With pine branches raking my arms and whipping my face as I ran frantic in the dark, the sinking ease of wet loam slowing my escape from an unknowable dark force, a perfect upright wedge of rock and outcropping slicked by rain presented itself in the clearing. It became a mountain as I reached and ran up its peak out of options. There the dream would snap shut and I’d awake for roughly three nights, the terror of it and whatever had been chasing me was too intense to see through. On the final and most lucid night I’d begun to feel an ecstatic thrill in the throes of capture, it all felt very real — The scent of pine, the ozone of the air, the impending defeat and the unseen horror I still cannot know. There at the peak I’d made a choice that’d been irreconcilable, impossible to reverse. I’d jumped, given myself to the weight of fall, and died in my dream. The nightmare couldn’t return even when willed by typically effective Salvia divinorum and (later) extensive use of Calea zacatechichi and by some daimonian will, I could no longer dream (or, recall any dream) for nearly ten years. The sensation of dreaming became a depressive longing, a feeble prayer to a hundred different gods plaguing my thoughts before sleep with hope that my subconscious would reopen its snapped-shut gates that night. The way out? The breakthrough beyond? It’d not been drugs or psychotherapy but listening to music, sometimes for hours into the night before sleep or delirium hit, that’d brought back the lost connection of soma to psyche. What’d it been? Death metal of the atmospheric variety which’d been on the uptick towards ~2013 or so. This debut full-length from Roman quartet Bedsore, ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ takes me back to that freshly resewn moment, the Self reattached and freed of travail. Morbid as it is gracefully presented, theatrical and exuberant beneath belts of muscle and dripping psychedelic textures, this ~40 minute progressive, atmospheric death metal form endears beyond belief with touches of ancient death/doom, slithering psychedelia, and ethereal post-rock.
That is to say that the promise of their self-titled demo (‘Bedsore‘, 2018) is expanded, fulfilled and lit afire in realization of ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’, a record that takes Morbus Chron‘s ‘Sweven’ to heart and applies its own sense of grisly psychedelia to that infamous prog-infused death metal lilt. The stream of consciousness, altered and swaying far beyond the loud-quiet-loud dynamic I’d suggested back in 2018, that flows from Bedsore today proved remarkably difficult to follow to start. That is to say that as soon as I’d follow them into the deepest, warmest cave they’d have warped to another dimension entirely, the passage from one point to another isn’t always obvious. This is much more akin to the sort of 70’s progressive rock album that’d peaked near the (similar heights) of bombastic motion picture soundtrack sound design nearby where each piece of that official soundtrack was a vignette into a scene with scene, setting, actors and atmospheric presence in mind. If approached as a pure death metal album ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ and its willful, painterly vignettes will certainly feel apropos in placement next to great progressive death metal works but the genius of its movement from piece to piece has no true bedfellow in that sphere.
Of course this record just had to release the same year as the absolute nuclear event that is Sweven‘s ‘The Eternal Resonance’ so, any soulful rant anyone might’ve been able to spew along the lines of “a true successor to…” can’t apply here. Instead I would suggest that ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ is very real and very righteous evidence of underground death metal being an amorphous collective consciousness that’d hold onto remarkable (and frankly underrated, in need of reissue) records like ‘Sweven’ and carry that thread in a non-literal sense. When considering the individuals crafting it, of course this is a personal record unconcerned with serving another’s lineage or supplying a vacant, under-served hole in death music. It does however stroke with great vigor the part of my brain that’d gone bonkers for recent records by Execration, Venenum and Ghastly. Call it psychedelic death metal if you will much of Bedsore‘s album ventures beyond squishy psychedelic moments and drugged consciousness towards surrealism; The introduction of the album, “The Gate, Disclosure (Intro)” appears lightly inspired by early Goblin soundtrack work though less Profondo Rosso (1975) and more Suspiria (1977); As the piece builds we veer into bombast and rapture that might be more fittingly akin to a more ‘metal’ John Carpenter theme without losing ear for the cinema of the introduction. Simple as this may be as opening fanfare it becomes remarkably effective foreshadowing for the voice of the guitar work and in preparation for the incredible first piece, which appears by way of swarming guitar lines and the stirring, unnerving shout of a zombie army.
“The Gate, Closure (Sarcoptes Obitus)” is no subtle entrance, storming through numerous riffs and melodic segments in a matter of three minutes and simply dropping off at the moment of greatest impact before flitting away with a clean guitar passage. This is brilliance in action as most death metal bands would plainly expand that idea by repeating it three or four times in a six minute song, instead you’ll have to listen to the song again if you want to revisit that gorgeous spike of activity or, why not give the whole album a spin on repeat for hours and marvel at the myriad ideas as they pass? The full listen becomes a narrative, a set of vignettes transposing wondrous celestial aches with horrifying, constantly ramping ‘old school’ death metal movements.
When considering only the pure death metal moments of ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ you’ll get hints of several generations deep refinements applied to the core elements birthed by Autopsy and Death within. This notion informs textures and attack more than composition which is probably more akin to early Sentenced or Atrocity, sharply melodic and at their most technical. This only applies to certain moments, though, with “Deathgazer” and “Cauliflower Growth” featuring most classic ‘Human’ rhythms in terms of guitar work, the latter of which also features stunning vocals and synth work from Giorgio Trombino of Assumption. Yet all of this falls like bloody teeth from a dead mouth when approaching “At the Mountains of Madness”, a ~9 minute piece that feels as if it were two worlds transgressed and then combined in a third act. It is a grand fusion at the very least, looking beyond typical progressive death metal and surface-level psychedelia and applying those greatest strengths to a piece that is bold and bravest in going wherever it wants. The cinema of it all wouldn’t be possible without subtle narrative framing, and perhaps that’d be the reason it’ll be a challenging piece (and album as a whole) for traditional death metal fandom, the verve of the full listen isn’t obviate or overstated.
Subtly-stated yet intensely flamboyant in expression? Forward-thinking yet with great reverence for the old ways? I figure it’ll all appear as crossed wires on my part but you’ll have to almost hit the slow-motion button in your mind as ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ bears its exuberant, cosmic blast of bold ideas without catering directly to the part of our brains that requires repetition. The necessary repetition comes from repeated listening and I figure only a certain sort of listener will see the blossom ready to open before the third or fourth listen. The bluntness of the rhythm guitar tone will help to smack the death metal fiend unto attention and Marco S‘ (Necromorbus Studio, Demonomancy) mix/master places its rotten sound near the middle of the record’s resonance while boosting the leads and cleans enough that the Cynic-esque smoothing of songs like “Disembowelment of the Souls (Tabanidae)” don’t rescind in statement. I’d loved the bass performance on this song in particular and generally wanted more of it during longer pieces where the flourish might count a bit more. The greater rendering of ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ feels organic in presence, a wooden hall with a great pulpit for the shouts and roars to echo diagonally below from while the guitars pan details left and right providing direction for the wandering soul of the music as it bleeds through each piece. A debut record that isn’t glossy or overdone, never pompously technical but surely accomplished and intuitively achieved in both atmosphere and performance is such a rarity and deserves some celebration for its subversion of norms, noncompliance with barriers.
What Bedsore have done here on their debut meets the high expectations I’d placed upon them when examining their demo tape a couple years ago. It may not appear as a classic ‘riff’ album to start but I’d suggest the amount of detail here on is par with that of greatest intensity and that all details are not possible to absorb in a single sitting. Beyond the pleasing atmospheric textures and incredibly dramatic presence of the performances within ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ wins me over in terms of artistic direction bearing intuitive dreamscapes by way of Timo Ketola for the cover artwork, a blistering logo from Samu Salovaara (Emptiness Productions, ex-Swallowed) and their alignment with 20 Buck Spin making all of it not only possible but stunning beyond expectation in terms of physical product that lives up to the music within. Bedsore‘s first trip is absolutely worth getting to know in great depth and though it will foremost appeal to listeners seeking apeiron-yanked celestial death metal sauntering, there is great potential for its detailed innards to eventually spill out upon folks interested in classic progressive death metal permutation. ‘Hypnagogic Hallucinations’ is an essential listen for 2020 and as such I’ve given highest possible recommendation of it.
|LABEL(S):||20 Buck Spin|
|RELEASE DATE:||July 24th, 2020|
|BUY/LISTEN/STREAM:||Bandcamp [All Formats]|
Progressive Death Metal,
Atmospheric Death Metal
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