There are times when I like to enjoy some very legal Pennsylvania marijuana and take the hottest shower I can handle before going to sleep. The effects of all of that is a sensation like I’m floating, entering into a strange dream state even though I’m wide awake and letting myself drift off to wherever it takes me. I don’t advise operating machinery when this happens, so we’re clear.
That experience is one that I feel without the benefits of drugs and steam when experiencing “Song of Salvation,” the incredible new record from death/doom duo Dream Unending that follows last year’s “Tide Turns Eternal.” The leap from record one to two is astonishing, and that holds even more power considering how great their debut is. The band—guitarist/bassist Derrick Vella (Outer Heaven, Tomb Mold), drummer/vocalist Justin DeTore (Sumerland, Innumerable Forms)—enters into a mystical land of frost and fog, strange transmissions, and the thorns of death and doom that feel like they stretch the lifespan of all heavy metal. They’re also joined by noted metal luminaries (we’ll introduce them later) to help realize their visions and create an atmosphere that stands on its own as something that’ll infect your cells and make it impossible to shake its power.
The record has epic numbers as bookends, the first being the opening title track that runs 14:05 and trickles into guitars launching and growls lurching. The murky coldness keeps getting thicker, the condensation on your limbs freezing you as mystical playing makes you see visions, and then the grisly powers open again. Dark, steamy trudging has its way, the howls penetrate your psyche, and the final minutes work to fully disorient you as it dissolves into mystery. “Secret Grief” features Phil Swanson (Hour of 13, ex-Sumerlands, myriad other bands) and Leila Abdul-Rauf on trumpet, and everything moves quietly and cleanly, giving you comfort that feels a little unsettling. The heat envelops as the horns haunt, strong and hypnotic playing is a bed for the clean vocals and growls to intermingle, and everything is engorged before ending abruptly.
“Murmur of Voices” is a brief interlude built with clean guitars bubbling, warm winds blowing, and whispers jarring you from sleeping, pulling into instrumental track “Unrequited” that melts into the rocks and soil. An elegant ambient glaze drizzles as the guitars burn deeply, synth clouds spread, and the body feels like it’s rising into outer space, floating endless among the stars. Closer “Ecstatic Reign” is the longest track, running 16:03 and trudging open, leaving muddy bootsteps behind. Growls pummel, but that aggression is encapsulated in dreamy interference, McKenna Rae’s (Phantom Divine, Revelry) gentle calls as The Implorer making the tension calm and your mind able to wander. The playing reignites later, bursts of lava blazing the night sky, a doomy pall covering the land and bringing on the cold. Max Klebanoff (also of Tomb Mold) twists his howls with DeTore’s as the pressure gets heavier, and then Richard Poe enters as The Dreamer, narrating and haunting. “The search continues, the dance lasts forever, can you hear the song that plays?” he implores as the final bursts of fury register, the growls engulf, and the swarming leads bring this dream to a stunning end.
Dream Unending’s artistic output seems not of this world, an environment seemingly only accessible in slumber or when indulging in mind-altering experiences. “Song of Salvation” exists on its own island, a piece that I’m not sure any other band in heavy music could equal, a vision that entrances and pulls you into their world with electricity and numbing energy that spills right into your brain. This is an indescribable experience, though we tried to convey what we felt, and it must be absorbed to fully understand exactly the impact it holds. And like a drug, the journey is likely to be radically different for everyone.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.instagram.com/thedreamisunending/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/dreamunending
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin