Artist: Dream Death
Title: Journey Into Mystery
Label: New Renaissance Records
Review by Tërrørgåsm
This one is a true classick, and for this review, the timeline is an important factor in considering the material presented. In 1988, I was just starting the 6th grade and had discovered the writing of H.P. Lovecraft in the school library; he had immediately become my favourite writer, and my mind was constantly immersed in the arcane realms of eldritch cosmic horror and obsessed with necrotic rituals, haunted by undying beasts, in addition to coming into the age of understanding, and rebelling against, the authority figures in this life. A neighborhood friend’s older brother, a gangly, loner-type, Hessian metalhead named Alec, who kept dead animals in his room and carved skulls into the walls, had several records which held my awe (my own fraternal older brother had introduced me to metal before I even started school), among them Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Venom, but the one which stuck out most to me was “Journey Into Mystery” by Dream Death, with its eerie, occult cover art portending the sinister strains of deathly doom to be found within its folds.
Creepy as it all was, being in the chambers of this nerdy kid’s room with him and his brother felt like being initiated into some elite cult, and as I listened to the frantic howls and enraged screams tear through the speakers, shouting lyrics about undead revenge, unholy secrecies, and fantastic, supernatural horror, I knew I’d ventured into a life-changing territory of extreme metal.
I should mention that at that point, I’d not been schooled in the works of the almighty Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, so the bewitching tempos of anti-harmonic riff structure with the plodding blend of dismal doom and ripping thrash metal was entirely unique to me; indeed, this material still holds a singular thrall over me decades later.
Bands like Darkthrone and Obituary would later take this formula to even heavier extremes, but even listeners already informed by such alumni should still be impressed, if not captivated, by such furiously chaotic tunes like “Back From The Dead” and “Black Edifice”, with the swirling, off-kilter time signatures and dissonant melodies, the weirdly catchy vocal hooks in that unnervingly sing-song pattern straight out of a nightmare, akin to the chanting of the possessed victims in Raimi’s Evil Dead.
The lyrics and vocals are largely full of rotten cheese, and delivered with bloody tongue in cheek in the tradition of Alice Cooper and King Diamond; no complaints should be lodged for this by any sincere fan of dark heavy metal. Some of the material may come across as particularly jejune in this department (The revenge fantasy of “Back From The Dead” sounds as if it might be delivered by a resentful child; the crude rendering of “Bitterness And Hatred” prevents it from being a serious bit of social commentary, and the chorus of “Dream Death”? It’s hard not to laugh.) But just try not to sing along!! It’s all really madly catchy.
There are a few moments along the way where the pace seems to drag a bit, as the disparate melding of doom and thrash metal is stretched over five or six minutes on each track, making it hit-and-miss for some, but every song holds up well for my ears, with even the longest and most plodding number, “Sealed In Blood” being irresistible with its tale of sadistic vampirism adroitly woven with slow to fast riffing and raspy shouted vocals.
This is truly a beast of an album, that should be appreciated for its dark scope by any fans of classic heavy metal, particularly the bands referenced.