York’s newest rock outfit to society goes by the name of Vaquelin and its four members are here to bring listeners on a sonic journey through their unique blend of rock via a debut album consisting of 13 tracks. While Where Dreams Hurt may serve as the band’s official introduction into the world of rock musicians, the soulfully gritty vocals, powerful instrumental solos, and passionate lyrics that permeate through the 52-minute collection leave listeners with a memorable impression. With such a well-executed debut album, the members of Vaquelin demonstrate not only their carefully-honed and diverse craft but also their commitment to making a name for themselves and leave no doubt that they are the ones to watch.
Comprised of Adrian Boudry (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Callum Scott (lead guitar), Luca Vieira (bass guitar), and Jack Stephenson (drums), Vaquelin offers a unique flavor of rock, blending elements of 80s hard-rock, modern progressive, and mainstream rock sensibilities, and tying these together with an accessible alternative-pop ribbon. Meeting in university, they recorded half of Where Dreams Hurt pre-pandemic and finished recording the latter half in summer 2020. The album was mixed and mastered by Luiz Fernando Vieira (Audio Arena, São Paulo) and showcases the sound that has been cultivated as a product of the members’ diverse inspirations. Resting somewhere between Highly Suspect, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and cleopatrick, there is Vaquelin, paving their way into the world of modern-day rock.
The album starts with the mellowed soundscape of “Soliloquy,” easing listeners in with honey-soaked vocals and serene guitar melodies that are soon paired with pacing drums that parallel the hastened sense of overthinking found within the lyrics. A gently roaring chorus commands attention, particularly as an electrifying guitar instrumental makes its way into the backdrop. Adrian launches into a cathartic second chorus before hazy backing vocals and a soft guitar line dissolves into a rock instrumental solo close. The thrumming follows into “Voice Cracks & Blackjacks,” the band’s first released single, which features notably angstier rock energy thanks to raspier vocals that roll out the lyrics that play on the idea of the popular gambling game, Blackjack, and other surrounding wordplays that fits thematically. Exploring the consequences of heartbreak, “Voice Cracks & Blackjacks” dives in a grungier direction, still abundantly supported by a robust instrumental. It culminates in a rush of drum beats that follow an exhaustive lyrical display of just how emotionally taxing heartbreak is.
“Iridescent Streetlights” brings a new shimmery texture to the album, really digging into alternative sound with a bit of a groovier bassline. Finding comfort in the streetlights of the nighttime, the lyrics highlight the ephemeral nature of the relationship being asked for. With the lighter tones, there’s a strong parallel with the fleeting lyrics, showcasing the band’s range as they give listeners a song that might feel more familiar with those who are not into hard rock. The softer tones continue with a more melancholy start in “The Garden,” but it’s not long before listeners are launched back into the world of hard rock. The melancholy quickly gives way to a sense of betrayal, which is accompanied by stronger instrumentals and more vigorous vocals. The imagery of a garden is used to explore the emotions behind the impassioned lyrics and an energetic instrumental closes out the track.
Listeners are treated to a heavy grunge sound in “Hyperdepressent” and it fits well with the more frustrating nature of the lyrics. There’s a distinct noisiness that mirrors the feeling of being caught in a continuous cycle of begrudgingly finding your way back to someone who isn’t the healthiest for you. The vocals and instrumentals carry the frustration well, evoking a sense of stirring anger, particularly with the explosivity found in the final minute-and-a-half. “Though the Heavens Fall” dives deeper into a grunge atmosphere that is filled with powerful drums, rolling guitars, angsty lyrics, and raspy vocals. Touching on the dissolution of comfort and the fear that follows, the message proves to be a bit of a turning point in the album as there is an assured conscious thought of being okay after all of this ends.
Poetically so, “Interlude” follows that turning point with significantly brighter tones undercut by vibrating strings, marking a short break from the continuously evolving rock soundscape.
But the calmness of “Interlude” doesn’t last long as the band launches into a high-energy instrumental backing for “Mad Alice Lane.” It screams hard classic rock, complete with almost-screamed vocals in the chorus. The message plays on the ever-popular Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll but focuses on a journey into the descending madness that has been present all along, just not at front-and-center as in this track. “Silence” is filled with progressive rock sensibilities, giving listeners a bit of a head-turning experience given its duality from “Mad Alice Lane.” The vocals are notably more tender as well. It evokes more of a sentimental vibe, particularly when Adrian asks for company, even if it is just in silence.
“Six Miles Deep” returns to previously touched upon themes: lies and betrayal, intoxicating love, and feeling stuck. It also calls upon some imagery from “Voice Cracks & Blackjacks” as well as “The Garden,” which just exemplifies the songwriting skills of the band as they are able to create a full-circle moment with this track. Even with the previously-reached turning point, there’s a definite circular path that “Six Miles Deep” illustrates. Previously released “Rebound Effect” pushes into a different direction, both lyrically and sonically. It continues the focus on displaying the storytelling aspects of the album, but gives listeners a sense of moving forward and moving on that we almost were given with “Though the Heavens Fall.” Backed with more of an alt-rock production, it still features passionate vocals that deliver the emotional nature of the song and the heartbreak journey we have been on so far.
“Where Dreams Hurt” is, of course, the title track and even though it makes for the second-to-last song on the album, it still brings surprisingly new and refreshing energy. It feels a little bit frantic as listeners are quickly swept into a bit of a ricocheting explosivity in the frenzied atmosphere. There’s a feeling of being trapped that we can find within the lyrics, alongside an inability to find solace in sleep because that’s where dreams hurt. The constant roll through of instrumentals pushes us deep into the frantic environment created through the message. And now we the end of our journey with “A Wave of Poisoned Joy.” Taking on more soft rock elements, the track is noticeably slower and softer, particularly in comparison with the previous track. It seems almost lullaby-esque at times if you could imagine tender rock tones within a lullaby. With a bittersweet sense of nostalgia within the vocals and a gentle sway in the instrumental, “A Wave of Poisoned Joy” makes for a fitting close, serving as both a reflection on and a final departure from the memories relived throughout the album.
After a listen through Where Dreams Hurt, it is hard to believe that Vaquelin has not been around for longer. Its members fuse hard rock with alternative rock with grunge rock with progressive rock with…well, just a lot of rock sub-genres can be found within the album. With such delicate crafting tied together by relatable themes found in modern-day pop songs, there is a definite maturity that seemingly contradicts the age of the band, which just goes to show the skill that its bandmembers possess. For lovers of rock, Vaquelin offers a fresh new perspective on classic sounds, leaving a notable impression with their debut album.