Dreamcatcher is back with a promise of new colours and nightmares for this era. An air of dark suspense lingers in the glimpses of mysterious arid deserts and in the stark contrast between the black dresses in the white limbo-like room. The teasers have sent us for a wild ride through time from antique magical books to modern neon-lit cities. What new world have they opened up for us now?
Their previous release was a mad rush of energetic guitar-filled tracks – a fitting background to a cathartic Escape. As a thematic counterpoint, Dreamcatcher’s Alone in the City is an invitation to slow down and take in the sights and sounds of their new story. What still greets us upfront in the album with their signature metal twist, but the b-sides this time take us for a more relaxing stroll. Stress is featured to be this generation’s cause of the new nightmares, and it’s Dreamcatcher’s new songs that are our new charms.
What is by far the most interesting track in the album for me to dig into. Because it is a precisely engineered piece for this comeback’s overall meta. A classic K-pop hook song cleverly wrapped in Dreamcatcher’s colours. The twelve ‘What’s in the chorus should give you a hint if it hadn’t already. From the song, the outfits, and the choreography – they are leaning towards more modern K-pop this time to gather new audience. I have to say, though – I’ve never been a fan of mix and match styling in general. I like more cohesive and intentional design. Uniforms just have a certain air of authority by default. Without it, I don’t feel the same impact from them dancing as a unit. The instrumentals open up with the expected high intensity guitars and the hook right at the start. There’s also the faint five-note pattern in the background maintaining the beat as a metronome. The strings and riffs altogether resonate to keep the same energy flowing until the end. Though, the unchanging tempo comes at the price of variety within song. What doesn’t have the same narrative beats that gave the previous tracks a story-like quality. What does deliver on being catchier and being a more accessible song than any other.
It is always nice to try and find the underlying threads that could connect ideas and concepts together. Whether they were intended by the author or not. The readers are responsible for their own interpretations and how they enjoy their literature. The connections may have even been originally made subconsciously, born from the rich air of history and pop culture that surrounds us. I believe this is where a part of the real magic of Dreamcatcher lies. Every new piece of their story is vague, yet fascinating. Enthralling for those who dare read more into them.
Alone in the City signals ‘a new nightmare story in the modern era’. While the previous era pulled from the horrific pages of penny dreadfuls, the new album reminds us of familiar fairy tales but with dark turns. One can’t read Wonderland without recalling Alice’s adventures – of a young girl’s journey into a place beyond imagination. And there was more madness there than pleasantry. Twisted into Dreamcatcher’s nightmare, it would be much less whimsical. The lyrics across all the songs in the album, especially the aptly-named Trap, paints this new dreamscape somewhere you would never want to be. Continuing with the Alice allusions are SuA, Handong, and Dami’s characters – ominous and clad in black rabbit masks. Their scenes are very identical to their previous nightmares but with the key difference that they seem to now be the suspects and not victims. They may be souls already lost in the dream, watching over those who wander in.
The next three characters we see all share the same wide-eyed, worrying, and lost feeling. JiU, Gahyeon, and Siyeon are meandering through hallways having no idea where they are. Singing and begging to be woken up from this dreadful and maze-like city. I really homed in on JiU’s character to try and find out who she was. The red oversized plaid suit was striking but also familiar. And it dawned on me that she looked like a Scarecrow with unfitting clothes. A scarecrow in a fairy tale? Then its friends should be here too… Gahyeon could be the the Tin Woodman in white, Siyeon the Lion in her shade of orange. This was the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. The city where the three journeyed to have their dreams come true. Yet all they find here now is darkness and nightmares.
Then we finally get to our mysterious protagonist, Yoohyeon. With terrors and waking dreams in the middle of a dark and stormy night. Not unlike the cyclone that sent Dorothy to Oz. She is supposed to represent our curious lead in the other world but, strangely, she does not appear physically in the dream for most of the story. In a role reversal from the ending of the previous era Yoohyeon is now the only one, alone, in the ‘real’ world. Instead of wandering in the city, we see her only inside the room looking for something. Under the bed where monster may lie, in the closet, outside her door where she appears to see the old spellbook and even apparitions. Walking around the dimly lit room in a certain witch’s shining silver heels. It seems that she might be having trouble knowing if she is in a lucid dream or not. Is Yoohyeon dreaming as JiU in the beginning? We see their scenes always as mirrors to each other. JiU looked very surprised to see ‘herself’ slowly being revealed by the full moon above the city. This is the only time we see Yoohyeon in the dream looking like a more sinister version of herself.
The ending of the video is quite riveting and might be filled with more questions than answers. Yoohyeon wakes up in a room that looks like her own but dressed as she was in the dream. It is dark, paint is splashed across the walls, and joker cards are all around her. Is she finally awake or did she finally fall into the trap too? It then cuts to JiU lying on the floor in the same scene she was in the beginning appearing to be more worried. The title focuses on the crystal snow globe. The same totem presented at the first scene. This creates a perfect loop. A never-ending sequence between reality and dream.