A band that has shared the stage with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Black Crowes and Cynic is clearly a band worthy of further investigation. When that same band also lists a number of great influences such as Tool, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, then there’s no question as to whether they’re worth checking out. The oddly named Quaoar (the name of a planetoid just beyond Pluto, Google informs me), are a band who proudly hail from the Basque Country in the North of Spain. ‘Dreamers dreaming’ with its evocative title and dreamy artwork is the band’s third album and it is, without doubt, an impressive piece of work that rises above the sum of its parts to offer its own original spin on the progressive / grunge genres.
The album gets off to a cracking start with the steel-plated riff of ‘tough guy’. A Black Label Society / Alice in Chains hybrid, here you’ll find surging riffs, wah-inflected solos and taut melodies, all backed by a suitably crushing percussive backdrop. Some harmonised solo work seals the deal and it’s hard not to join the band within the devilish groove they lay down. The band’s grunge influence is seen in full flow on the Pearl Jam-esque ‘A big hole’ which has a gentle acoustic swing to it and a sweet melody that proves remarkably addictive. It cuts a little close to the Pearl Jam bone at times, but it’s a strong song with a schizophrenic edge that sees the band kicking in a monstrous riff around the half-way point and from there things get truly progressive with huge shimmering solos appearing from the thin air. The album’s first lengthy track, ‘Go to momo’ is an eight-minute epic that kicks off with a springy, syncopated riff and delivers a satisfyingly different take on grunge that sees some remarkable vocal work (think Chris Cornell does Josh Homme) grinding up against some seriously chunky riffing. It’s well recorded and incredibly well-played and you can see the band put a hell of a lot of thought into their arrangements. A short piece, ‘fable’ is a mix of Eastern-influences and acoustic Americana that sounds like the Meat Puppets covering the Beatles before we’re plunged into the Pearl Jam-esque epic ‘goodbye’ which, over the course of its seven minutes, takes in flowing progressive structures and nuanced harmonies.
Sticking to the quieter side of the spectrum, ‘childish true love’ is driven by an acoustic guitar overlaid with an over-driven solo in a manner reminiscent of Soul Asylum. Superficially familiar, the track is pushed into progressive territory by an awkwardly syncopated beat that keeps things interesting before the heavier ‘chatterbox’ emerges amidst propulsive drums and huge, flaming riffs before heading off in a variety of unexpected directions that have you frequently checking back to make sure it’s the same track. It’s diverse, but the band make it work and the juxtaposition between moments of pure metallic bliss and folk-driven whimsy keeps things exciting. The final three songs see the band pushing the boundaries with epic run times and some of the album’s most progressive material. First up is ‘the man drained of all’ which opens on a brilliantly vulnerable vocal before moving into latter-day Opeth territory. Another track that opens softly, ‘mystically falling’ builds its way up to some powerful and gutsy riffing by the time it reaches its conclusion, although its opening minutes have more in common with early Radiohead. The album concludes with the impressive ‘home’, an atmospheric highlight of the album that builds, via some truly epic harmonised soloing, to a monumental climax. It’s hard to imagine a better way to conclude such an album and it certainly leaves the listener wanting to play it all over again.
Quaoar are a band who are unafraid to take a varied approach and, for the most part, it works. Those looking for a metallic fix will, in all honesty, probably find the emphasis on the band’s softer side frustrating, as the heavy riffs are kept few and far between, but for those who like epic rock songs full of heart and variety, then Quaoar definitely fit the bill. References are manifold with hints of Jeff Buckley, Muse, Radiohead, Opeth and Pearl Jam all flying through the mix, but Quaoar do, for the most part, make the music their own and ‘Dreamers. Dreaming’ is clearly the result of a great deal of work. Well produced and recorded, the album blazes when it needs to and the quieter sections are well-balanced whilst the musicianship is consistently excellent. Well worth checking out, ‘Dreamers. Dreaming’ is an emotionally charged and eclectic record that certainly warrants repeat visits.