When a band is so damn trve they make their fans wait 16 years for a follow up album, you know you’re dealing with some real hard asses. Quicksand Dream is their name, and the waiting game is their…game. They burst on the epic metal scene back in 2000 with their disastrously titled Aelin – A Story About Destiny debut, and though that name was like a poke in the eye, there was no denying the righteous Cirith Ungol and Brocas Helm worshiping within. It was a sound so completely lost up the ass of metal history that it became the very embodiment of “cult” and doomed the band to self inflicted obscurity. Needless to say, the long hiatus caused their small but fierce fan base to assume they were sleeping with Cthulu in R’lyeh, dead but dreaming, but lo and behold, they’ve returned with sophomore opus Beheading Tyrants. And they sound like a older, harder version of the band few once knew. Yes, it’s still olden metal worship but with a more diverse, complex execution and greater heft and power. The only thing missing is a shirtless barbarian on the cover, but we’ll overlook that for now.
Opener “Daughters of Eve” begins with tasteful noodling ripped from the 70s proto-metal era and they slowly get their Cirith on from there, with guitar screeches, Geezer Butler approved bass thumpery and classic old school metal vocals (i.e. not technically sound but still captivating and commanding). It’s still music so lost in the past it almost seems new again, but now there are hints of Slough Feg appearing in the riffing to give it a more “modern” vibe. Things get even better on “Cloud of Screams” which is a smoking rock-show with the bass-heavy swagger of classic Black Sabbath. It’s got an irresistible swing and groove that hooks you and drags you back to the earliest days of metal. The guitar noodling is very Sabbath-friendly and shades of Iommi are plentiful.
“The Shadow That Bleeds” is an odd duck of a tune, approximating what Icarus Witch would sound like if mated with Hammers of Misfortune and Wildhoney era Tiamat. As you try to get your mind around that, I’ll just say it’s both awkward, clunky, somehow endearing and so very fookin metal. The Hammers of Misfortune and Slough Feg influence crop up thereafter too, especially on “The Girl From the Island,” making for another brisk, memorable kult gem. The standout is definitely lengthy closer “To Kill Beneath the Sun,” which is so good it shames the rest of the otherwise solid material. Here the band crafts the ultimate expression of their musical vision and it’s a sight to behold, full of moody guitar musings, epic peaks and doomy valleys. Hell, there’s even a Viking-era Bathory vibe floating within, and it’s the rare long song I wish was longer.
All 7 songs are fun, classic stuff with a lot going on musically, but after a 16 year delay, the band kind of set themselves up for some unreasonably high expectations, and at 31 minutes, Beheading Tyrants seems a bit miserly. They certainly got the sound and mix right though, with a deep, rich production that lets the guitars and bass pop and crackle, while the drums sounds as organic and powerful as they should for this kind of metal, almost like they do on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus.
The bass and guitar are both handled by Patrick Backlund, and he’s expert at getting that classic Cirith Ungol sound from both instruments. It’s a weird, rickety, awkward sound, with the bass loud and present and the guitars high and trebly, but damn if it doesn’t work. His guitar noodlings are very entertaining, especially on “To Kill Beneath the Sun,” and something about his playing is almost too metal for its own good. Göram Jacobson is an unusual vocalist. At times he reminds me of Bobby Liebling (Pentagram) and other times Mike Scalzi (Slough Feg). His voice has improved enormously since the debut and his older, grittier delivery fits the music like a steel glove. I’m also a big fan of the understated druming by Henrik Högl. He has a certain flair to his playing even though much of what he does is mid-paced and unhurried.
Few ever heard of Quicksand Dream, fewer still expected to hear from them again, but the horde is back at the gates and they want you to come outside to “talk.” If you’ve been missing your required dose of trvness and alpha male metal, this is a testosterone injection and a half. In other words – oil the Sword of Wengeance, unleash the dögves of war and go find you some evil tyrants. Remain in the Hall!