After dropping a three-track demo back in 1997, Australian Melodic Death/Black Metal duo Dream Upon Tombs slipped back into the murky mist for over two decades, eventually being “torn from the ether by Jak Shadows and woken from their necromantic slumber.” They released a five-track EP, Marble Nights Of Ecstasy, with material recorded in 1998 during their previous waking. Now that their slumber is fully over, they have released their first studio full-length of all-new material, Palaces Of Dust.
Dream Upon Tombs – Palaces Of Dust (Sleeping Church Records)
Release Date: 3 March 2023
Words: Jools Green
Much has changed over two decades, and for Palaces Of Dust, they are now a trio, modifying their line-up of Jak Shadows on guitar, keys and vocals alongside David, formerly on drums but now covering guitar, keys, strings and bass with the addition of Jarrad Taylor on drums.
Also, those older works, whilst very good, were demo quality, but this time around, the mastering has been done by Dan Swanö at Unisound Studio, and the result is more clarity, depth and richness to the sound but without over-polishing it.
Palaces Of Dust delivers “nine tales of triumph and despair forged from stone and earth.” Opening with The Call, a hauntingly reflective piece delivered at a slow, contemplative pace, gradually intensifying in depth and content on the arrival of the vocals, which have an acidic tone. I love the bleak melody that runs through this deceptively powerful and dark track.
Next up, Hollows Eve has clean but bleakly melancholic riffs, building slightly and developing a rawer blackened feel as the vocals kick in, with subtle melody that breaks through and soars gently above the riffs and vocals at intervals. A dark but sublime listen.
Ghost Of Dawn is also reflective, building into a dark, ominous chug with a melancholic undercurrent and a dark meandering melody coursing beneath the raw vocals and coming to the fore at the end.
Twilight, A Silent Farewell is a short piano interlude, a contemplative listen, leading into On The Shores Of The Brave, which, after the usual reflective opener, builds into a great little melodic blackened plodder, the direction and pace shift and elevate midway in several engaging increments. It’s subtly complex and utterly enthralling.
Carrion Dreams comes in darker and with a more sinister edge. Slow and ominous with protracted acidic vocals that ooze with menace, it has a complex meander, an ebb and build which adds intrigue and interest, just after midway the pace elevating, revealing a noticeable Dissection inspiration to the track.
Twins Of Evil is beautifully melancholic and dark, with complex riffs, poignant pauses, unpredictable ebbs and builds with a haunting fade out. I love how, here and on the other tracks, you can’t assume or predict just where any piece will take you. It’s an album full of surprises.
The Absent Guests is another short, haunting piano piece. “Who doesn’t love a party?” the band say. “Like the echo in an empty room, ghosts of the past usher the sallow face of mortality to its silent shore. You can’t turn away from the shadows as they creep ever closer to your hearth. The black tide will rob you of your humanity and wash away your soul, the only victor will be eternity, and the Banshee will wail deaths song.” Sounds like my kind of party.
Final offering, Of The Mist, returns for one more visit to the initially slow, melancholic mood of its predecessors. Building in pace and intensity towards the mid-point and reaching its blackened zenith towards the close, it is complexly convoluted like many of its predecessors. As well as dark and bleak, it’s filled with enough intrigue that you just can’t tear yourself away.
I have been very impressed with some of the broad-ranging Black Metal hailing from Australia of late, and Palaces Of Dust is no exception. It makes a superb and easy listen end to end and should appeal to fans of a band like Dissection, Unanimated, Vinterland and Katatonia. Available as a CD or digital download from Bandcamp.