Slam Cartel‘s Handful of Dreams is the kind of album I always hope for. One that isn’t what I’d consider a one dimensional album, with all songs sounding different from each other and all of which impressively written. It was released in 2011, something I only just figured out a few days ago. I kind of wish it was given to me sooner, but regardless I was asked to review it now and I couldn’t be more obliged.
I’ll get straight into the songs with opening track Wishing Eye. The song starts off with a very heavy and crunchy riff, and when the whole band chimes in the song sounds uncannily like an alternative metal song. It has an upbeat melody overtop of the crunchy guitars and by the end of the song all of the guitars become acoustic, with the transition hardly being noticeable.
The album’s title track Handful of Dreams has more of a traditional hard rock sound mixed with elements that sound comparable to alternative rock/metal bands. I guess that’s the best way to describe the band’s sound with other songs such as Shine with is creepy sounding verses and intense choruses and Hold Me‘s similar slow played verses which transition into cries for someone to “hold me” sung on top of a band that’s playing with nothing but attitude.
Slam Cartel make a hard rock cover of Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime. Now, I really don’t like Talking Heads and have always despised Once In A Lifetime, but I’ll be damned to admit I actually love Slam Cartel’s cover. I don’t really love it – the verses of the song are still a little annoying – but the chorus sounds wild and free and the whole song in general sounds like an impressive job transition the original songs new wave sound into this hard rock track.
My favourite thing about Handful of Dreams is that Slam Cartel isn’t afraid to record ballads and softer songs, and all of which sounding so different from one another. Many great bands know how to save their best song writing for their slower songs, and in this case I think the best song writing and structure is used in their softer songs. Starting with Breathe‘s southern rock/country rock style. Free Again is a softer song, but definitely not a ballad. It’s another of the more unique songs on the album. It has a lot of heart to it, both lyrically and musically, but it has a consistent intensity that keeps it from being considered a soft song. Similarly, Goldenstream is also a very upbeat song, but is a little harder than the two previously mentioned songs. Then there is my favourite of the softer songs, perhaps even my favourite song on the album, Maybe Sometimes. To this point, Maybe Sometimes is the softest song on the album, with its Eagles influenced opening to its 80s power ballad sounding chorus.
The hard rock continues with songs like Mismatched Ties, which rather than having a slow verse and more intense chorus, this song has a bit of a more upbeat sound, with a mid paced sound to its verses and a slower rhythm to its choruses. Then there is Powerstorm which is perhaps the most consistently heavy track on Handful of Dreams, but of course I don’t have to tell you that I think it’s a great song. Sundown kind of catches the feeling of a song that could play during a sundown, with its badass sound it sounds like something serious is going down come sundown, but really it’s just another great rock song off of Handful of Dreams. It doesn’t standout like others, but it doesn’t waver either.
The final track from Handful of Dreams is one last ballad called Walk a Mile. The longest song on the album, the song starts off with a piano, soon followed by some well emotionalized vocals over it. The whole band kicks in not too long into the song and fills out the sound perfectly. It’s definitely the corniest song on the album, but there is no shame in that at all, and I like the song as a closer for the album, because it’s not a love song as much as it is a farewell to listeners.
I really do wish Slam Cartel released Handful of Dreams this year because it would be a shoe in to make my annual top 10 albums of the year list. An album that starts off with a song as heavy and crunched out as Wishing Eye and ends with a piano ballad like Walk a Mile deserves to be recognized as a well diversified album. Sure, there aren’t handfuls of genres explored within the albums thirteen songs, but no two songs sound alike, and the only real similarity between the songs is that they each have some great rhythms and melodies.
“Goldenstream” – It was a REALLY tough choice as to which song to pick as the highlight. I mean the album really does blend heavier songs with softer songs almost perfectly with everything in between, so I figured I’d pick the song that I think is most in between. Goldenstream has a nice sound but also has attitude to it giving perspective on the band’s sound. And as for the songs sound, there really isn’t a song on the album that won’t show how good Slam Cartel is at making great melodies.
9 (Out of 10)
|1||Wishing Eye||Slam Cartel||4:34|
|2||Handful of Dreams||Slam Cartel||4:57|
|3||Once In a Lifetime||Slam Cartel||3:52|
|6||Hold Me||Slam Cartel||4:25|
|7||Free Again||Slam Cartel||3:36|
|8||Missmatched Ties||Slam Cartel||4:10|
|11||Maybe Sometimes||Slam Cartel||5:26|
|13||Walk a Mile||Slam Cartel||6:09|