Imagine Dragons return with deeply personal new album

The guitars growled like the thing commandeering his gut.

“I’m not scared of the beast in the belly!” Dan Reynolds howled over a Big Mac-meaty riff, the Imagine Dragons frontman delivering his words as if yelling down some invisible foe.

In a way, he was: Reynolds was addressing the adversary within, self-doubt that can impede one’s ambitions.

The song was “Machine,” an open-throated rebel yell about defying any self-imposed limitations.

It was a fitting opening salvo fired off by Imagine Dragons at a private performance for contest winners from around the globe Wednesday in The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, where the band convened to celebrate this week’s release of its fourth album, “Origins.”

The night was a comingling of the old and the new.

“We have not forgotten how we got here,” Reynolds noted. Imagine Dragons took periodic breaks during the two-hour show to salute those in the crowd who saw something in the band back when it was still playing Britney Spears covers on the Strip, including publicist Alissa Kelly, musician/photographer Corlene Byrd and concert promoter Brian Saliba.

It was also a stage for Imagine Dragons to air fresh tunes penned during a whirlwind 17 months. During that span, the band reasserted itself as one of the most dominant forces in pop rock, with double-platinum third album “Evolve” spawning two of the biggest-selling digital songs of 2017: “Thunder” and “Believer.”

“This has been a crazy year,” Reynolds acknowledged.

“Origins” is its soundtrack.

Musical siblings

They call it a sister album — different tunes, same narrative.

“It’s similar to ‘Evolve’ in that the sounds are very clean,” Reynolds says of “Origins.” “We just wanted, like, five instruments per song that sounded perfectly recorded and served a purpose rather than on previous albums like ‘Smoke + Mirrors,’ which were very dense sonically, lots and lots of instrumentation.

“And then lyrically, it kind of completes the story,” he continues. “ ‘Evolve’ is about coming into your own independent space, feeling comfortable in it and growing as a human being. ‘Origins’ is about a point of arrival. It also embraces the beginnings of Imagine Dragons, the beginnings of a lot of our lives and the things that we’ve loved about how we were raised and then also the things that we didn’t love about how we were raised. It kind of completed the circle of ‘Evolve.’ ”

The album comes 17 months after “Evolve,” a remarkably short window between records, especially considering that the band spent more than 400 days on the road.

“It certainly wasn’t planned,” Reynolds says of releasing a new full-length so quickly. “I think at times in my life when I have the most chaos is when I create the most. And this last year has been maybe the most chaotic year of my life.”

Hooks and heartache

Head down, eyes at shoelaces, he stood still for what seemed the first time of the night, cemented in place by the weight of his words.

“It’s been a loveless year,” Reynolds confessed on swelling ballad “Bad Liar.”

“Did all my dreams never mean one thing?” he later wondered on the song in question. “Does happiness lie in a diamond ring?”

“Liar” directly addresses Reynolds’ separation from his wife of seven years, Aja Volkman, which the couple announced in April.

Though Reynolds has recently said that they are dating again, heartache looms large on “Origins.”

Reynolds’ longing is palpable on the searching, sentimental “Stuck.”

“Why did you leave, why did you go leaving me lonely?” Reynolds asks in a tender, elastic-voiced lilt. “Didn’t you know you were the home, you were the only. Where did you go?”

Amid the folk-y stomp of “West Coast,” he pines for another chance.

“I’ll change my ways if you would stay. And all your tears you have cried will go away,” he promises. “Oh, just grant me one more day. Oh, my love, please don’t give up.”

Throughout “Origins,” Reynolds never shies away from the deeply personal, no matter how wrenching his words can be.

“I think this record is the heaviest, lyrically, in some ways,” he acknowledges. “It’s definitely the first record that dives into love and heartbreak, where all our earlier records were more concerned with depression, struggling with faith, things like that. This record is really focused on relationships, and also the self, the individual.

“I’m an independent person to a fault. I always push people out of my life because I just can’t seem to operate great with friends, and even with love. This record really peeks in on that.”

Candid catchiness

One could argue that “Origins” offers more of a wide-eyed glare than a peek.

Take a song such as the aching “Birds.”

When Reynolds delivers lines such as “Reliving the past / Wishing it’d last / Wishing and dreaming,” you feel the lingering sting of his loss.

“That is the most emotional song on the record,” Reynolds notes. “It’s one that I want to skip when I’m listening back to the record, but I also want to listen to it, because there’s a certain amount of cathartic feelings that I have. I have mixed emotions about it, but I think that’s what art is all about, creating those moments that are maybe a little hard to face.”

Reynolds has become much more open to facing those moments candidly in song, laying his feelings bare in increasingly unadorned lyrics.

“I think that’s the only way I know to create now,” the 31-year-old says. “When we started as a band — even when I started writing music when I was 14 — lyrically, I was super metaphorical with everything I wrote, because I was very fearful someone would hear a song and know what I was talking about. That felt way too vulnerable, especially at the time. I was really dealing with some heavy things that I did not want my parents to know about.”

‘All over the map’

“There’s a lot of love songs on the new record,” Reynolds acknowledged at The Chelsea, but that’s not all there is: Another recurring theme on the album is Imagine Dragons declaring artistic independence in an ever-changing music industry.

“How many artists fear the light, fear the pain, go insane, lose your mind, lose yourself?” Reynolds asks on “Bullet in a Gun,” before bellowing “sellout, sellout, sellout” as if exorcising even the thought of any kind of creative compromise.

True to the band’s borderless sonic aesthetic, “Origins” veers all over the place musically, from the frantic, hammering beats and zigzagging bass lines of “Digital” to the light sounds and dark thoughts of a surging “Zero” to the electro purr of “Boomerang.”

Detractors often ding the band for its shape-shifting identity, dismissing Imagine Dragons as calculated commercial opportunists.

But for Reynolds, this supposed lack of identity is the group’s identity.

“I think we get away with that because we’ve done it from the very beginning,” he says. “Our fans know that about the band. They expect that, whereas I think other bands get pigeonholed. They’ll have a very distinct sound, and when they’re bored with that and want to move on to something else, all their fans are really upset with that. Lucky for us, from the very beginning, we’ve been all over the map.

“I understand how that would frustrate critics and I understand how that makes people question whether we’re chasing different sounds,” he adds. “We’ve never tried to create a big song. We create big songs because that’s what Imagine Dragons like to do.”

They also create big moments.

Toward the end of the show, the group brought up a pair of former bandmates from their early years, singer-keyboardist Britney Tolman and drummer Andrew Tolman, to perform “deep, deep cut” “Destination.”

“These are the days of love and life / These are our expectations,” Reynolds sang. “We stay up late to live tonight / This is our destination.”

Those days are over; that destination has been met.

Yet the journey continues.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Buddy V - Sep 21 Confidante
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like