Monday, April 15, 2013

This world will crumble…DREAM DEATH : ‘Somnium Excessum’

Following a hiatus of over two decades Dream Death has stirred from a deep sleep to release the follow up to their 1987 debut with the excellent (Latin) self-titled full-length‘Somnium Excessum’. Everything that made the band’s 1987 debut, ‘Journey into Mystery’, stand out—from Brian Lawrence’s raspy snarl and buzz saw guitar tone to Mike Smail’s masterful time-keeping behind the kit—are present and then some. While ‘Journey into Mystery’ has admirably stood the test of time there is no mistaking the album as a product of the eighties. With ‘Somnium Excessum’the band has updated the production and pushed their songwriting to darker, creepier extremes. Despite the band’s lengthy absence the six songs that comprise ‘Somnium Excessum’ are imprinted with the band’s DNA—an unlikely yet effective union of thrash and doom metal resulting in the unmistakable abomination known as Dream Death.
 For ‘Somnium Excessum’ the band has incrementally dialed back the thrash influences that were prevalent on their debut and early demos and in its place there is a slightly greater emphasis on doom metal. The band still explores a variety of tempo changes throughout each and every track, but the slow to mid tempo sections have a bludgeoning heft that simply didn’t come across as well on the earlier recordings. Album opener “Feast” finds Dream Death effortlessly navigating the realms of thrash and doom. While “Feast” begins innocuously enough at a snail’s pace it doesn’t take long for Lawrence to tear into a berserker riff that sounds as if it could fly off the rails at any moment—a quality that seems to burrow into the marrow of the remaining five tracks to varying degrees.
Album highlight “Them”is easily the doomiest and most sinister track of the album and, as a whole, is the sum of all of the players. Another quality that separates ‘Somnium Excessum’from the band’s previous releases is the bass playing of Richard Freund who manages to work in iniquitous harmony with Lawrence and Weston to craft tunes that stagger between headbanging up-tempo burners to paranoia induced sonic nightmares. Weston’s presence on “Them”, “Bludgeon”, and “You’re Gonna Die Up There” give these tunes the low end payload that was missing from “Journey into Mystery”.  
The album closes out with the longest track crafted by the band, “From Inside the Walls” which ultimately rivals “Them” in terms of overall creepiness due to the horror soundtrack like intro. Ambient noise, piano, kettle drums and lead guitar coalesce into a disquieting opening that is followed by Dream Death’s unique brand of thrashened doom.  
Despite an absence of over twenty years Dream Death has released an album that not only picks up where they left off, but they have managed progress and outdo themselves without sacrificing their core sound. Simply put: this is how it’s done. Not only will old fans dig ‘Somnium Excessum’, but the album should help garner new fans as well. For fans of Celtic Frost, Coroner and, of course, Penance.
 Words: Steve Miller

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