Album Review: Dreaming Dead – Midnightmares [9 out of 10]

By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal

After what seemed like an eternity, Los Angeles’ very own Dreaming Dead have finally released their sophomore album “Midnightmares”. The trio of Elizabeth Schall on guitar and vocals, Michael Caffell on drums and Juan Ramirez on bass has been steadily rising in the LA underground scene. I discovered them when they opened up for Nile at the House of Blues, Hollywood in February 2010, and since then, I’ve kept an eye on their activities. “Midnightmares” is an album that’s been in the making for a long time now, and I’m glad it has now seen the light of day. It serves as the follow-up to the “Within One” album which was released in 2009, and the progress they’ve made in their musicianship over these last three years is clearly evident on this new album.

The short instrumental piece “Wake” introduces the album, and leads into “Overlord”, a song that’s been around on the internet for the best part of two years now. But still, it’s great to hear a proper studio version of it now. Elizabeth Schall’s guitar work is exemplary, and the vocals, reminiscent of Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier, lock in with the music perfectly. This excellent tune creates a death/thrash kind of vibe. The title track comes next, and while it carries the same vibe forward to a large extent, it’s more technical and progressive as compared to “Overlord”. In contrast, the following track “Exile” is more compact and straightforward, and even though it has thrashy segments, the death metal element is perhaps most prominent in this tune than anywhere else in the album.

Up to track #4, things are exactly as I expected from this Dreaming Dead album, but after that, the album takes a drastic turn and there is a huge shift in the musical style, albeit a brief one. “In Memoriam” is an instrumental track that sounds like something that would be on a virtuosic guitar album rather than an extreme metal release, and it allows Elizabeth Schall to express herself freely on the guitar. The longest track on the album, it builds up quite beautifully, with Schall’s riffs gradually picking up speed and intensity, leading into some ripping solos. The next tracks “Lapse”, “Into The Depths” and “Corpse Mountain” bring back the vocals, and with it the extreme metal element, while still keeping the virtuosity of “In Memoriam” intact. The album comes to an end with yet another brilliant instrumental, “Departure”, very aptly titled when you consider the disparity between this tune and the rest of the album in terms of musical styles. “Departure” comes across as a purely delightful piece of music, and you don’t even need to be a metal fan to be able to appreciate this one.

Overall, I feel this album presents Dreaming Dead as a more unified and coherent entity, and even though there are variations within it, it’s an extreme metal album for the most part. The songwriting is a lot tighter and more compact as compared to “Within One”, and as a result, the new album is musically richer than its predecessor. The instrumental tracks “In Memoriam” and “Departure” are a welcome bonus, and they give added depth to the music on here. In case you’re a first-timer who has never heard of the band before, I’d strongly recommend you to check out this album, because it has the ability to take you by surprise.

In my humble opinion, Dreaming Dead might just be the best thing to happen to the LA underground metal scene, and all you need to do in order to reach the same conclusion is listen to “Midnightmares”.

Rating: 9/10

Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: April 20th 2012

Track Listing:
1. Wake
2. Overlord
3. Midnightmares
4. Exile
5. In Memoriam
6. Lapse
7. Into the Depths
8. Corpse Mountain
9. Departure