Dream Death was one of the more interesting cult bands in the late 80s metal scene. Having had a short initial run, the band members eventually found greener pastures in Penance but have also enjoyed their status with a recent reunion. While 2013 would see the release of their sophomore album Somnium Excessum, this 1987 effort is the only full-length from their prime and has proved to be an influential though obscure listen.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Dream Death didn’t really fit into a particular scene in their early days. Their style of doom was more unhinged than Saint Vitus or Pentagram but wasn’t as extreme as the sludge and death/doom that they would help inspire. Instead, they played an odd fusion of doom and thrash metal with Celtic Frost, Slayer, Venom, and the obligatory Black Sabbath as influences.
These cues can be heard in the riffs and muddy production job, but the vocals are where it stands out the most. Clearly inspired by Tom G Warrior with some Tom Araya inflections here and there, guitarist/vocalist Brian Lawrence has a harsh bark with an almost spoken word approach. It can run the risk of sounding bland but it definitely fits the filthy atmosphere in a way that a standard death grunt just couldn’t.
The songwriting is also diverse and covers the doom to thrash spectrum, oftentimes in the same song. The opening “Back From The Dead” and “Dream Death” show more thrash, “The Elder Race” and “Sealed In Blood” offer the most doom, and other like “Bitterness & Hatred” and “Divine In Agony” are a little harder to predict. The results are a mixed bag as four songs are pretty much perfect and the others range from great to somewhat directionless.
A couple lesser songs bring it down a notch, but Journey Into Mystery should be seen as a classic doom release. While there are more influential efforts from this period, its uniqueness makes it worth checking out and it definitely grows on you with repeated listens. And since the band has put out a solid comeback, I suppose we can finally stop wondering what could’ve been.
“Back From The Dead”
“The Elder Race”
“Sealed In Blood”