A duo coming from bands with incredibly wretched releases Lewis and Clark their way through the unmapped corridors of a new yet familiar kind of doom.
Words by Tyson Tillotson (@tytilly):
As the 1980s bled into the 1990s, the bastard marriage of death metal and doom metal was reaching new heights. Groups like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema were channeling a new and ferocious strain of extremity that would in time give way to experimentation from outside the metal sphere. Bands like the former would flirt with influences ranging from The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Swans, Clan of Xymox and Mortiis to create a grounded yet moving experience to doom metal that brought images of medieval glory and gothic romance. But the black sheep of the Peaceville Three trafficked in something much more esoteric. Anathema very much set themselves apart from Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride as the more adventurous of the three. While they did take influence from many goth and new wave acts, they also took inspiration from old school prog. The scale and grace that they used to craft three master class records, those being Serenades, The Silent Enigma and Eternity, would bleed down to the rest of the underground as groups like Katatonia, Celestial Season, Tiamat and even pioneering funeral doom acts like Skepticism, Esoteric and Evoken could draw inspirational water from this well of atmospheric grandeur. But where does this all lead coming into the year 2021? Unknowingly, it’s the metal and non-metal experiments that have abounded since the late 1980s that would spark the fire in two contemporary death metal musicians to forge and brand themselves with a new genre tag. That band is Dream Unending and the genre in question is dream doom.
Comprised of guitarist/bassist Derrick Vella (Tomb Mold, Outer Heaven) and drummer/vocalist Justin DeTore (Innumerable Forms, Sumerlands), Dream Unending came together in a humble beginning. After a long period of time knowing each other from gigging and things, the duo set forth the idea of creating a doom metal oriented project that would be monstrously heavy but at the same time mine the emotional ore that one finds in old school goth rock. From the outset, most influences that they discussed include most of if not all of the bands and artists that I mentioned previously with the inclusion of the almighty Pink Floyd to round things out. As Vella lives in Canada and DFJ in the States, they had to work meticulously to craft their vision, and then the pandemic hit, which no doubt provided some well-deserved artistic blossoms of creation. But what the duo also wanted to keep in mind is that they did not want to add more darkness to what was already being presented to the contemporary extreme metal scene. Instead, they turned to more spiritual and dare I say uplifting material so that the record seems more like a statement of hope rather than one of pure dread and negativity. Many of us throughout the last year and a half have felt so much negativity and nihilism that oftentimes the nihilistic and darkest of metal could not really pull us out of the mire. But this is where Tide Turns Eternal is different.
As opening track Entrance begins, the heavily reverberated 12 string guitar conjures mental images of floating through a twilight sky with Tiamat’s Wildhoney and The Cure’s Disintegration in your playlist. Synth work courtesy of Vella’s father David floats high in the stratosphere before the opening bass notes of Adorned in Lies creeps in. The 12 string and bass complement nicely as occasional taps of the ride cymbal give way to a funereal awakening and DeTore’s opening growl. The six strings enter and the track enters dirge laden Esoteric territory, preferring to stay in its charted course and allowing you to be transported higher into the heavens. A mid paced chug reveals itself while remaining slow and strictly in the funeral doom arena. While funeral doom bands of days past have incorporated clean guitars into their sound, Vella and DeTore make masterful use of the 12 string to add an impenetrable layer of dreaminess to sound as if Cocteau Twins and Thergothon were having a jam session. Although I’m pretty sure Liz Frazer would never get down to a song like Everlasting, Dream Unending can give us that kind of musical fan fiction as the song drifts away after an elegantly played Holdsworthian solo from Vella.
In Cipher I Weep begins with an almost YOB centric bass line before siren song guitars cut through like Calvin Robertshaw and Andrew Craighan from 1993 just walked through a time warp. DFJ returns to bring his ghostly growls back to the forefront as the song dips its toes into near darkwave territory with gutturals still remaining at the center. Soaring guitars and a trip down Double Bass Lane greet you at the half way point of the song before the duo return once again to that really Floydian meets Dead Can Dance type of ambience. Feelings of wistfulness AND bliss fill your thoughts as a solo works its way into the proceedings with the loving warmth of your mother bringing you a bowl of soup on a cold snowy morning. Then, you get the album’s first taste of real speed as it goes right into pure death doom and yet never leaves you with a feeling of dread. It’s a natural progression that works greatly with the atmosphere the rest of the track has built before it ends on some really hearty tremolo picking.
Following song The Needful may be shorter, but the unbridled magic continues on in masterful form. This is perhaps the most Anathema sounding track on the LP, something that could’ve been on something like Eternity or Alternative 4 if they had harsh vocals. Dream Unending knew exactly which musical gemstones to pick for this diadem of heavenly doom and their mastery of that is on full display on this track. The Gilmour esque lead towards the latter end of the song brings to mind what it was like hearing The Wall for the first time. Soon, a whirlwind of ambience sends you spiraling back up into the mesosphere.
The band’s eponymous track is the longest on the record, clocking in at 11 minutes, and is a hulk of a song. The funeral doom influences from Mournful Congregation and Ahab are felt most strongly on this track than any previous one as the cleans drift like phantoms on the breeze waiting to carry you across the Styx. Double bass and chugging reenter the equation to work as a primal, celestial force in sonic form to keep everything from moving too slowly before THE MOST pure Dead Can Dance meets Disembowelment’s Cerulean Transience of All My Imagined Shores type of section comes in to really slam your feels into the ground. Then, you hear the haunting narration of audiobook reader and actor Richard Poe reciting a poem penned by Vella to really drive home the feeling of 90’s doom’s resurrected state in the 2020’s. DFJ’s blighted death roars return to break up the heavenly host as we descend back a little towards the earth. The reason I say this is simply because the record never seems to leave the upper parts of the heavens. It remains firmly planted in a celestial sphere while also remaining as planet shattering as anything else in the doom world. Whereas Worm’s Foreverglade was content this year to dwell in the swamps and mausoleums of the world, Tide Turns Eternal wishes to remain in the many mansions of the galaxies above us.
Interlude track Forgotten Farewell serves as a great bridging of Mournful Congregation and My Bloody Valentine’s self titled record from 2013 to punch a real dreamy hole in your psyche before the final offering of dream doom perfection. The album’s closing title track goes into a sort of melancholic Pallbearer type of introduction before diverting into a world inhabited by This Mortal Coil and Deerhunter. Double bass drumming from DFJ returns to get the blood quickening as Vella’s gigantic guitar tones that almost bring trad doomers The Gates of Slumber to mind keep you invested in the affairs at hand. The drums stop at a point to allow a passage that sounds like a more heavenly track that could’ve been on Like Gods of the Sun. It chimes in before the 12 string wraiths and female vocals courtesy of McKenna Rae come right out of the cirrus clouds of your imagination, drawing comparisons to The Great Gig in the Sky. The doom returns once more to end things on an incredibly triumphant note that ends as beautifully as it began.
Tide Turns Eternal marks another standout release for not only 20 Buck Spin but as a true testament to the genre of doom from Dream Unending. Despite not even being in the same country as each other, the project from DeTore and Vella have created a hybrid of headiness and heaviness that will most certainly attract listeners from not only the metal world but outside as well. It has the kind of cross genre appeal and influence as an album like Sunbather, and while Vella has always been a very humble person to acknowledge his own work, I stand by that statement. While the group have shown appreciation for their forebears, they are also able to carve out their own identity in this sound. This could be the eventual tipping point for many people outside of the metal realm to finally dip their toes into extreme doom, and even though this will only probably be labeled as a gothic doom or a death doom record, I’m 100 percent all in favor of bands going forward into the mists of hopefulness and wishing to champion the dream doom tag. If this is to be the next big genre in metal, then I have a feeling we’re in for many more revivals of this type of sound that can and will produce classics of high caliber with Tide Turns Eternal being the Father Time of the subgenre’s existence. All we can do now is dream on…
Tide Turns Eternal arrives on November 19th via 20 Buck Spin. Pre-order it HERE.