JOHN DEMENA – Dreams And Lies (Album Review)

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Imagination and falsehood converge.

Few stories are as undisputedly American as that of the driven dreamer turned immigrant crossing an ocean to try his hand at making it in the United States, particularly in the music business. But the story of singer/guitarist/songwriter and Spanish-born John DeMena wasn’t always a bed of roses, but rather an inspirational tale of working-class determination that saw this aspiring artist of limited means’ arrival in 2008 marked by continual uncertainty and struggle in the face of an economic recession and increasingly limited job prospects. Yet through it all, DeMena himself reflects upon these experiences as educational, and has credited them with his sense of “military-style discipline” in better understanding himself. Subsequent inroads made in the music industry that would lead to musicians and producers associated with the likes of Jane’s Addiction, Alice Cooper and even comedian Jimmy Kimmel, along with his music being featured in noted outlets such as MTV and Metal Hammer, would help to pave the way for his long-awaited solo studio album and debut “Dreams And Lies”, a veritable magnum opus with a highly diverse range of stylistic expressions.

The modus operandi behind DeMena’s eclectic and distinctive take on the hard rock genre includes a plethora of 70s, 80s and 90s influences from the likes of Pink Floyd, AC/DC and David Bowie to Alice In Chains, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, culminating in a neo-orthodox approach so to speak. The presentation walks a fine yet riveting line between simple, groove-based rock riffs and hooks, and a borderline virtuosic guitar display that often recalls the more animated moments of Slash and Angus Young, among several other auspicious blues-based shredders of the past and present. But even more intricate is the manner in which DeMena’s sense of atmosphere and cadence takes a formula that might otherwise come off as cliché and molds it into something that is very fresh and current, bringing to the table something that is arguably as significant to rock in the 2020s as The Black Crowes“Shake Your Money Maker” was to the 90s and Buckcherry’s debut would be at the turn of the millennium. And at the center of it all is a highly competent, soulful, occasionally raucous and distinctive vocal performance courtesy of DeMena himself.

Though the aforementioned influences are worn on DeMena’s proverbial shirtsleeve, the manner in which each song comes together creates an effective synchronicity of classic rock tropes and modern sensibilities result in a highly engaging and fresh experience. Building from a minimalistic overture to a tidal wave of punchy riff work, the opening number “…I The People” draws from a familiar blend of late 80s Guns ‘N’ Roses and Mötley Crue influences and delivers a mercilessly infectious banger that’s part “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, part “Dr. Feelgood”, yet is about as 2020s as they come, spearheaded by a forceful vocal performance. Things get into the 70s blues rock weeds something fierce via “Turn Me Loose”, while the southern swagger of “Bring Out The Rock” trades blows between a gritty Mississippi-like sense of gusto and a funk-infused bass performance with DeMena’s singing occasionally featuring some Brian Johnson flourishes. Yet it isn’t until the mid-paced romp “Angel City” that things go full AC/DC mode, albeit with a healthy side of Slash-inspired lead guitar noodling that, when combined with DeMena’s more mid-ranged voice, reminds a fair bit of the glory days of Velvet Revolver.

“Dreams And Lies” Album Artwork

It should be noted that while the lion’s share of this album reaches pretty far back into hard rock antiquity, that a sizable share of what remains takes time to wander off the map a bit. The generally spacey semi-balladry of “Eternal Eyes” has a pretty clear alternative bent to it, with the music boasting John’s clear affinity with Radiohead, while his crooning verses and more boisterous chorus singing is a dead-ringer for Jerry Cantrell. The ultra-catchy and upbeat air of “No Looking Back” largely recalls the early to mid-90s flirtation that the alternative said had with jangle pop via the likes of Gin Blossoms and R.E.M., and stands as the most accessible entry of the bunch, while the full on acoustic sweetness of “Infinite At All” isn’t too far behind and features one of DeMena’s more dynamic vocal performances. But those who truly crave something different from the expected will want to go straight for the otherworldly title anthem “Dreams And Lies”, which splits the difference between the previously noted 90s alternative influences and the 70s acid rock aesthetic of Pink Floyd circa “Dark Side Of The Moon” to masterful results.

In a day and age where everything seems to be either saturated in electronic sounds or otherwise adjacent to the hegemony of EDM, it’s refreshing to get some new blood on the scene that sticks closer to the organic character of the pre-synthesizer era. To be fair, John DeMena proves to be anything but a slave to the past in his studio emulation of hard rock’s extensive history, and his unique blend of previous styles isn’t something that would be mistook for a throwback to the 90s or a previous decade. Whether one comes to this genre looking for a hard edge, a banger refrain to sing along with in the car, something to tickle the imagination, or an impressive display of the guitar’s versatility as an instrument, “Dreams And Lies” has a bit of it all woven into its concise, 39 minute duration. It doesn’t quite go to the point of reinventing the wheel, but for a first solo venture by an artist coming to the scene in the past 15 years, it’s a cut above most.

Order “Dreams And Lies” HERE.

Released By: Independent
Release Date: March 3rd, 2023
Genre: Rock


  • John DeMena / Vocals and guitars
  • Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper) / Drums
  • Matt Rohde (Jane’s Addiction) / Keyboards,
  • Pete Griffin (Steve Vai) / Bass

“Dreams And Lies” track-listing:

 1- I the People 5:07
2- Turn Me Loose 5:06
3- Eternal Eyes 5:05
4- Bring Out the Rock 3:57
5- Dreams and Lies 5:03
6- No Looking Back 4:10
7- Angel City 5:05
8- Infinite At All 5:10

8.3 Great

An inspirational story of diligence and tenacity, combined with a love of hard rock’s various icons of the 70s through the 90s reveal an artist and an album to be reckoned with in John DeMena and his debut studio opus "Dreams And Lies"

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8

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