DREAM DEATH “A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

I remember very well my first encounter with Dream Death. It was back in the days when I regularly raided the metal section of our local record store Appletree Records looking for new and obscure finds. Sweet sufferin’ succotash, how I miss those days! At any rate, I took a chance on the first Dream Death album “Journey Into Mystery” despite it’s rather dodgy hand painted cover and the fact that it was on New Renaissance Records, a label who’s quality was pretty variable. Something about it called to me so I laid down the moolah.

It was one of the best instinct purchases I made. That album was extremely heavy for its time, with a thick guitar sound that would later be appropriated by the “sludge” movement. It was a combo of thrash and doom, like Celtic Frost meeting Black Sabbath. The song “The Elder Race” in particular stuck with me…it remains an all time classic!

That was it for Dream Death for over two decades. Several of the members went on to the more straightforward doom band Penance. But the Dream Death legacy couldn’t die! They finally returned a few years back with a progressive and peculiar album, “Somnium Excessium”, that tinkered with the original DD sound. As if to atone, this year the band released the monstrous album “Dissemination” and Dream Death was back at full power with a monster album of sludgy rifferama and general gloom.

I couldn’t pass up the chance to corner Dream Death mastermind Brian Lawrence and he was all too happy to tell the story of the rise and fall and re-rise of the mighty Dream Death!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to you! Did the songs and idea for “Dissemination” come to you much quicker than those for “Somnium Excessum”? It sounds like a lot more organic album.

BRIAN LAWRENCE: Hey! Absolutely. We just let rip on this album basically.

WC: How necessary was it for “Somnium…” to experiment with different sounds and ideas to clear the way for “Dissemination”?

BL: I can’t speak for the others but it was important to me. I didn’t want to reform DD as just a nod to the past but as something more vital. Things had to change per our life experience but at the same time had to retain the DD spirit.

WC: This structure you have on the cover of “Dissemination” looks like the bleakest place in the universe! What’s the story behind this image?

BL: We had hired a guy to take promo pics for us and then evaluated his work and everyone fell in love with this picture for the representation of the cover. We couldn’t find the art we were looking for before this but suddenly this was perfect. It sort of represents the end result of the herd mentality of man.

WC: Speaking of bleak, the lyrical outlook of Dream Death seems as negative as it gets. Is there a place for hope in the Dream Death universe?

BL: Absolutely. I don’t consider myself a negative person at all. As in any art, you create something that you hope will serve as an agent for change against the things that you perceive to be going wrong.

WC: It was mentioned in the press release that you believe most people don’t even realize they are being programmed to fail. Is there any way to break this conditioning short of total apocalypse?

BL: That’s a tough one. Things are so far gone in some respects that I don’t know if change is possible. I write about this stuff, but hell, I shop at Walmart and Starbucks sometimes so I can’t even save myself.

WC: The sound on “Dissemination” is a perfect followup to what you achieved on “Journey Into Mystery”. Was that the general idea or did it just turn out that way?

BL: There was the intent to be more aggressive than on Somnium which would point more towards JIM. However, it was important to move forward rather than just try to imitate the past.

WC: Several of the lyrics seem to deal with mortality and life after death…”The Other Side” and “In Perpetuum” being examples. Do you think something exists beyond what we call life?

BL: No one knows but I probably tend to lean that way. I like to base my beliefs and assumptions on science and philosophy rather than superstition and tradition. It should be noted that “In Perpetuum” is a song dealing with the subject of never having absolute answers.

WC: I saw you guys play at Days of the Doomed a couple of years ago….never thought I would see Dream Death! Are more live shows on the way from you?

BL: That was a fun show! The live situation is always a bone of contention within the band as a couple of the guys have never quit and are sometimes burnt out. With this new material there has been a revitalization of spirit and it looks like there may be some more live DD shows coming.

WC: How does the live experience differ now from back in your heyday in the late 80’s? Or does it?

BL: I don’t know if it’s apparent to the audience but this DD shit can be difficult to play. When we were Penance, the trad-doom thing is much easier to perform on stage. Not saying one is better than the other but when we’re playing DD material it can take its toll. No matter how much we practice, one small slip and everything goes off the rails. So from that standpoint, not much has changed. When everything comes together on certain nights it can be exhilarating.

WC: How did you hook up with Rise Above Records? This will surely help your visibility!

BL: People sometime forget that this very same DD lineup was Penance that released “The Road Less Travelled” on Rise Above many years ago. Also, Mike played drums on Cathedral’s first so there’s a history there. I think we’re really just here because Lee was a fan of the band. It’s like a millionaire who buys a losing football team just because he likes them. Haha!

WC: Have you kept up with the doom and death metal scenes over the years? Or did you kind of tune out after the break up of Dream Death? 

BL: My personal taste has really gone away from that direction but that’s a whole other story. My brothers, such as Mike, Terry and Butch Balich are still heavily involved with that scene so I’m very aware of what’s going on. There’s some really cool bands in Pittsburgh like Molasses Barge, Vulture and Outlander.

WC: What are some of the sounds or bands you have interest in currently?

BL: Been listening to a lot of Combat Astronomy. Also, Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator because I just read the book about them. Magma always creeps in there somehow too.

WC: Did the resilience of Dream Death surprise you? Did you think the band would just kind of become a footnote after the break-up?

BL: I think we’re still a footnote. Maybe a footnote and a legnote.

WC: Any idea yet what new material could sound like?

BL:I know exactly what it sounds like because we’re working on it.

WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

BL: Peter Hammill, Daniel Denis and Christian Vander (all musical related of course, nothing else matters)

WC: What was the last band you checked out just because you wanted to hear them?

BL: I heard good things about the bands Bent Knee and Reve General so I got their last stuff. Both pretty damn cool.

WC: What was the last gig you went to just because you wanted to see the band?

BL: I went to see Molasses Barge here in Pittsburgh.

WC: Any kind of Spinal Tap incident from the history of Dream Death that you could share with us?

BL: Too many of course. Probably a favorite among the band is when we were Penance and practiced under a strip mall. Several other bands had practice rooms there and one night it was just us and another band. I had left the keys to the building in my car and the other band locked up the doors when they were finished. We finished practice and found we were locked in the building. We ended up placing our PA speakers at the top of the stairwell and screaming the name of the pizza place nearby to get their attention. This went on for about 2 hours and we were dying laughing the entire time. Finally a guy from the pizza shop sticks his head around the corner of the door and we had him call my dad to drive out and get the keys out of my car.

WC: Any last words for the fans out there?

BL: Hope they dig DD because it’s something a bit different and hope “Dissemination” meets their expectations.