Imagine Dragons found commercial success back in 2012, with chart-topper ‘Radioactive’, and since then have built a heavy, devoted fan base all over the world. Their follow up album to their debut ‘Night Visions’ was never going to be a natural feat, but the Vegas quartet have managed to outdo themselves tremendously with their second album ‘Smoke + Mirrors’.
It’s quite common for such a creative band to change their sound after immense commercial success, to suit a more ‘mainstream’ audience, but this has been cleverly avoided. The initial noticeable evolution of their sound comes through with the gospel-style vocals in their lead single ‘I Bet My Life’. The combination of soulful vocals, orchestral drums and electronics really makes this song stand out, which is something Imagine Dragons never fail to do.
Their second single, ‘Shots’ is a catchy, dance-worthy hit, which shows off lead singer Dan Reynolds’ falsetto vocals along with the simple yet effective instrumentation. This song, along with many others on the epic 17-track album, show clear signs of influences, ranging from sensitive Bon Iver style vocals to ‘2nd Law’ era Muse style beats and energy.
The title track ‘Smoke + Mirrors’ combines sensitive electronics with thumping drums and occasional emotional vocal outbursts. This song is possibly their most passionate and soulful to date, and definitely deserves to have the album named after it. Every song on the album takes the listener on a journey, yet this track is the most pensive and reflective of them all, which proves to be extremely effective when listening to the album in order.
This band has achieved what a lot of bands find difficult to put across – the effective translation into live performance. When listening to this album as loud as it deserves to be played (up to 11), and you close your eyes, you could easily be fooled into thinking you were hearing them play live. This effect will definitely drive more and more people to buy tickets to see them live, and hopefully will result in them headlining arenas worldwide.
As well as being perfectly produced, and upon closer inspection, Reynolds’ lyrics seem to be his most honest and emotional yet. The theme of this album is very much about his struggles with depression and the Mormon faith; offering emotions of both anger and catharsis. When listening to this album from start to finish, you will really begin to understand the different feelings and ideas delivered in each song, which some argue as being an artist’s main purpose. So if that’s true, Imagine Dragons have definitely fulfilled their purpose of evoking passion, empathy and catharsis amongst listeners. If they keep going in this musical direction, they could eventually become one of the biggest bands in the world.
Track to look out for: ‘Dream’.
Rating (out of 5):
Words by Matthew Nicholls