Thornbridge – Daydream Illusion Review

Thornbridge's 'Daydream Illusion': A Power Metal Triumph, Blending Classic Influences with Modern Melodic Brilliance...

Released By: Massacre Records

Release Date: March 22nd, 2024

Genre: Power Metal

Links: https://www.thornbridge.de/

 

Line Up:

Jorg “Mo” Naneder – Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Piano, Keyboards
Patrick “Pat” Rogalski – Rhythm/Lead Guitars
Nils Kreul – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Come On In!
2. Daydream Illusion
3. Kingdom of Starlight
4. I Am the Storm
5. Sacrifice
6. Island of My Memories
7. Send Me A Light
8. Bird of Salvation
9. Final War
10. My Last Desire
11. Lost On the Darkside

 

One power metal band I’ve consistently enjoyed a lot over the past eight years, but never quite considered top tier is German band Thornbridge. They started off with a rather raw sounding debut, What Will Prevail, in 2016, an album which I thought showed a lot of potential and had sparks of greatness, but it didn’t quite get there overall. Three years later, they released a more polished sounding sophomore record, Theatrical Masterpiece, and while I wouldn’t quite qualify it as its namesake, it was an excellent album, and represented a solid step forward for the band. Now, in 2024, the band is set to release their third album, Daydream Illusion, and it is quite clearly their best effort to date!

Thornbridge has gone through some lineup changes in between albums, with previous bassist Patrick “Burghi” Burghard leaving in 2022, and his position was briefly filled in on this album by longtime vocalist Jorg “Mo” Naneder, until the band recruited Rebellion bassist Tomi Göttlich to officially take over. Meanwhile, former drummer Nils Kreul did perform on the album, but has since departed and been replaced by Vincent B. Despite this, the album itself very much feels like a natural continuation for the band, largely picking up where Theatrical Masterpiece left off. From the beginning, the band sounded a lot like classic Blind Guardian, with a slight speed metal rawness to go along with a more melodic, modern power metal sound. The previous album showed an increasing usage of melodic guitar leads and huge, singalong vocal melodies which very much felt influenced by the likes of Orden Ogan. These two elements form the core of the band’s sound, as they fluidly alternate between heavy riffs with hints of speed metal and thrash, as well as some much more melodic passages. Unlike Orden Ogan, though, Thornbridge almost always plays at a high tempo, very rarely slowing things down  for more than one or two sections per track, if at all.

This is all very much true of Daydream Illusion, which certainly isn’t a big departure from the previous  two albums, though there are some subtle differences, which become more clear after several listens. As always, this is a very guitar driven brand of power metal, with heavy riffs and pounding drums often contrasting against some much  more melodic lead  guitar work, especially noticeable during choruses, though some tracks  alternate between the two a  lot  during verses and instrumental sections. Keyboards are used on occasion, but mainly play a secondary role and very rarely take over. As always, the majority of the tracks here are fast-paced,  and fall within a 4-5  minute range,  though there is one change of pace directly in the middle, with the band presenting their first ever ballad “Send Me  A Light”. Otherwise, the album is perhaps a tad more laidback and less intense in spots, compared to Theatrical Masterpiece,  though it’s still an upbeat, high energy album far more often than not. If anything, it’s by far the band’s catchiest and most melodic album to date. Mo has a deep, smooth voice, which especially carries the choruses very well, and he’s in fine form throughout this album, sometimes singing slightly higher and lighter than on past albums, but still sounding as smooth and powerful as ever. Production is fantastic, and performances are fantastic across the board.

Songwriting is excellent overall, though I find that the first half is pretty much perfect, both in terms of individual tracks and when it comes to having a natural flow, while the second half is still great the whole way through, but a couple tracks feel just a tad less inspired than the rest. The lyrics are  entertaining and also quite fascinating, telling a story about a mental asylum patient and the imaginary world within his mind. There are points where the story can be dark and melancholic, as it speaks about    the protagonist and the grim reality he faces, but the music remains upbeat, melodic and very fun the whole way through.

Following a brief intro track, the opening title track is surprisingly one of the lighter tracks on the album, setting the tone for the story, while musically it’s light and melodic, with plenty of that Orden Ogan style lead guitar work. Verses have a tiny bit of heaviness, but are fairly light and understated, while the chorus speeds things up a  little  bit, still staying mid-paced but rather upbeat, and it has huge vocal melodies, epic choir vocals and an excellent lead vocal performance, paired with some excellent guitar work. The instrumental section has a slight folk feel to it and it leads into an epic  bridge with marching drums and more fantastic vocals. Overall, it’s a  great track, though I wouldn’t say  it’s entirely indicative of the album as a whole.

Listeners can get a more clear idea of what to expect from the album with “Kingdom of Starlight”, which showcases  the band’s sound perfectly. It opens up with a soft, keyboard driven intro, but the guitars kick in shortly, and from there guitarist Patrick “Pat” Rogalski”, delivers a crunchy, classic Blind  Guardian style main riff, which leads into a fast moving, intense opening verse. It still doesn’t quite go full throttle, but it moves at a brisk pace, leading into a huge chorus with some glorious melodic guitar work, huge choir vocals and gigantic vocal melodies, with a very catchy tune that easily ranks as one of the best choruses to date. The blend between heavy, classic power metal and modern melodic power metal is executed perfectly on this track, and it’s exactly what the band excels at. The intensity only picks up further with “I Am the Storm”, again a slightly faster track than its predecessor, which kicks off with some intense classic speed metal riffing, before giving way to more melodic guitar work, on an opening verse which moves at a frantic pace, and gives way to another very melodic, theatrical sounding chorus with some awesome vocal melodies. Towards the end is an insanely epic bridge section with marching drums and super catchy chanted vocals, which leads to a brief instrumental section where the guitar work has a strong folk feel to it, something the band does from time to time.

The onslaught continues with “Sacrifice”, which opens up with more heavy guitar work, briefly leading into some very technical yet melodic shredding, and then the opening verse moves at a more frantic pace than any of the previous tracks, with the drums really going full throttle, while the guitar work remains equal parts heavy and melodic. The chorus uses a pretty cool stop/start structure, with the drums and guitars slowing down for part of a line before picking up the tempo again to finish the line, then repeating that process a couple times. It’s done very well and has a pretty epic effect. The instrumental section has some more shredding and is one of the best solo sections on the album. Next is  “Island of My Memories”, which initially starts off with some soft guitar work, feeling like a potential change of pace, but it’s not too long before the heavy guitar work and pounding drums kick in, then following a brief calm vocal section, the band quickly switches back into full on power metal mode, with an aggressive, slightly sinister sounding main riff which sounds a lot like Edguy from their Hellfire Club era. The track alternates nicely between these intense verses and a melodic, yet frantic chorus, with a very cheery and uplifting sound, in contrast to the darker feel of the verses. It’s another track which wonderfully demonstrates the band’s sound at its very best.

Things do calm down briefly with “Send Me a Light”, a soft piano ballad, where Mo sings at his absolute softest, sounding perhaps a tad awkward at times, most notably during the chorus, though he does a solid job overall, and the melody of the chorus is fantastic, as always. He gets a bit more intense during the bridge, which leads  into a very beautiful guitar solo, and then he sounds more normal during the final run through the chorus, which  is the clear highlight of the track, along with the solo. It’s not perfect, but as the band’s  first ever ballad, it’s a pretty solid effort. Moving towards the end, I find that while “Birds of Salvation” and My Last Desire” are both fun track in their own right, with the kind of speedy, energetic, yet melodic power metal fans would expect from the band, neither of them is particularly memorable, and in fact, I often lose track of them while listening to the album, and had to listen to them separately to form much of an impression. They’re enjoyable tracks, and fans should enjoy them, but I find them to be a bit less inspired than the rest of the album.

In between those two tracks is “Final War”, which is perhaps the most epic track on the album, with a very cinematic feel, despite not having any real symphonic elements, just like the rest of the album. It opens up with marching drums and some very epic choir vocals, before giving way to more melodic guitar work and a very fast opening verse with rapid fire drumming. The chorus has a very epic feel to it, with the backing vocals seeming more prominent even compared to other choruses, while the main melody and drumming are also fantastic.The highlight of the track is an epic guitar solo, which gives way to an absolutely phenomenal final run through the chorus, where Mo and the rest of the band go all out and deliver possibly my favorite moment of the entire album. Closing out the album is “Lost on the Darkside”, the most laid back track on the album, aside from the ballad. It opens up with a fast paced main melody, before slowing down with some very light and beautiful guitar work for the opening verse. The track moves at a relaxed pace and is very melodic and subdued,  with some soft vocals and light guitar melodies. The chorus is rather understated, but still melodic and catchy, and Mo delivers some emotional vocals. There’s some very nice acoustic guitar work towards the end, with a slight folk feel, and this leads into a fast-paced, all power metal solo section, before things calm down again for the end of the track. It’s an excellent track on its own, and ends the album nicely, despite being fairly different from the rest of the album.

Thornbridge made a strong first impression on their debut, despite some rough edges, and they’ve only improved since then, with Daydream Illusion being by far their best album to date. It at times is a bit lighter and more melodic than their previous two albums, while still being very fast-paced for most of its duration, and it maintains a nice mix between speed metal influenced riffs and more modern power metal style lead guitar work, paired with excellent vocals and huge, epic singalong choruses. Despite the lyrics being rather dark at times, it’s a very upbeat sounding album more often than not, and fans of the band’s previous work should find a lot to love, while any power metal fan looking for a nice melodic, guitar driven album with bursts of heaviness should also give this album a shot, as it’s a fantastic album overall.

 

Ratings: 9/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

 

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