Smoke + Mirrors, Las Vegas quartet Imagine Dragons‘ sophomore full-length, is an album born of the road, written by a band with their feet firmly on the ground. It’s a well-balanced blend of self-reflection and nostalgia delivered via undoubtedly catchy alt-rock anthems.
With an impressive haul of awards (including a Grammy for Best Rock Performance) and two years of relentless touring under their belt, the international success of their 2012 debut Night Visions doesn’t appear to have gone to their heads.
The band, led by frontman Dan Reynolds, has taken steps toward securing a firmer foothold in folk and stripping back their sound while continuing to deliver solid riffs and explosive choruses.
Shots heralds an ’80s inspired, synth-heavy sound, but it’s coupled with the haunting hooks and grungy blues of Gold, pushing past our expectations within the first two songs on the album.
The soulful anthem of the title track and folky first single I Bet My Life yield comparisons between stadium-sized acts like Mumford and Sons and Coldplay. Summer, one of the album’s best, has a subtle Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe. But the heavy drop and wailing electric guitar of I’m So Sorry shows they haven’t completely abandoned their signature sound.
As the title suggests the stories behind these songs explore the transient nature of success. As Reynolds’ sings, ‘I’m ready for the fall/I’m ready for everything that I believed in to drift away’, it’s clear he doesn’t take his fame for granted.
But if Imagine Dragons continue in this direction, they shouldn’t have much to worry about. Smoke + Mirrors is smart, if not overly ambitious, showcasing their maturity, talent, and ability to take a few calculated risks.
Smoke + Mirrors is out now. For your chance to win one of five double passes to see the Las Vegas band play a one-off exclusive show in Sydney, see Music Feeds’ Imagine Dragons competition.