Published Mar 19, 2019Gritty, riffing alternative rock has become an increasingly hard one to stumble upon, especially in an era where combinations of pop and rap music flood the radio. Springfield, MO's Dream Ritual are mostly beholden to the heavier side of '90s rock, regularly gesturing to Seattle's sounds on their latest EP Trips Around The Sun.
Beyond their audio equivalency to ripped blue jeans and well-worn flannel, there is a love for many eras of rock music. Frontman Jason Nunn, guitarist Ethan Hollingshad, bassist Dakota Caldwell and drummer Blake Mixon met in passing throughout Springfield's hardcore music scene, bonding over an appreciation for classic rock and old vinyl collections. The group's simple approach — garish guitars, dynamic rhythm and hollering vocals — reminds listeners how lush and satisfying guitar music can be.
Trips Around the Sun's ominously psychedelic intro ("Breathe In") and outro ("Breathe Out") are unsettling, noisy and suspenseful, but don't have much more depth to offer. The rest of Dream Ritual's efforts are pieced together thematically by Nunn's dark lyrical depictions of his personal experiences, while frequently referencing David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. The experience is a peculiar collage of the human condition. Producer Arthur Rizk (Code Orange, Trapped Under Ice) provides a helping hand as the troupe explore a vibrant range of melodies and intoxicating decoration without compromising Dream Ritual's rocker bite.
"Pt. 1" of two title tracks showcases lavish melodies while recounting a true story of lost hikers who commit suicide in the face of extreme starvation, but lacks cohesion as it clocks in at nearly six minutes. "Trips Around the Sun Pt. 2" is accented by clapping and slow-paced vocal efforts, feeling like a more realized "good trip" on acid, recalling a compromise of Hum and Stone Temple Pilots.
Nunn sings about the overwhelming nature of existence on "Shot in the Back," but his performance on the song is underwhelming and overly confident, repeating melodies until they overstay their welcome. The fiercest moment of Trips Around the Sun is "Outside Your Window," a Mamas and the Papas-leaning retro charmer that is chillingly dreary, contrasting muscular country-rock behaviour against passages that float through space. Second single "Stones" encapsulates the vexation of grunge music with guitar riffs that recall '90s alt-rock gold, seasoned with dreamy, introspective melodies.
Trips Around the Sun takes moments of musical history that are now often pushed aside as tripe, and rejuvenate them with infinite zeal. In a world of Greta Van Fleets, it is refreshing to stumble upon Dream Ritual's sincere solution to 2019's guitar rock drought. (Independent)