album cover, a sad ghost with a crown hangs from tree

We Review the New Album from Vaquelin – Where Dreams Hurt

Yorkshire-based Vaquelin’s debut album, Where Dreams Hurt, is angsty, ambitious, and sticky. Despite forming the group during the pandemic and creating most of the album from far-flung locations, they’re already a tight, effective live band.

Where Dreams Hurt is unabashedly guitar-forward. Vaquelin are a back-to-basics outfit, relying on band dynamics to create their moods instead of support instrumentation. The mix is aggressive and the pace relentless–the album gives you very little room to breathe. 

And it is dark. Simply said, this is not an album to cheer you up. Suicidal ideation, addiction, rage, and loss–it’s all here. If you like your rock despairing and angry, this record is your jam.

Callum Scott is a beast on the guitar throughout. He’s fluent, inventive, and expressive. A guitar-led record can expose the player’s technical limitations like a slip showing under his skirt, or it’s virtuosity can be mind-numbing. Neither is the case here. Scott’s riffs are catchy, his emotionality compelling.

The songs are strong, particularly for an outfit that leans dark and heavy. Lead single ‘Voice Cracks and Blackjacks’ is sinister, with massive drum fills and lyrics that suggest rushing headlong into the void of addiction. ‘Hyperdepressant’ has a winning title and buzzy, mesmerizing riff. ‘Mad Alice Lane’ is a vicious mess with a roof-lifting solo on the outro. Six Miles Deep is a certain crowd pleaser, with a shoutable chorus and beat that will get everyone jumping.

Vaquelin’s biggest difficulty is that singer Adrian Boudry’s voice can’t (yet) match his rage. His voice is naturally mild and a tiny bit square. Placed against the band’s huge sound, his vocals are often simply overwhelmed. The band clearly loves its full-bore approach and Boudry leads the songwriting, so I’m crossing my fingers that time and rough handling will give him the vocal character to match it.

Closing track ‘A Wave of Poisoned Joy’ is a complete change of pace, and a real pleasure. It may also presage Vaquelin’s future. It has a more restrained approach and polished pop sound. When Boudry isn’t fighting to be heard he can draw on his voice’s more melodic qualities. He sounds great here. It’s by far the most sonically interesting track, and the closing solo is pure, surprising brilliance. I’m not even going to spoil it for you – just go listen. 

Valequin is a talented rock band with a lot to offer. They’ve got a very solid foundation and the ability to grow in whatever direction they choose.