Hailing from Barcelona, Spain, Hardreams was formed in the middle of 2000. Their latest album, Countdown Time, is their fourth studio album. The band consists of Manu Esteve (Vocals), David Aguera (Guitars), Victor Muino (Bass), Sergio Hormigo (Drums), and new Keyboardist, Miquel Garcia.
This was the first time I had heard of Hardreams. Manu’s vocals remind me of Johnny Gioeli of the Neil Schon project, Hardline. Their sound is solidly melodic hard rock. Their sound also reminded me of Giant or even a bit of Savatage. According to the press release provided by Hardreams label, they recommend the album for fans of Whitesnake, Queensrÿche, or Dokken. I’d have to agree with that for the most part but I’d have to say Hardreams is much more keyboard driven than those acts. Their prog metal leanings do align them more with early Queensrÿche.
The album launches with an atmospheric building keyboard solo then drops right into driving guitars on the opening track, “Fire Child”. The track is a good driving track and opens the album strong. “More than One Life” starts out with a cool tom drum rhythm and then the track moves into a mid-tempo rocker. “Best Days of Our Lives” is an up-tempo ballad, one of several of the album. “Into Our Dreams” is an another driving track similar to the opening song with a shredding guitar solo I really liked. “A New Beginning” starts out with a strange “Kashmir/Zeppelin” drum sample that felt really out of place. The track is a solid ballad that feels pretty paint-by-numbers. After, we run into two tracks that really stand out on the album, “Summertime” and “Give Me”. I like both of the tracks but their tone feels out of place with the rest of the album. “Summertime” is very catchy & has an early 80’s Y&T or Triumph pop metal sound. “Give Me” is another ballad and has an almost bluesy feel. The track might be where Hardreams is making the Whitesnake comparison as “Give Me” reminds me of the metal blues sound from the ’87 album. The title track has an epic feel with an acoustic guitar intro and sprinkling throughout the track. The track has a couple of standout solos, both on keys and guitar. They soften up the sound again with another ballad, “Crying”. “Crying”, like “Summertime” and “Give Me”, feels like a departure from Hardreams‘ sound but not as successful as the other tracks. There’s also a quirky vocal effect at the peak of the track that throws off the song further. The album regains its momentum, though, with “Soul Mates”. The opening riffs are really catchy and the track has one of the best choruses of the album. The final track “Lights and Shadows” is a good closer with a cool slower but still driving groove.
I’ve always been a little adverse to bands that are keyboard heavy. The melodic elements that typically come with bands that have regular keyboardists feel over-theatrical for my tastes. So to hear the heavy keyboard presence was a bit of a barrier for me. The keyboards were also very strong in the mix almost overpowering the guitar sound of the album. There was a lot of great guitar work happening all over the album but sometimes it was hard to hear it. I really liked the vocals but a lot of the choruses seemed wordy which detracted from the catchiness of the album. Overall I liked Countdown Time. The album did take a couple of listens to sink in for me though. When listening to an album, I really like to drop it into my car CD player (or now queue it up on my phone!). After about the second listen, I found myself enjoying, really getting into the album. Hardreams – Countdown Time is a good album if you’re into melodic hard rock with a strong keyboard presence.