Now in their second year after debut, E’Last have maintained a symphonic sound that hearkens back to earlier generations of K-pop boy groups. I love them for this, but I’ve yet to fall head-over-heels in love with any of their songs. The drama and bombast is much-appreciated, but the songwriting tends to meander more than I’d like. It’s the difference between a stone cold classic like VIXX’s Error and this new single Dark Dream (악연).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like E’Last’s music a lot. It’s just that everything’s been so close to knock-your-socks-off excellence that the tiny gap becomes extra frustrating. There are parts of Dark Dream that approach perfection. When the song gets going during its fast-paced, thrilling chorus, there’s nothing stopping it. The verses bring down the energy, opting for a heavier melody and blasts of moody rap. This is fine, but these segments are overlong. Further listens tease out the details, and once you have that roadmap, Dark Dream‘s twists and turns feel less disorienting. Still, I’ll always prefer a tighter, more streamlined structure.
Thankfully, the song’s grandiose production is consistently thrilling. Many K-pop groups fuse symphonic elements into their music, but few do it with such aplomb. Dark Dream feels tailor-made for musical theatre, and I appreciate how slavishly it sticks to this concept. Even when the guys are shouting forgettable scraps of melody, the strings swirl in the background as if we’re listening to the most monumental song in pop music history. Strip this away, and Dark Dream would be far less effective. When it comes down to it, that’s always been E’Last’s Achilles heel.