Derrick Vella and Justin DeTore are typically known for playing metal defined by its verve and momentum. They’re each death metal vets, Vella a member of Tomb Mold and DeTore having played with Innumerable Forms as well as heavy metal supergroup Sumerlands and trad-doom outfit Magic Circle. But when the duo introduced their debut as Dream Unending, 2021’s Tide Turns Eternal, they put aside those elements of energy and aesthetic violence in favor of music that spoke to deeper emotional truths and a greater reverence for a more conventionally pretty melodic sensibility. Vella admitted to having never written any doom metal songs prior to that album, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it—Dream Unending’s vision guided them to breathtaking terrain right from the start.
They also haven’t applied the brakes since their gorgeously dreamy monolith of psychedelic doom started its forward lurch. Song of Salvation arrives only one year after the band’s debut, written more or less immediately after that album was finished, and it already feels like they’ve leveled up in what feels like only the span of a single breath. Song of Salvation feels at once grander and more immediate, delivering punchier, hookier riffs, but on a grander, more soaring scale. To put it more concisely, Dream Unending are getting even better at an accelerated rate, delivering everything that they do impeccably in even more generous doses.
Song of Salvation is bookended by two monoliths, the title track and 16-minute closer “Ecstatic Reign,” which combined comprise more than two-thirds of the entire album. “Song of Salvation” is a breathtaking 14 minutes of music unto itself, to date the greatest single track in Dream Unending’s still-young catalog, emerging from a progressive, otherworldly guitar riff reminiscent of onetime Emeralds six-stringer Mark McGuire to ascend into something majestic and powerful. It’s also curiously catchy in its swirl of doom metal maximalism and psychedelic dissociation, rare enough on its own but even more of a delight in how the band pulls such a thing off. While “Ecstatic Reign” is only slightly longer, it feels like an even more epic journey within those 16 minutes, connecting melancholy, ringing open chords with Candlemass-ian doom metal majesty, McKenna Rae’s haunting and spectral vocals, a few moments of virtuosic riff showmanship and a mesmerizing swirl into outer realms in its final few minutes. There are albums’ worth of ideas in just these two songs alone, all of them created with an ear for beauty and emotional connection beyond the colossal scope of death-doom metal alone—and let’s be clear, Dream Unending have a knack for the massive.
Yet what the band fits into that center space between the herculean compositions that begin and end Song of Salvation are no less impressive, if subtler and more concise. The meditative “Secret Grief” shimmers beneath a gorgeous trumpet performance from Leila Abdul-Rauf, a musician best known for some rippers of her own via bands like Vastum and Hammers of Misfortune. But here, the group leans away from more recognizable metal tropes for the song’s first half, embracing the glow of a spacious post-rock arrangement before reintroducing a heavier churn. Meanwhile, “Murmur of Voices” provides the album’s shortest piece of music as well as its airiest instrumental, a welcome interlude between each side’s more emotionally demanding material. But the Floydian drift of “Unrequited” builds on the ideas of that slighter track by lending more heft and grandeur to what remains a more ethereal piece of music overall.
Dream Unending is a new enough project that Vella and DeTore haven’t come close to exploring the whole of its potential or its boundaries. What the band ultimately is still feels largely open-ended, and yet through the cosmic pathways of a song like “Song of Salvation,” they reaffirm that both the underlying core of doom and the aesthetic flourishes of prog’s more ethereal sounds and the gothic atmosphere of vintage 4AD records remains essential to what they create. The dream goes on, even as the dreamer is still opening new doors and entering new spaces within it.
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.