Dreamgrave - PresentimentMetal has been extremely retro in the last 5 years. From rethrash to retro death metal, the whole scene has crawled into its proverbial ass in order to wallow in the digested remnants of metal music that is just plain better. Rethrash celebrates the 2.5 years when thrash was the heaviest and most exciting music on the planet. Retro death celebrates a time when bands would scrape together their last Swedish kronor to put a record together that would still sound like total shit. All the bands who wish they were Black Sabbath celebrate a time when amplifiers didn’t actually have overdrive. But all of these celebrated sounds appeal to us because they were authentic: times when newness and creativity gave the world something exciting and special. One such scene for me is the melodic death and black metal scenes of the Scandinavian 1990s. It’s an era when metal was heavy, engaging, abstract, and yet melodic—it felt exciting and new. While not all of the best ideas from this era were executed perfectly at the time, it laid the groundwork for the late ’90s and the early aughts when great metal bands produced great music.

With that background in mind, you should understand what I mean when I popped into Dreamgrave‘s SoundCloud site to listen to the first track on their debut album Presentiment and thought: “Man, this sounds like the fucking ’90s.” It wasn’t really the sound, per se—though admittedly there are a lot of different sounds that one can mix and match when you’re listening to the album—but instead, it oozed passion, tension, excitement and that elusive x factor that so often feels missing from records I review these days. Presentiment has it all in spades: a unique sound, varied writing, excellent melodic presentation, progressive tendencies and the best beauty-and-the-beast vocal duet since Ásmegin‘s Hin vordende sod & sø on opener “Black Spiral.”

The best way to describe Dreamgrave‘s music is likely to say: listen to it yourself. That’s not a cop out, though, it’s a compliment. It’s a compliment for a band that does such a great job of straddling a variety of sounds and influences. Presentiment‘s smattering of different influences is only less impressive than their ability to blend them into a cohesive whole. Opener “Black Spiral” sounds like Ásmegin‘s stellar debut while moments on “The Last Drop Falls” and “False Sense of Confidence” evoke both UnexpectDiablo Swing OrchestraOld Man’s Child and Orphaned Land. This wide variety of influences sounds like it should be scattered or difficult to fuse, but whether rocking My Dying Bride doom, Opeth 6/8 swing, or Anathema ethereal vocal harmonies, Dreamgrave shows a mastery of composition and balance. There are moments that remind me of old school Children of Bodom (“False Sense of Confidence”) and there’s even keyboard tone that reminds me of Saviour Machine—if anyone remembers them.

However, don’t misunderstand me: Dreamgrave is no retro-’90s band. While much of this is feels like putting your feet into a comfortable pair of old shoes, there’s still something more here. Dreamgrave has chops. The songwriting is lively, inventive, and playful, showing a tendency to think laterally while moving between the dour and doomy to the heavy and occasionally even downright black or full-on jazz. The vocal interplay between Mária Molnár and growler/singer Dömötör Gyimesi flows throughout the record and adds layers of interest onto what is already layered and interesting. The song and vocal arrangements are evocative, powerful, and technically impressive—wandering through complex time signatures and lacing them together into epic songs. But there is also a sense of balance on Presentiment; things are in their place, and epic turns never feel forced—it all fits perfectly.

Dreangrave 2014

Critically, I have two major points: while the production is very good for what it is—especially given that it is a self-released album—the record could sound better. An even more “naturally” acoustic sound at times with an even broader dynamic range would make this material sparkle. And since there is no label breathing down Dreamgrave‘s neck about being “competitively loud,” this shouldn’t be an issue. This record is essentially a DR5, though there are tracks that clock in higher1. This is just completely unnecessary. Secondly, while the vocals for me are a strength, there are moments here and there where I think some of the harmonies, phrasing and vocal lines show off that this is not a professional band working with a top-notch producer. In the very opening strains of “Black Spiral” are a couple of strange things that sound a bit off, and the cleans around 5 minutes in “Presentiment” have some strange mismatches that don’t sound intentional or artful. In a record that seems so extremely well performed and produced, these small moments really do offer a distraction that kills immersion.

But these points are hardly deal-breakers: Presentiment is a great record from an emerging and exciting band. Hailing from Hungary, I’m not sure Dreamgrave has much of a scene to speak of, but due to the glories of the Internet they have been able to self-release a digital record that will hopefully get them noticed. If you’re a fan of eclectic, progressive death and doom metal, this is a band to watch and a record to buy.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 [5 w/caveat] | File Format: ALAC
Label: Unsigned
Websites: dreamgrave.comdreamgrave.bandcamp.com
Release Date: October 28th, 2014 [Digitally]

Show 1 footnote

  1. “Presentiment (Part II)” is an atmospheric track which ended up with a DR9, while the ambient introduction has a DR6.
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  • Yegar

    Deliciously doomy and catchy while maintaining a death metal feel at its core(sometimes). Feels a bit like Labyrinth from Fleshgod Apocalypse with some of the approach. Less noisy and slower but damn good in my oppinion. I would like to see where these guys go from here. Good find AMG

    • Glad you dig! I was happy about that, too.

    • RagE

      Talking about the music or the album artwork, in regards to Fleshgod? :P

      • Yegar

        A little of each really. It was a poor analogy for the whole of the album but the way that both of them start up with classical influence before they start punching you in the face was the main similarity.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Its progressive but not to the point where it loses touch to its death core….Some good stuff this…lets see what else they’ve got!

  • Wilhelm

    It’s alright, but I can hardly hear any doom..the first part of the song was too schizo but the second part was better…for whatever reason I expected to hear something like Maudlin of the Well (who were 1000x better).

    • I think I really am not thinking doom, I’m thinking “goth,” and it just got written weirdly.

  • bucaneer

    Interesting. Based on a sample size of 2 (this and Thy Catafalque) it would seem that Hungarians should venture into metal more often.

    Unrelatedly, now that it’s Things You Might Have Missed season, perhaps it’s time for that Cormorant review? I believe twitter promises are legally binding.

    • Kronos

      Pretty sure someone’s called it. You won’t know until December, tough.

    • I got Cormorant as a Thing You Might Have Missed, yeah. Just never got around to it. Been a rough year.

    • Tubbles

      There’s Dalriada in the *very* folky mists.

    • Sear Bliss are Hungarian, too.

  • nunka

    AMG hears Orphaned Land, I hear Dream Theater. So it goes. :)

    Either way, this sounds like a winner. Absolutely picking this one up.

    • Definitely proggy stuff. I actually was thinking more Symphony X. But there are moments, especially like in “The Last Drop Falls” that really remind me of Orphaned Land a lot.

      Glad you like it too!

      • Feytalist

        Holy hell this is good.

        Love the vocals. Love the prog, and the doom(/goth?). Love the jazzy bits. Good find.

        Thanks for sharing it with us :D

  • Need to check this out for sure.

    I will never understand why engineers and/or artists have to take two or three tracks out of what is suppose to be an immersive experience and crush the living daylights out of them. I mean if volume homogeneity is your goal, stick to the plan man!

    • Makes no sense to me, either. Could it be that tracks that have fewer instruments can simply be made louder without having to use as much compression to squash it in?

  • Luke_22

    This sounds like great stuff. After finally discovering the brilliance of Soen courtesy of your review, this sounds like another winner on the prog front. Progressive metal can be very hit or miss for me but man it’s good when it sticks. And those growls are indeed beastly.

  • RagE

    Never heard of em before, but i am digging the first few tracks. Somehow reminding me of Aeternam.

  • euthanatos

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen AMG this excited.

    • Sure you have. But this is really good.

    • Brandon Gurwitz

      Then you didn’t read the review of Opeth’s Pale Communion. Also, this band is fantastically refreshing. I love it.

    • He does get excited. See Beyond Creation’s The Aura, or Solefald’s Norron Livskunst.

  • De2013

    Very suprising record. I am totally amazed by the jazzy parts. And the female vocalist sounds authentic and awesome. Normally, I’m not that a big fan of female vocalists in metal, as most of them are IMO way too over the top, but this is great!

  • strychnin

    reminds me old albums of Silent stream of godless elegy :)

  • solo

    cant believe you didnt mention the Opeth’s Heir Apparent rip off on False Sense of Confidence @3min aprox, being an O fanboy and such
    very good record, glad to have seen it here, encouraged me to check it

  • Requiem

    This album is incredible! I’m in love with it!
    I find their mellow bits the best… Like It’s Ubiqitous, or the beginning of Memento Mori, they just seem to have a knack for crafting epicness in these moments. This is exactly my kind of music m/