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Factory of Dreams: A Strange Utopia

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!

Track Listing
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
11.Destructible Destruction
13.(Bonus Track) Surprise track TBA soon...
14.(Bonus Track) The Weight Of the World (Radio Edit)

Added: December 13th 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: MySpace Page
Hits: 5138
Language: english

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Factory of Dreams: A Strange Utopia
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-12-26 09:26:08
My Score:

Factory of Dreams are a Portuguese two piece comprised of Jessica Lehto who handles vocals and Hugo Flores who plays all the instruments on the album. That feat in itself is quite some accomplishment as a large amount of what is on show musically is complex and intricate.

Strange Utopia is a hard disc to classify style wise as many of it's themes are symphonic in styling, however there are dramatic almost gothic undertones and progressive touches as well. It is however not the style of the music that lets this album down, but a confused production and the hard to follow arrangements.

Production wise the sound is a little muted in places and that lack of sharpness definitely has an impact on the ability of the songs to really grab you. The decision to, in places, have the drums come across as though they are almost from an "industrial" band, has the effect of drowning the wonderful atmospheric voice of Lehto and is at odds with the music the drums should accompany. More disturbing though is the tendency of tracks such as "The Weight of the World" to be so confusing as to almost sound like there are two songs playing at once desperately competing for your attention. Possibly based on a desire to pack as much is as possible into the songs, what I'm sure started out as an interesting idea has turned some of the tracks on this album into near unlistenable noise.

When you take into account how subtle and beautiful tracks such as "Sonic Sensation" can be when the space is left for them to breath and allow Jessica's voice to float across the gentle melody, it is a real shame that too often these sparser passages morph into yet more hi-hat heavy, unsympathetic beats.

There is much to admire in this album, Flores is an extremely fine guitarist and Lehto has a haunting, beautiful Enya like voice and when things are kept slightly simpler the melodies are rich and interesting. However for me there are too many issues with the overall sound of how this album was put together and I have to say that I found repeated listens to be tiring.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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