Release Date: Jun 23, 2017
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
If success is determined by numbers, then Imagine Dragons are bathing in riches. 'Night Visions', their 2012 debut album, has racked up over 7 million worldwide sales to date, while mammoth single 'Radioactive' has shifted over 10 million. But despite these stats, they're still tough to pick out in a crowd. It's definitely not for a lack of universally minded hits.
Imagine Dragons give away the plot with the very title of Evolve, the 2017 sequel to 2015's sophomore set, Smoke + Mirrors. Not content to stay in one emotional or musical spot, Imagine Dragons consciously move forward on Evolve, pushing themselves into a positive place, a transition that mirrors lead singer Dan Reynolds working through a heavy depression. Some of that darkness seeped into Smoke + Mirrors, but it's not heard here.
In releasing a record titled Evolve, it would seem obvious that Imagine Dragons are looking for progress as a band. The only problem is, the Las Vegas rockers' third record sounds at its best when the group celebrate their former glories. As an outfit who’ve already left their calling card in the bank in the form of worldwide hit single Radioactive, they can afford to take a gamble, and Evolve certainly is one, even if the evolution we hear is far from linear.
With their can't beat 'em, join 'em approach to mass market rock anthems, Las Vegas stadium rulers Imagine Dragons build their third LP with Swedish minimalist-pop mechanics Mattman & Robin, who gave the rock-ish personas of Tove Lo and Gwen Stefani sexy shine. But their spacious productions are an odd fit for Dan Reynolds' tortured dude-isms; the single "Believer" turned his "pain!" howl into a Roman coliseum-scale blood chant. His demand "Whip, whip, run me like a racehorse" on the Joel Little-produced "Whatever it Takes," meanwhile, is more spring training than "Venus In Furs.
L as Vegas's Imagine Dragons are known for making stadium pop-rock that's part-Foo Fighters tribute, part-Foster the People, occasionally embracing a Mumfords-style twang, a nu-metal riff or some hip-hop bounce. Despite singles such as Radioactive (695m YouTube views and counting) and a No 1 album in the UK with 2015's Smoke + Mirrors, they remain faceless - something which is only likely to continue as they channel an on-trend, electronic sound for this third outing. Opener I Don't Know Why is all stripped-back synths and awkward mid-tempo beats, while Whatever It Takes was written with a sports highlights package in mind ("I love the adrenaline in my veins", wails frontman Dan Reynolds, before chart pop's current obligatory chorus of "woah-ohs" enters).
It's easy to be cynical about Imagine Dragons. Their last two albums, Night Visions and Smoke + Mirrors, were a magpie's nest of pilfered Coldplay trinkets and discarded pop choruses. Evolve was launched - with maximum fuss - with the single Believer, soundtracking a Nintendo Switch ad at the Super Bowl. Minor Threat, it's safe to say, they are not.