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Remember 1987's Journey into Mystery and the Celtic Frost/Slayer/Pentagram combo these guys had going? It's still here and on the surface, seemingly unchanged, but a closer listen reveals a band that has taken the time to finely hone their craft, resulting in a short, but lethal album.
Moving away from the circular verse-chorus structures of their debut, they focus instead on compositions that work through their various themes like classic horror movie soundtracks. Riffs trudge, yank, shudder, and lunge, inundating the listener in varying atmospheres. They vary harmonic density from the eerie pseudo-ambiance to thundering downstroke deathblows, arranged into linear sequences kept at an erratic pace, like being pursued by an unseen predator.
Instrumentation has improved, but lends itself more to the composition than the musician - the drumming is deft and capitalizes on detonating and repressing tension while bass thuds along convincingly in the best tradition of Geezer Butler. On top of this, their most acidic vocal performance to date sends its punk-ish shouts over surprisingly dynamic riffs calling from both early extreme and doom metal traditions, avoiding the doom trap of slowness for its own sake and fitting in muscular chords as one would pieces of a Frankenstein-like monster. Highly recommended.
Dream Death's debut "Journey into Mystery" is one of my favorite metal albums. Having said that, after waiting twenty-six years for another, and viewing the original and appealing cover art in advance, I was certainly excited about this release and obtained it as soon as it became available.
The Pittsburgh boys commence the album with "Feast", which is by far the strongest track within. It is very reminiscent of the first album in terms of sound and feeling. Mike Smail's drum chops are in full effect right off the bat, while a slightly modernized overall aesthetic emerges. The dirty, sliding riffage of yesteryear is ever-present and instantly recognizable as Dream Death. The chorus is pleasingly catchy and overall it is a great opener, as well as a great tune. I had high hopes for what was to come after this.
From there on out, though, things aren't nearly as convincing. While the intro to "Them" is creepy and quite interesting, the songs themselves feel forced and not really in the vain that I prefer style-wise. Brian Lawrence's vocals are similar to the days of old, but also contain a new flair at times that doesn't do a whole lot for me. He and Weston perform their guitar duties well enough, but I am left with a bland taste in my mouth after all is said and done. No tracks here other than the opener compare in terms of quality to gems from the debut like "The Elder Race" or "Sealed in Blood". The similar atmosphere that made that album so classic is most certainly absent here. A more uneven version of the band appears and only sections of this awkward musical direction work.
The collection is three quarters the original, with the lone new member Richard Freund handling the bass duties and handling them plenty adequately. He displays far superior execution and visibility in the mix than original bassist Ted Williams did. Regrettably, this isn't nearly enough to save the album from being mediocre overall. "Bludgeon" and "From Inside the Walls" both have moments that raise my eyebrows, especially the eerie opening section in the latter, with the bass extremely distorted and glorious, but they always manage to go somewhere that loses my interest. By no means did I want a "Journey into Mystery" clone, but the difference in sound and content here just doesn't match in terms of quality. Filler-riffs were called upon often to complete half songs it appears, and while this album is not a horrible one, it does not live up to it's predessessor as a whole.
If your interest was sparked in this band via word of mouth, but your ears have yet to experience them, I strongly recommend beginning with "Journey into Mystery". It is far superior in terms of overall vibe and has an aura about it that this effort just does not contain
Despite only releasing one album in their heyday, 1987’s Journey Into Mystery, Pittsburgh’s Dream Death came to be a noteworthy influence in the underground metal community thanks to their thrashy doom blend of Celtic Frost worship. Now that the outfit has been bitten by the reunion bug and released their long-awaited sophomore effort, it is interesting to see how close they’ve kept to the original vision after over twenty-five years.
With Somnium Excessum translating roughly to “Dream Death,” it’s a relief that the album has a lot of the tropes that made their debut so distinct. The riffs are still packed with filth, the tempos and structures are all over the place, and guitarist/vocalist Brian Lawrence’s half spoken, half growled delivery has not withered with time. The band does benefit from some modern production, but it’s done more to bring out Richard Freund’s bass than to provide the sound with any real polish.
But even with those elements secured, there are some modifications that have taken place. This album actually manages to be more dynamic than its 80s counterpart as “Them” and “Bludgeon” bring in quieter sections to build a haunting atmosphere. In addition, the songwriting may be even more complex than before as there aren’t any songs that’ll stay on the same segment for long. The opening “Feast” may be the easiest track to get a feel for and “Dystopian Distress Signal” is bookended by a few catchy riffs but it doesn’t spend as much time on them as I’d like.
In a smart move, the band decided to only put six songs on this effort, allowing more care to be put into each track and keeping the tempo changes from getting too exhausting. It’s a little tricky to pick the best track since each one finds a way to stand out but “You’re Gonna Die Up There” is arguably the most distinct, coming the closest to fully exploiting their thrash side. Props must also be given to the closing “From Inside The Walls” as it manages to keep an unsettling tone through its nearly twelve minute duration.
Somnium Excessum may be one of 2013’s harder albums to get a feel for but it makes for a satisfying Dream Death reunion. There’s not a song on here as truly spell binding as “Sealed In Blood” but it may arguably be more consistent as the songs on here tend to feel unified. You should still go for their classic first but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try them both out at the same time.
“You’re Gonna Die Up There”
“From Inside The Walls”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
With the quality and consistency of metal releases, especially in the death and doom metal genres 2013 has dished out to us up till now you’d think it was a missing year from the 1980’s. Jumping on the bandwagon which includes bands like Convulse and Brutality in none other than legendary Pennsylvania doomsters ‘Dream Death’ who have awoken after more than two and half decades of stupor to unleash upon us yet another weighty magniloquent assault that is a genuinely malevolent affair.
To me, their debut album ‘Journey into Mystery’ is the perfect definition of an underground cult album, in the sense not many know about the album, even those who have a rather subterranean taste is music, but those who have had the pleasure of listening to it can not only laud its superior song writing and originality, but also recognize the titanic amount of influence this band may have had on the upcoming death metal and doom metal scenes. The album was a transition between the glorious aggressive violent thrashing days of the 80’s and the second wave of doom metal which gave rise to some of the most exalted and influential doom metal acts like Saint Vitus and Candlemass.
If you ask a person not well versed in heavy metal, what heavy metal is, his answer will probably be something in the vein of harsh guitars and a noisy sound. Well, it is pretty much the same here and it is a wonderful experience. If asked to describe Dream Death’s music I would describe it as an assimilation of the heavy, distorted yet simple riffing style of Celtic Frost, along with the rawness and approach of bands like Brocas Helm and Cirith Ungol drenched in the compact aggression of early NWOBHM-tinged Slayer. Though influences are many, Dream Death is utterly original in nature and do not come off as a copycat band.
This brings us to the bands’ second full length ‘Somnium Excessum’ which is basically Latin for ‘Dream Death’. It is worth noting that the line up of this album is the classic one that created ‘Journey into Mystery’ with Richard Freund on the bass duty, Mike Smail behind the drums, Terry Weston and Brian Lawrence taking on the twin guitar assault with Brian also handling vocal duties. Musically, this album is not exactly 'Journey Into Mystery' part 2, which is great because they don't come off as a band rehashing old ideas, but instead is a progression from the aforesaid album. Like the debut, this album is very traditional in the sense that the listeners’ attention is not deliberately focused only towards the Brian’s powerful vocals that are a bit reminiscent of Tom Araya, or Mike Smail unparalleled sense of rhythm on the drums or Richard’s distorted bass goodness but instead focuses on all aspects equally. This album with its 6 tracks and 40 minutes in length moves around inside the bulky framework defined by the band on their debut, but doesn't sound as raw as the debut because of the production which has more proclivity towards modern production, and is not as infused with the violent spewing thrash elements as before. Though usually mid pace in tempo there is the opening track ‘Feast’ which is an all out rocker where the bands throws caution to the wind and displays such strength, perseverance and aggression which is an instant throwback to the quality of the debut 1987 album.
The band still gyrates around the murky Celtic Frost influenced riffs as is witnessed an each track but especially on the riff centric ‘Them ‘ and the extremely catchy intro riff to ‘ Dystopian Distress Signal'. This time around a lot of importance has been given to the bass (which sadly most bands now days do not) which plods along with generous helping of distortion along the way, and huge dollops of distorted bass on tracks like ‘Them’, ‘Dystopic Distress Signal’ and ‘From Inside the Walls’. While the masculine and character drenching vocals of Brian add another dimension to the band all together the band at their crux still focus on the song writing which is dotted with numerous tempo changes and the whole album is about showcasing the bands ability to structure complete tracks by getting together an aberrant number of tempo and changes and riff progressions. In the traditional sense, the band doesn't like to talk much about what their lyrics mean and leave it up to the listener to come up with its interpretation and in the process creating an air ambiguity and the band manage to diffuse this trait in their music as well where you never know what’s coming next with its astonishing tempo and time signature changes which are delivered with precision and punk fueled execution, which for people new to the band may seem a bit discomforting but in actuality is the bands unique selling point. The outstanding track ‘You're Gonna Die up There’, where the band turns up the amplifier to eleven and drenches the sound in bass distortion unfurls such a plethora of tempo changes and great song writing that is reminiscent of “Divine in Agony” on the debut and is possibly my favorite track here. It’s not all catchy riffs and tempo changes though, Dream Death also cracks out the acoustic guitar on the short track ‘Bludgeon’ and the final track ‘From Inside the Walls’. The band has also shifted its focus towards creating an atmosphere as soon on the final track with its unconventional song structures with the dragged out intro, piano and chants on 'From Inside the Walls' and tracks like 'Them' which starts off with an eerie spoken word intro and also descends into a bass/drum interlude, a feature to be witnessed later on 'You're Gonna Die Up There'. In the annals of history, remember in 2008 when Razorback Records went nuts and releases some horror influenced acts like Crypticus, Acid Witch and Hooded Menace? Well, now you know where their influence comes from.
Boisterous, devastating stuff. Full credit to the band for sounding as intense and malicious as they did before. It’s not easy to retain a defining sound after 26 years but Dream Death successfully has done so without any compromise. The way the band has managed to coalesce so many riffs, solos and tempo changes into a wrecking ball of a release and still plough forward with such power and fluidity amazes me. Special mention for Mike’s kit work, an aspect that is often, ignored in this genre, but here has made a mark with his furious drum fills and oscillation between blast beats and snare attacks or abstract rhythm changes For old school lovers and music collectors, good news for you, the band intends to release this on vinyl in association with Svart records, so keep an eye out for that. This here, is top 5 of the year material, so keep it in mind.
[Originally posted on http://toolatetopray.blogspot.in/]