posted on 1/2009 By:
Dreaming Dead formerly went by the rather lackluster moniker Manslaughter. Though they released a noteworthy EP under that banner, the band evidently decided that being one of four or five Manslaughters of various nationalities wasn’t such a wise career move (hear that, Guillotine?). These L.A. denizens embody two current trends in metal that I wholeheartedly support. First, they’re one of those increasingly common extreme metal acts whose exact subgenre allegiance is difficult to pin down. Like Withered or the later releases of Anaal Nathrakh and Pig Destroyer, Dreaming Dead mix and match their influences to serve their songwriting instead of simply stamping out riffs with a fretboard cookie press—death metal, thrash, black metal and a solid dose of understated melody all compete pleasantly for attention here. Second, Dreaming Dead includes two female members who—wait for it—AREN’T VOCALISTS OR KEYBOARD PLAYERS. Wonder of wonders. To be fair, Elizabeth Schall does handle most vocal duties for the band, but she and Leslie Medina comprise a damn solid guitar duo, and it’s refreshing to see more ladies stepping up into the instrumental spotlight.
And, like any good metal album, Within One places guitarwork squarely at center stage. Though Dreaming Dead isn’t exactly forging recklessly into new territory by fusing together a number of metallic riffing styles, they do so with brains and aplomb. Though Within One has few truly mindblowing moments, the album is full of clever segues and nifty modulations, like the gradual shift from swinging, vaguely progressive groove (think Back to Times of Splendor-era Disillusion) to thrash-blast in “Shadows in the Dark.” Follow-up “Cursed” employs a similar tactic, but instead of a choppier thrash feel, the song bursts into seething Naglfar-style melodic black metal. Schall and Medina’s capacity for transitioning gracefully from ringing, open chords to tight-wound uptempo passages without abandoning underlying melodies lends Within One a decidedly epic feel, particularly on the seven-minute “Putrid in the Sky.” The track is as close as Within One gets to a real album highlight, and it shows off Dreaming Dead’s marvelously cohesive riffing. Schall’s vocals and the Juan Ramirez/Mike Cafelli rhythm section are both more than adequate, but they generally play a supporting role throughout the album. The album’s clear but frugal production helps to ensure that the listener’s attention is going to remain squarely in one place.
Though I obviously dig what these guys are doing, I’ve gotta be honest: this disc is seriously in need of at least one true knockout cut. Within One frustrates me because Dreaming Dead are one of those right-on-the-cusp-of-badassery bands who are just a few fortuitous songwriting choices away from writing a killer album…but I’m praising with faint damns here. This shit is well-crafted, well-played, well-produced, and solid through and through. Though old-schoolers might get their Depends in a bunch over Within One’s modern feel, omnivorous riff freaks in search of an awesome guitar-centric album need look no further.
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