Let’s start by prefacing, Tide Turns Eternal is so good, it took two Decibel writers to bring this Dream Unending feature to you. My colleague, Chris Dick, and I both are big fans of the record.
Chris in his own words about the album says, “When Decibel initially heard Dream Unending’s Tide Turns Eternal, a few thoughts came to our aging minds. While others have picked up and elaborated on the so-called Peaceville 3, there really hasn’t been one in recent memory (last 10 years) that captured what the trio—Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema—as a collective had intended sonically. Indeed, we’ve had our favorites—from Saturnus and Novembers Doom to Draconian and Mourning Beloveth—but they pivoted on different things that made them unique. Dream Unending, a “fever dream,” developed by Derrick Vella (Tomb Mold) and Justin DeTore (Innumerable Forms) is similar. The daring Canadian/U.S. duo isn’t so much about exacting the sound out of albums like Gothic, As the Flower Withers, and Serenades. Rather, it’s more space and time winding their deft hands through Dream Unending’s debut full-length Tide Turns Eternal. This just feels like it had life in another time.
From ‘Adorned In Lies’ and ‘The Needful’ to ‘Dream Unending’ and stunning title track, Tide Turns Eternal stretches outward hazily. Perhaps the sentiment explored—with a modicum of brutality—is more like a foggy cemetery on a cold autumn day. Or, a dream that feels nostalgic and melancholic but somehow tangible enough to wake the sleeper. Surely, fans of the Peaceville 3, as well as vintage Septicflesh and Ras Algethi, will hear and feel this. Even the cover art, colors (blue and orange), and font are something ripped out of the heart of Peaceville’s short-lived vanity label Dreamtime. That early ’90s foreign feel is real!”
To echo Chris, Vella and DeTore’s efforts as Dream Unending wonderfully convey the aura of early gothic doom. In addition to these metallic tropes, the duo constructs a massive world for the listener to live in for 45 minutes. Much of that world comes from Dream Unending’s inclination towards more non-metal talents like The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Dennis Wilson, and Gene Clark (among many others). DeTore and Vella’s ability to use every bit of sound to their advantage—while being hundreds of miles apart—speaks to their expert musicianship and innate ability to pull from their influences. The worldbuilding coupled with the life-affirming narrative of Detore’s lyrics and the powerful spoken word and clean lyrics makes Tide Turns Eternal an incredibly immersive experience.
Listen to an exclusive stream of Tide Turns Eternal and read an in-depth interview with Derrick Vella. Also, pick up a copy of the record ahead of its release this Friday through 20 Buck Spin.
At what point in writing did you and Justin realize the project was starting to take shape and become its own entity?
Derrick Vella: Probably by the time I started writing the track, “Dream Unending.” It’s the longest song on the album and has that big spoken word part in the middle. That song, by the time it got to be about 75% done, I remember sending it to Justin. I said, “Hey, I wrote more for the song. Let me know what you think…”
I was really worried the clean part was going to be a bridge too far for him. Especially the way it happens. You have this huge clean section and at this point, we didn’t know there was going to be a voiceover—that didn’t come until later. As that part ends, an overdriven guitar comes in and slides up to this one note. It’s really great and I loved it when I wrote it, but I was worried it might be too cheesy. I remember sending it to him slightly terrified that he’d say, “Yeah, I can’t get into it.”
Then he said, “No, this is perfect. You have to keep going.”
I think that point is when I knew I could just be comfortable writing almost whatever I wanted. I think by that point, we said, “We have something here.”
So what was the rest of the writing process like? What were some highlights?
Vella: I bought a twelve-string electric guitar and that changed everything for the record. It just opened up another door to make the record sound amazing. Buying gear is funny, because buying gear is fun, and it also kind of motivates you or makes you feel inspired. There’s, like, a cost-benefit analysis to it.
Being left-handed, finding a twelve-string electric guitar is tricky. I blind-bought a guitar from a shop in California, and they shipped it within a week. It was a Japanese manufacturer and it’s like a Rickenbacher clone. I thought, “This is my greatest blind buy purchase ever.”
But by the time I got it and started using it for Dream Unending, all of this stuff was mostly written. It was sort of like, “Okay, I’m going to take out the six-string clean guitar here, and I’m going to use the twelve-string clean guitar instead.”
With new songs going forward, I have the pleasure of writing them on the twelve-string, which gives me a bit of a different perspective, I suppose. I think that’ll help differentiate the first record from whatever comes next.
What sort of specifics does writing with the twelve-string versus the six-string present for you guys?
Vella: What I like about the twelve-string is all the low notes are doubled with a thinner string, so it’s “octave out.” So you can play these single-note things that might be lower, but they still have higher resonance because of the octave difference. Playing full chords on it sounds way more musical.
It’s easier, at least in my head when I’m playing with a twelve-string, because I’m not thinking about it in any live scenario. I have unlimited possibilities. So if we’re playing something in C sharp minor, I can throw a capo on whatever fret on my twelve-string and just play a variation of chords up high. It’s just such a musical-sounding thing. The more strings, the better. [laughs]
If I could play the harp, I would play the harp, but I think that might be a tough mountain to climb. I don’t have room for a harp here and I can’t afford a harp. I figured a twelve-string guitar was a safer bet than buying a banjo and then trying to use a banjo on the album. I think that might have sucked.
I have to imagine it would have sounded a little different with a banjo or a harp, for that matter. Dream Unending seems to be more shaped by non-metal influences than any sort of death metal or doom metal. In some other features, you’ve said the music draws from Pink Floyd, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Dennis Wilson, and more. What sort of things do you glean from these artists that influence the heavy music that you and Justin are writing?
Vella: For lack of a better way of putting it, world-building is a thing people do on albums, even if you’re not thinking of it consciously. For example, that Dennis Wilson record, Pacific Ocean Blue and No Other by Gene Clark. Those records are just like, you step inside the world of a broken man for 45 minutes. It’s overwhelming in its mood and it’s overwhelming in its sound.
Both of those records have a lot of things happening. They’re very nice headphone listens. You know immediately what the mood is supposed to be. I always appreciated that and those aspects I find you can apply to Dream Unending.
Bands like Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, and other 4AD artists have a knack for filling in every possible little space with sound, even really stripped-down parts. They don’t sound thin or anything. There’s conviction in every little thing. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t leaving any stone unturned with this record.
It’s the same with listening to a Cure song. When it’s really good, you’re enjoying it, and then another part comes on top and you’re like, “Oh, that’s really nice.”
You’ll have these driving, metallic riffs or slow and brooding metallic riffs that sound good and evoke a feeling, but then something will come over the top and just push it into a new height. I always really like that stuff. In my head, it was almost like, “How could I create a band where I never have to play overdriven?”
If we played a live show, I could only play clean parts and just be happy. That would be fun. I think stuff like that and definitely writing some of the cleaner parts makes you think about those bands. A lot of clean overdubs on the record remind me of Robert Smith’s playing, and that’s not a total coincidence. I really like The Cure.
I think also just talking to Justin about all of that music—we talked more about non-metal records, probably more than metal records after a while. Then we were just talking about guitar players we like and how that can factor in for writing solos and how we approach clean parts.
The other thing that really helped push it from a sound and atmospheric perspective was the engineer that I always work with, Sean Pearson. We dial in these sounds, and it creates all these heavenly tones and all of this really nice extra sound.
What does this world-building or writing for this project as a whole present to you on a mental or an emotional level that’s different from your other projects?
Vella: I think the thing that helps is that Justin and I seem to really understand each other from an emotional, mental, and spiritual aspect. We both are people who would like to be hopeful about things. We’re both people who aren’t religious but are in our own ways. We have our quirks, and we have our feelings about our place in the universe and what it means to have a soul. Justin was Krishna for years, and then he left that somewhat disillusioned. I can’t speak for him though.
I’ve never really subscribed to anything, but the older I get, the more I do question that this can’t be it. This just can’t be it. I refuse to believe it. But, what’s the answer? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can have the answer.
I give it up to people who have a very staunch faith that is subscribed to something. I wish I could have that. Could you imagine going to bed and just knowing exactly what’s going to happen? Like when you die, really believing that would be the most comforting thing in the world. But I can’t get there, so I find other ways to achieve bliss or peace with myself.
I think people will just hear it and say “Oh, it’s a doom band. It must be depressing…”
It’s actually not. The record is not a depressing record at all. There’s conflict on the record, but there’s also clarity for lack of a better way of putting it. If you read the lyrics in the order of how the record goes, it’s like you’re listening to someone searching for something–asking questions or confronting their own feelings about things.
That’s why we kind of consciously used the part with the clean speaking and the clean singing at the end of the album–to send these direct messages in a call and response with the main narrator of the record, which is Justin. It’s messages of hope or advice. That was the thing with the record: let’s make something that is hopeful, life-affirming, and positive.
Instagram says Dream Unending is a “Dream Doom band from Tama IV.” Do you also have Sci-Fi, or specifically Star Trek references?
Vella: Justin and I are both huge Trek Heads, especially him. I think The Next Generation is both of our favorite. We’re both big Deep Space Nine fans–just Star Trek fans across the board. That was the thing we definitely bonded over.
We always make references to this one episode from Next Generation called “Darmok,” and that’s where the Tama IV thing comes from. It doesn’t necessarily play in, but interestingly enough, the guy who did the voiceover in the song “Dream Unending,” is an actor and voice actor named Richard Poe. He actually was on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He had a very small role for a few episodes.
I actually knew his voice from the audiobook version of East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which is my favorite book ever. When I first read it, I remember I was so enthralled by it. When I couldn’t read it because I was maybe walking somewhere or doing chores, I picked up the audiobook version and it had his voice. I just loved his voice. I think I ended up finishing most of the book on audiobook because I was way more engaged.
So then, I just went on Richard Poe’s website and wrote in the contact section a little note. He got back to me later that night. I told Justin about it and he was like, “Yeah, it sounds cool…”
Then he heard him and he says, “Man, this guy’s voice is timeless!”
Then, later on, Justin came back and said, “You didn’t tell me he played Gul Evek on DS9. That makes it even better!”
The “Dream Doom” thing is just funny. You call bands like Cocteau Twins and whatnot “Dream Pop.” I’m like, “Well we’re ‘Dream Doom’ then.”
We mentioned a few other parts of the album already. Are there other moments on this record that are big individual highlights for you?
Vella: Yeah, I would say so for me, almost every part is a highlight. I look forward to almost every part of the record when I listen to it because I still listen to it once in a blue moon.
The song, “The Needful.” That guitar solo at the end—I still love that solo. There’s a part in that song where everything breaks, and it’s just bass. Then after these two heavy guitars come in, kind of playing this monotonous riff. Then halfway through that, this clean overdub comes in, and I just love how that sounds and how that ends. I love how it all breaks into the next riff.
That’s not just a writing thing, that’s like a mixing thing. I always look forward to the Richard Poe part. I always look forward to my friend McKenna, who sang these couple of clean lines near the end of the album. It’s very important to us that side B of the record—which is those two songs, plus the small instrumental between the two–couldn’t be shown early. That should only be experienced for people who actually listen to the record.
I remember my bandmate Payson from Tomb Mold said, “I’m not trying to be that guy, but the last five minutes of the album are my favorite part. It’s just so good, you can’t let that come out early. That needs to be a surprise for people.”
I think for me, what I find most endearing is what parts strike other people.
I really like Justin’s lyrics. I think that is what will separate it for people who can really lock in on what this record’s vibe is or what it’s trying to say. For some of the lines, I’ll just text Justin, and say, “These lines are amazing.”
I needed him to help me make this record. Of course, I needed his help. But it’s almost like if I wasn’t in this band and this record existed and I heard it and read the lyrics, I couldn’t even tell you how much I needed it.
I’m in my own head all the goddamn time, I deal with a lot of self-hatred, and I get down on myself. I am constantly suspicious of everybody around me. I just assume that I exist to be an inconvenience for people, and that’s a really poor way of thinking about yourself. Yet, here we are. I can’t break it. And even, like, I don’t know why I do it. I just do it. Knowing Justin and knowing how he is, we’re so similar.
We speak this sort of language and we just understand each other. When I read his lyrics, they resonate with me so much, and it makes it that much sweeter. I think if you’re anyone who has any sort of self-doubt or anything, I think maybe you’ll take something from this record, that would be great. Or if you’re just like, “Yo, that riff slapped.” I’ll take that too.
You mentioned what you’re hoping people take away from the record once it’s out. What do you take away from it as this album comes to the finish line?
Vella: I can’t believe I did it. The amount of playing I had to do, the amount of writing I had to do, the amount of retention I had to have. I would scribble out these horrible-looking tab sheets for parts I couldn’t remember so if I got in the studio and was stuck, I had a reference.
When Justin tracked the drums, I didn’t know what he was going to play, which was fun for me. It was like a surprise that also shows trust. Justin’s belief in it definitely motivated me to do a good job and I am forever grateful for it. It’s a thing where I don’t feel like I’m deserving of it, and yet I have it, and I can’t take it for granted.
The album is good, not because I wrote a good record. The album is good because Justin’s playing and Justin’s vocals on it are amazing. Sean did an excellent job recording all my guitars. Arthur did an excellent job recording Justin’s drums and then mixing and mastering the goddamn thing. The record is amazing because of Matthew Jaffe’s artwork, because of Jesse Jacob’s logo, because of the layout by Joce, also known as, Chimère Noire, and it comes out on a label that I have no doubts about.
I guess I wrote the thing, but who cares? That’s nothing. Everyone else made it what it is and to know they find joy in all this is a really wonderful feeling.