With their last release, the three-track EP The Eye Of Needle (reviewed here), French progressive metal band Klone piqued my interest by combining carefully-layered sonic texturing with ambitious songcraft (the centrepiece of the EP was a 17-minute epic split into two tracks) and an arresting frontman in the form of Yann Linger, whose commanding Maynard James Keenan-esque vocals were wielded with impressive charisma and assurance. On their sixth album, The Dreamer’s Hideaway, the layered sonics and the attention-grabbing vocals remain, but the ambition seems to have been dialled down somewhat – though not entirely to the band’s detriment. Instead of lengthy post-metal epics, what we have on this album is a collection of songs that combines guitarists Guillaume Bernard and Michael Moreau’s direct, punchy, yet subtly intricate riffcraft, keyboardist/sampler/saxophonist Matthieu Metzger’s tastefully-applied sonic accoutrements and Linger’s powerful vocals to create ten tracks (plus one brief, instrumental interlude) of oft-engrossing, occasionally excellent grunge-inflected prog metal.
The album begins strongly with ‘Rocket Smoke’, a song which opens with a grindingly-toned and insistently propulsive bass riff which drives the verse – and, by extension, the song – relentlessly towards its firework-bursting chorus, Linger delivering an instantly memorable chorus over roaring rhythm guitars and shimmering, ghostly leads. Klone quickly show their ability to switch moods effectively within a single composition within this track also, finding time for a bludgeoning breakdown in which a simple, driving pattern from drummer Florent Marcadet punctuates fluttering palm-muted triplets before staccato power-chords and tom rolls deliver a series of body blows. Then, a quieter interlude follows which swells powerfully into that skyscraping chorus once more. Elsewhere on the album, fourth track ‘Siren’s Song’ displays the band’s formative grunge influences, sounding initially like a post-rock cousin to Soundgarden‘s ‘Black Hole Sun’ before increasingly frantic drumming and jerky, hammer-on-pull-off riffs alternate with oases of soothing chorus fragments, while sixth track ‘Rising’ provides the album’s heaviest riffs and Linger’s most feral vocal performance, his throat-searing roars coursing out over a lurching, snake-like riff which draws itself out tensely a bar longer than expected before resolving.
These are all some of the high points of The Dreamer’s Hideaway, and the album as a whole is an impressively consistent listen – while there are songs that are less wholly satisfying than those mentioned above (the menacing crawl of ‘Walking On Clouds’, at 7 minutes and 10 seconds, overstays its welcome somewhat, despite the always-welcome inclusion of some saxophone and some of Linger’s smoothest crooning), the album is never less than eminently listenable. Even the wholly inessential mid-album interlude ‘Stratum’ – a palate-cleansing collage of chirps, whistles and chimes – has the decency to bow out after less than two minutes. However, despite the band’s impressive mastery of dynamics within their compositions, some killer riffs and the odd earworm chorus, The Dreamer’s Hideaway for some reason rarely becomes truly exceptional. Rather than being a modern classic, it’s a well-written, well-played, and well-produced album that will likely occupy a welcome, if not precisely treasured space in the collections of fans of alternative rock and progressive metal.