Since the beginning, Dreamcatcher have been experts at creating and peddling horror. Subtle and silent, they creep under your skin and leave you feeling as comfortable as standing in blood-soaked boots feels – not that we’d know what that feels like in real life.
This is why their second studio album ‘Apocalypse: Save Us’ feels that much more terrifying: this time, the horror they speak of is very, very real and tangibly upon us – if the string of forest fires and snow in April is anything to go by. As we segue into the season of beach visits and once-in-a-lifetime romances – themes that will sweep K-pop presently, no doubt – Dreamcatcher serve up a reality check by reminding us that climate change is upon us, and it shall not be kind.
‘Apocalypse: Save Us’ is both a warning and a cry for help – Planet Earth is burning, and there’s little time before it’s too late. True to the theme, they waste no time in getting straight to the point. After a cinematic, orchestral intro that creates tension and urgency, we dive right into the stifling, suffocating feeling of ‘Locked Inside A Door’. The funk-rock elements in the song are meant to be liberating, but they never quite reach the satisfying crescendo that we wait for. That’s not a bad thing at all, since it goes perfectly with the helplessness the song talks about.
Nowhere, however, is this helplessness more evident than on title track ‘Maison’. With a music video that sees Dreamcatcher traverse through a dystopian, WALL-E-adjacent wasteland of Planet Earth, the song’s powerful beats deliver an equally powerful message: “Save my home in the Jungle / Save my home in the polar / Protect my home / Please someone fight for us.” Keeping a frantic pace throughout, ‘Maison’ underlines an urgency that seems to be missing in many when it comes to climate change.
Dreamcatcher, however, have never been ones to leave us in the darkness to fend for ourselves. Right after they show us the bleak picture on ‘Maison’, they remind us on ‘Starlight’ that it’s not too late. This transition is also musical – as opposed to ‘Maison’, ‘Starlight’ seamlessly blends synth and retro-pop influences to paint a hopeful picture, where they assure us that “tomorrow’s sun will rise, and the night will pass”.
Hope persists and transitions seamlessly into dance-pop on ‘Together’, where Dreamcatcher hold on to the sweet scent of memories as assurance for the future. While not the freshest of tracks musically, the song ties in neatly with the optimistic, albeit borderline escapist, picture it paints.
The immediate follow-up, ‘Always’, however, does the job much better. With only a balladic instrumentation backing up the soaring vocals, the group revel in the miracle of having someone to share precious moments with – going through the lyrics, however, one also gets the feeling that this isn’t just about a human companion, but perhaps also about the world itself.
We step through to the other side of the album via ‘Skit: The Seven Doors’, and are immediately greeted by JiU on ‘Cherry (Real Miracle)’. The bouncy, rhythmic pop number makes for an easy listen, encapsulating the essence of spring within, describing the high of finding someone on the same wavelength as you. A few tracks down the line, Gahyeon’s ‘Playground’ also uses bouncy pop overlaid with funky guitar riffs to channel a playful optimism, leaving us free to color the world in our own tastes.
On ‘No Dot’, SuA switches it up by removing the rosy lenses that had been covering her eyes all this time and accepting that some things are better left outgrown. The track presents a masterful blend of rock riffs and SuA’s seamless rap, sounding confident, ambitious and incredibly self-aware. SuA’s solo goes almost hand-in-hand with Dami’s self-love anthem ‘Beauty Full’, as if presenting different facets to the same woman who grows as she goes. Going all out on pop-rock sounds circa 2000s, ‘Beauty Full’ also channels the era’s youthful excitement in its gung-ho lyrics.
On Siyeon’s solo ‘Entrancing’, she builds a hypnotic, but sad picture of reckoning with the end of days. Twinkling sound effects complement Siyeon’s voice, giving the track an ethereal ambiance, something we also see repeated on Handong’s solo ‘Winter’ and Yoohyeon’s ‘For’. While ‘Entrancing’ sounds like the background to your larger-than-life fantasy series, however, Handong and Yoohyeon bring to ‘Winter’ and ‘For’ a much softer, modern, and approachable vibe – think coffee in cafes on winter mornings.
Dreamcatcher have always one of K-pop’s most novel, innovative acts – few blend rock and pop as seamlessly as they do, save for the occasional trend in the industry. While ‘Apocalypse: Save Us’ casts a stark light on their growth as an act and comes packed with one good track after another, it does sometimes find itself deviating from its own subject matter. As we segue into the mid and latter parts of the album, the taut atmosphere and tension of the beginning seem to dissipate, giving us optimistic tracks that, albeit well-meaning, seem a tad misplaced.
Of course, no one says that the onus of solving climate change and saving the Earth is entirely on Dreamcatcher. No one is asking them for tangible solutions either. One also acknowledges how imperative having a hopeful outlook is – despite everything that is going on. When comparing the tracks in the beginning to those towards the middle and the end, however, ‘Apocalypse: Save Us’ risks cannibalising itself. Maybe what we needed here is some more of the “apocalypse”, so to say, served up in the classic horror that Dreamcatcher do so well.
- Release date: April 12
- Record label: Dreamcatcher Company