Dream Unending – Song of Salvation [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

Almost exactly one year ago, Dream Unending’s debut Tide Turns Eternal dropped out of seemingly nowhere but instantly lived up to the band’s ethereal moniker. Its lush blend of uncompromisingly heavy death doom with a peaceful melodicism made for one of the most chill death metal albums ever. With Song of Salvation, the duo (with several other talented musicians in tow) have doubled down and improved on their expansive sound. Song of Salvation is simultaneously more sprawling and patient, and more urgent than its predecessor. It takes its time weaving its longer compositions, resulting in something that feels (even) more like a single ebbing and flowing whole than the debut. But it also hits more immediately, with higher peaks, and more compelling melodies. It’s a clear step up, though very much in the same vein. As someone for whom TTE held a certain allure, the same but better is just perfect.

Much like TTESoS is overwhelmingly peaceful, but uplifting when it surges to drum-pounding apexes (“Song of Salvation,” “Ecstatic Reign”). While Justin DeTore (Innumerable Forms)’s reverberating funereal growls and dramatic percussion give the music a grounded and magnificent presence, Derrick Vella’s (Tomb Mold) semi-psychedelic, cascading, climbing guitar simultaneously makes things light as air. Riffs recall dappled sunlight on water, a feeling expanded on by the delicate application of piano and synth (David Vella). The enigmatic croon of a trumpet (Leila Abdul-Rauf) that guides “Secret Grief” provides a warm, introspective aura. “Song of Salvation”‘s mid-section—for instance—and the overlapping solos of instrumental “Unrequited” are blissfully tranquil, but stay massive. And the interweaving of it all just feels, well, dreamlike. This isn’t to say it’s a perfect album, but rather that it has an ethereal, immersive quality that’s quite hard to find in death metal.

The album’s expansiveness comes from its deceptively wandering soundscapes that subtly evolve. Outside of whisper-filled interlude “Murmur of Voices,” there are just four movements to this Song of Salvation. Bookends “Song of Salvation” and “Ecstatic Reign”—fourteen and sixteen minutes long respectively—each go through several forms. Atmospheric, powerfully melodic death; crawling funeral doom; fragile, reverberating guitar resounding against a percussionless backdrop. The latter track sees a return both of vocalist McKenna Rae for a breathy beatific bidding, and Richard Poe for answering poetic prose. Whether or not the spiritualism resonates with you, the song is sure to musically. Shorter songs in between provide a hazy, colorful bridge, enhanced by the fact that they are largely instrumental. “Secret Grief”‘s mournful trumpet, yearning cleans (Phil Swanson), and watery chords allow the song to fade into the stillness of “Murmur of Voices.” This in turn provides a calm surface for the escalating, sky-piercing solos of “Unrequited.”

But the album doesn’t just flow beautifully, it is beautiful. Melodies are stirring, and the focus on such melody enables even the more dissonant moments to resonate with the anticipation of collapse into harmony. The music’s full, heavily atmospheric production amplifies every echoing note, every pounding drum, and every build. Song of Salvation is, in a word, spellbinding. A progression of Dream Unending’s sound that once again proves their name.

Tracks to Check Out: All of them. Just do it.

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