your only companion!”, and soon gives way to an intensely memorable stanza: “Have mercy, don’t do it / This is not my cross to bear / Empathize and fight that feeling / She’s a mortal in our game / This is far too much to take / And if you kill her, I will surely die”. Indeed, Dream Troll’s esteemed newcomer appoints a certain unique flair to the three tracks’ twenty-three minutes of unabashed, wispy fête with his evocative timbre and chameleon-like delivery.
The guitar duo, comprised of Matt Williamson and Paul Carter, has also stepped up its game thanks to an even tighter focus this time around.  Influence wise, I noticed many reviews for “The Knight of Rebellion” referenced NWOBHM this and NWOBHM that, but one can’t deny the fact Dream Tröll (I love saying it!) displays its own one-of-a-kind panache, which is incomparable to its fellows. As far as rhythm guitar goes, check out the opening riff to “The Battle of Enki’s Tower”. Its sprite tone and furrowing cadence effortlessly put me under a spell. How about this track’s insanely colourful and rainbow spawning twin guitar harmonies or pummelling, tooth, claw and nail snagging riff at 02:53! Even the leads twirl and whirl of their own accord without reverting to pre-conceived technical notions. Dig the super sinuous and drawn-out, out-of-body experience guitar solo and keys section two thirds of the way in. Equally commendable are the musicians’ overall restraint and poise; there’s no show-boating at all as everybody contributes in balanced measures, from Paul Thornton’s subtle but anchoring bass lines to Simon Blakelock’s hat trampling drum sequences. I particularly can’t get enough of his roundabout and happy-go-lucky thwacks on “Blood Moon”, which segue into a jarringly mesmerizing cowbell infused ride at 01:07. At this point, Paul unleashes one of his very best chants (as he emulates the King Wizard), which surely impinges on the psyche:
“Well I’ve seen some things in my time, but this has to be the best,
To send my own son and heir to take my head.
She’s a fool to test my immortal might,
Even with the power of the undead.
I won’t kill my son, my dear, I’ll remove the curse instead”
(Of note, the opening line to “The Witch’s Curse”’s suspenseful and oh-so-poignant denouement begins with a word I’m quite fond of... consider this feature a rewarding surprise for those who heed the call!)
The three tracks rock to the fullest but I’d have to say I’m most smitten with “In the Name of Isabella”. Nevertheless, “The Witch’s Curse” represents the “funnest” rock/metal orchestra I’ve heard (worth noting is how the potent vocals stand at the forefront, as if the music was written around the story line and lyrics as opposed to the other way around). Trust me; missing out on either “The Knight of Rebellion” or “The Witch’s Curse” is akin to strolling into Disney World and eschewing the rides. At the risk of sounding glib, the quality of my dreams has actually improved since discovering this heavy metal treasure. Suffice to say, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny combined fail to excite me as much as (the) Dream Tröll! Please check these guys out – it behoves you!