"Somnium Excessum"

By Dr. Abner Mality

In 1986, an album was released that has quietly grown to be a cult classic of extreme metal. That was "Journey Into Mystery" by Dream Death, which has since been considered a classic, ahead of its time example of doom/death metal. I'm lucky enough to have an original vinyl copy and over the almost 30 years since then, I've listened to it many times, especially the brilliant and archetypal song "The Elder Race". I never thought that Dream Death would rise again, even in this age where bands are constantly cashing in on long ago notoriety. Well, not only did I see the band perform live in 2013 at the Days of the Doomed fest, but they have also released the long delayed sequel to "Journey Into Mystery", which I now hold in my hot little hands.

This is pretty amazing stuff. It sounds EXACTLY like Dream Death should sound in 2013. The stylistic resemblance to "Journey..." are clear and unmistakeable, but "Somnium Excessum" is its own animal and adds some twists to Dream Death's classic sound to make it a whole new ballgame. The weird, off-kilter lurch between slow, sludgy doominess and faster, aggressive material remains, but filtered through a clearer production. If anything, the off the wall aspects of Dream Death have been amplified here. This whole thing sounds like the soundtrack to an extremely disturbing horror film....this is truly the music of horror, and the queasy lyrics to songs like "Them", "You're Gonna Die Up There" and "From Inside  the Walls" speak of madness and perversity. The snarling vocals of Brian Lawrence are completely intact...they are "outside" the usual death/doom metal cliches but are still harsh.

The album starts with "Feast" and if you're a long-time Dream Death fan, you'll smile right away upon hearing the foreboding doomy riffs of this evil song. This is really the "Journey Into Mystery" style brought forward into the 21st century.. Things get weirder with "Them", which has a lot of quieter, but incredibly creepy moments woven with both fast and slow crush. That continues with "Dystopian Distress Signal", where Lawrence sneers at the destruction of civilization, and the short "Bludgeon". Then the weirdness really kicks into gear with "You're Gonna Die Up There". This song goes through so many changes in tempo and riff, it will make your brain warp. I can only compare Dream Death's use of unorthodox song structures to one other band...Voi Vod. The record ends with a mammoth exercise in uneasy sound called "From Within The Walls", which has a lengthy build-up of disquieting tones before blowing into massive Dream Death distortion. This tune seems to relate the degeneration of a mass murderer's mind as he confronts his own tortured hallucinations. The band manages to capture the effect of a movie like "Session 9" in musical form.

This is not an easy or instant album to listen to. However, it is an incredibly strong comeback for a band whose legend has only grown over the past two decades plus. I sure as hell hope we don't have to wait 20 more years for the next one!