78°F
weather icon Clear

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.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST