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Dreaming Dead - "Midnightmares" (CD)

Dreaming Dead - "Midnightmares" CD cover image

"Midnightmares" track listing:

1. Wake
2. Midnightmares
3. Overlord
4. Corpse Mtn
5. In Memoriam
6. Lapse
7. Into The Abyss
8. Exile
9. Departure

Reviewed by on June 22, 2012

"Although the influence of such bands as Death becomes obvious on some songs, the group deserves praise for offering more than copy-machine outtakes of bands from Gothenburg, Sweden."

Dreaming Dead gathers a wide range of influences to create their own version of melodic death metal on “Midnightmares.” The Los Angeles band’s sophomore recording is a display of bludgeoning old school death metal, prog death precision and gleaming, oft-melancholy notes. Although the influence of such bands as Death becomes obvious on some songs, the group deserves praise for offering more than copy-machine outtakes of bands from Gothenburg, Sweden. This is not to say that the group hasn’t felt Gothenburg’s seemingly omnipresence. Elizabeth Schall’s mid-tone screams surely draw parallels to Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow.

At the risk of being deemed a sexist, my opinion is that most female leads can’t reach deep into their bowels to produce growls fit for a death metal band. There are a few who deliver such as Rachel Van Mastrigt-Heyzer (formerly of Sinister) and Simone Pluijmers of Cerebral Bore. While Schall projects her voice with a similar pitch as Gothenburg’s high rollers, she lacks their depth and breadth. Band mate Juan Ramirez backs up her up in some places, which works to add greater depth, and he doesn’t over lend to the point of being annoying. The band is at its best during instrumental bridges or full-on instrumental tracks, such as “Wake” and “In Memoriam.”

Besides some of their rhythms jutting into the heavy end of melodic death metal’s spectrum, much like At The Gates, Dreaming Dead saves melody for instrumentals and intros. “Wake,” “In Memoriam” and “Departure” appear as pieces of a story involving one’s journey into the afterlife. Ghostly sounds, possibly sounds of the dead, initiate each track. Shimmering, acoustic chords provide the album an effective epilogue on “Departure.” Bass solos and guitar progression pay homage to the late, great Chuck Schuldiner a la “The Sound of Perseverance.” Ramirez plays his bass hard during these sections, with Schall backing him up with ringing guitar chords. The group slowly builds the tempo until around the middle of the song, when they erupt with blistering solos and ferocious drum beats.

The speed and aggressiveness found in the second part of “In Memoriam” is ever-present on “Exile.” This track has more in common with Malevolent Creation and Morbid Angel than Opeth or Arch Enemy. “Corpse Mountain” is a bit more tempered in pace, moving between semi-auto-projected breakdowns and full-speed-ahead blasting. One would expect nothing short of brutality on a song bearing such a title.

“Midnightmares” is a good album, but could be much better. Greater use of melody within songs would inject the music with a wider variety of moods, rather than using melody as a tool for instrumentals. Any educated listener shouldn’t mistaken Dreaming Dead for Arch Enemy, but the two share commonalities in both music and voice, so comparisons are valid. If I had to choose between the two, I would definitely pick Dreaming Dead, because they take an extreme approach that Arch Enemy has lost somewhere in the past decade.

Highs: Dreaming Dead's music is catchy, melodic and brutal, all at the same time.

Lows: "Midnightmares" could benefit from more melody other than mere intros and instrumentals. Additionally, Schall's voice sounds strained.

Bottom line: "Midnightmares" is worth picking up. It's a good album, but it could be better.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)