I remember first hearing about Dream Death back in the early ’90s. I had just begun to listen to Death Metal, and I also started hanging out at the indie record stores on Haight Street (Rough Trade Records and Reckless Records, both of which have long since disappeared into the mists of time). I’d occasionally see their 1987 debut album (Journey Into Mystery) in the racks and I always wanted to check them out. Each time, though, I ended up having to choose between Dream Death and another album that I really wanted (like Blessed Are the Sick or Left Hand Path). I finally got to hear them from a friend who was a tape trader. Their debut album is best described as “Doom/Thrash” because they had a serious Doom influence (all of the members are or were involved with Penance, Mike Smail, the drummer, was also involved with Cathedral and Pentagram). Brian Lawrence, the vocalist/guitarist, has a voice that’s fairly gruff and it comes off as being Hardcore-influenced. Musically, though, they sounded very much like Celtic Frost, sporting a guitar tone that was heavy as fuck. Somnium Excessum, their first full-length LP since reforming and second album overall, isn’t what I expected. Compared to their debut, it’s seriously disappointing. Journey Into Mystery was a bit uneven, but most of the songs were good and the whole album was brutal. This LP still has good sound but the songwriting isn’t there. The transitions are hit-or-miss, sometimes flowing well, but other times sloppy. The riffing is likewise hit-or-miss. Some of the riffs are good, but others are jarring. The combination of sloppy transitions and erratic riffing makes the songs on Somnium Excessum sound thrown together. I don’t know if these guys were rushed or not, but the songs sound like they needed more rehearsal time and a lot more refinement. I listened to this album almost a dozen times, and each time I did, I went in wanting to like it. I kept thinking that I was missing something, but in the end I came away with the idea that this should have been a demo recording instead of an actual album. I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this. Even if you liked the first album, this doesn’t live up to it.
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