Radioactive was one of the inescapable songs of the past half-decade, heard everywhere from commercial radio to corporate presentations. It wouldn’t quite be fair to say that Imagine Dragons have been coasting along on the success of Radioactive and their 2012 début album, Night Visions, since then – after all, they’ve been plugging away with touring, as well as releasing a handful of EPs and a number of live albums – but neither would it be true to say that the Las Vegas-based band have exactly been pushing the boundaries of their sound or their fans’ expectations.
Despite promising to be an evolution for Imagine Dragons, the group’s third studio album, ƎVOLVE, instead delivers more of the same, albeit with a slight tweak here and there. If this is evolution, it is taking place across geological time. Whatever It Takes approaches a hip-hop vibe with the percussion and vocal delivery, although the song takes a detour into bland arena-rock with the sustained guitar chords on the chorus.
Imagine Dragons’ love for the anthemic, arena hits is again on display with Walking the Wire, which is a quite pleasing – if overly long – pop-ballad, and the guitar solo during the outro seems only to exist to appeal to large, live audiences. Yesterday demonstrates an experimental feel, as does the rhapsodic change at the two-thirds mark of Rise Up, and while neither are especially compelling songs, the effort should be applauded.
I’ll Make It Up to You delivers an ‘80s/early ‘90s pop-rock vibe through its main riff and piano line, an effect amplified by the synth bursts on the chorus. Dan Reynolds’ singing really lets the track down, and illustrates his limited scope as a vocal performance, although he makes some movement towards redeeming himself on the song, Start Over. ƎVOLVE was recorded in the band’s eponymous studio in Las Vegas and, after sitting through 39 largely forgettable minutes, the listener can be excused for thinking that Imagine Dragons need to be reminded of the maxim: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.