Over the past few years, K-pop has become fascinated with trilogies and conceptual series. So many groups have debuted under this release schedule, building a cohesive sound through interconnected albums before venturing out to new horizons. Dreamcatcher used their Nightmare series to cement an aggressive, rock-fueled style, and this has resulted in a passionate (if relatively small) fan base. I’m sure there was temptation to conform to more traditional girl group standards after this series had concluded, but new single What sees the group doubling down on their music’s metal edge.
For me, this rock sound has been a general success, with some title tracks standing out from the pack more than others. I think the girls are most successful when they mix things up a bit, tethering a dynamic pop melody to their thunderous instrumentals. Last year’s Good Night adhered a little too strongly to a radio-ready heavy metal template, and What suffers some of the same issues. At worst, its melody feels a little too lumbering, lacking some of the finesse that made May’s You and I such a long-lasting treat.
What’s titular chant is its clunkiest moment, but also allows the girls a chance to indulge in their heaviest vocal riff yet. I’m much more a fan of the track’s symphonic details, which add needed texture to the tempestuous mix of in-your-face guitar and drums. To their credit, Dreamcatcher attack this song with undeniable force. The gargantuan instrumental never feels overbearing, even if it lacks some of the imagination I’d hoped for. When it comes down to it, this is yet another strong showcase for the group’s unique appeal — an appeal that is feeling more vital than ever as modern K-pop throws all its eggs into a limited number of trend-driven baskets.