A Strange Utopia is the latest release from symphonic gothic metal project Factory of Dreams, and follows up the strong POLES debut from 2008. Consisting of multi-instrumentalist Hugo Flores and vocalist Jessica Lehto, plus a few guest vocalists & musicians, Factory of Dreams is sort of a gothic version of Ayreon, as this act focuses less on prog bombast and more on dark yet highly beautiful symphonic metal.
If you liked the band's debut, than there's no doubt you'll really appreciate this lengthy opus as well. Lehto is a wonderful singer, and her soaring vocals on tracks like "Inner Station", "Weight of the World", and "Voyage to Utopia" just draw you in and take you on the musical journey that the band is trying to convey. Her gripping vocals on "Inner Station" will instantly remind you of classic Nightwish when Tarja fronted the band, and the whispy violin lines of guest David Ragsdale and Flores' crushing guitar riffs are simply icing on the cake. ProgRock Records President Shawn Gordon even makes an appearance here, delivering a few flashy keyboard solos on the heavy numbers "Dark Utopia" and "Vacation in Venus", where he follows up some pretty impressive progressive metal styled guitar solos from Flores. For prog heads, the epic track "E-Motions" is 9+ minutes of bliss, featuring stunning vocal melodies, plenty of symphonic keyboards, heavy riffs, atmosphere, and lots of changing moods and tempos.
For some, the programmed drums might be a tad bothersome-though Flores has done a good job putting the drum tracks together, in spots they sound quite a bit mechanical, and you have to wonder just how much of a powerhouse this act would be with a fleshed out line-up including a real drummer to really give them an organic sound. Flores handles all the guitar work, bass, most of the keyboards, and drum programming, and he's a fine all around musician, but a real drummer would do Factory of Dreams wonders I believe. Also, there's a lot of material to sink your teeth into here, so don't think that A Strange Utopia is going to immediately work wonders for you, but once you've given this one a few spins, it will start to uncover all its beauty and power. The lyrics are very in-depth, and it will be necessary to follow along while you are listening, but the print in the booklet is pretty small, so get out your magnifying glasses.
Seeing as how the whole symphonic gothic & progressive metal scene is hot right now, there's no reason why Factory of Dreams won't appeal to all the Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation, and After Forever fans out there. If I were Hugo Flores & Jessica Lehto, I'd get a real band together and take this thing out on the road, and really start to make an impact on the scene.
Strong stuff, and a welcome gem here in the final days of 2009!
1. Voyage To Utopia
2. The Weight of The World
3. Inner Station
4. Sonic Sensations
5. The Road Around Saturn
6. Garden Of All Seasons
7. Dark Utopia
8. Vacation In Venus
9. Chaotic Order
10.Slow Motion World
13.(Bonus Track) Surprise track TBA soon...
14.(Bonus Track) The Weight Of the World (Radio Edit)