Given the kind of praise Dreamwell's debut, Modern Grotesque had earned back in 2021, it seemed apparent that the band was poised to make a significant impact in the landscape of aggressive music.
Saddled with the labels of everything from screamo to post-hardcore, the band's collective DNA suggests much more than that - sourcing style points and technique that ranged from shoegaze to mathcore, early American metalcore to grind.
Further distilling those influences and better refining their craft, the band tackled the isolation and uncertainly of the pandemic-era by reinvesting in themselves creatively. While Modern Grotesque undeniably proved a shining example of all the potential that resided with Dreamwell, the band's sophomore release, In My Saddest Dreams, I am Beside You is the full realization of it.
Evolving as both songwriters and players, the promise of the band's debut was strengthened with added focus and the wisdom of experience to better present a complete, continuative effort. Sourcing that same start-stop freneticism that defined their debut, Dreamwell followed up with a controlled ebb and flow that plays out masterfully over 11 well-mapped, meticulously written tracks.
Dreamwell's sophomore full length is among those rare albums that not only meets expectation, it exceeds them. Maintaining the integrity and intensity of their introduction, the Rhode Island collective matched their obvious talent with an added emphasis on craftsmanship - adding real substance to the spectacle that was there from the jump.
Offering some first-hand insight to the process of piecing together the album, Dreamwell guitarists Aki McCullough and Ryan Couitt, bassist Justin Soares and drummer Anthony Montalbano recall some of the pivotal moments in seeing In My Saddest Dreams, I am Beside You to fruition.
From the influences to the risks, the personal catharsis and even coining something called "elevator fight music", here is the track-by-track breakdown of Dreamwell's latest masterclass.
“Good Reasons to Freeze to Death”
Justin: Prior to Modern Grotesque being released and before we began writing this album in earnest, I moved from Rhode Island to Iowa for a school. Covid was still at its peak and that meant that I spent my entire first semester quarantined in my apartment. It was an incredibly lonely and isolating experience to go from living in close proximity to family and friends with weekly band practices to having my world limited to my apartment, and even though Covid eventually subsided that detachment created by being separated from the rest of the band definitely lingered throughout my writing experience for IMSDIABY.
This song epitomizes the beginning stages of that for me. Late one night, I wrote this melancholic bass riff that I wasn’t even sure would work for Dreamwell, and it led to a rare instance in which I sent the idea to KZ, rather than Ry who I usually bounce ideas off of. KZ was down to run with it, and a few weeks later I traveled back to Rhode Island and it grew into one of the first songs we worked on for this album.
“Studying the Greats in Self-Immolation”
Aki: This was one of the final songs we wrote for the album. I eventually sketched some of the ideas that became this song and musically this is essentially the second half of 'Good Reasons'. It develops many of the melodies that are introduced in 'Good Reasons', along with 'Rue de Noms' which also recalls these themes.
“Lord Have MRSA on My Soul”
Justin: While writing this, I remember asking “What if during this build up we throw in two passages of this really quick dancey riff?” Everyone was down. It was a great time.
Ry: This was one of the occasions where I had to be a bit persistent in getting everyone on board with the riff being good. There was a lot of worry that it was a bit too poppy which I totally get, no one here wants to be a pop band. Thankfully though everyone was able to approach it from different angles - and, when in doubt, slap blast beats on it to make it fit the vibe.
“All Towers Drawn in the Equatorial Room”
Aki: One of our collectively enjoyed albums that came out around the time of Modern Grotesque was Black Sheep Wall’s 'Songs For The Enamel Queen'. I was particularly inspired by how they used negative space to contrast the heaviest and loudest parts of their music, which I wanted to channel with the clean bridge halfway through this song.
“Obelisk of Hands”
Anthony: This is one of the songs on this album where I do the most. There’s breaks with drum fills galore and the ending is a long stretch of blast beats. To this day every time we play it live, right before the blast beats, Justin and I make eye contact like “Here we go!”. It’s a fun song to play.
Aki: I am resident blackgaze bitch so my leads here are a nod to bands like Deafheaven, Svalbard, and Oathbreaker. I think this song is a nice showcase of the influences that all of us bring to this band.
“It Will Hurt, and You Won’t Get to Be Surprised”
Aki: This is the first song I’ve played for this band with any tapping, and the first few minutes are ALL tapping for me. Honestly I have to thank rock climbing for helping me build up the finger strength for it.
“Reverberations of a Sickly Wound”
Aki: This was the last song we figured out for the album. I’d just experienced a horrible personal loss the day before but when faced with the option of sitting at home in my room, or going to practice to write figured, why the fuck not. This was another song that let us explore ambience and breathing room.
“Blighttown Type Beat”
Aki: I was traveling the day they first started working on this song and got a video of it. Immediately after I watched it I picked up a guitar at my parents house and wrote the skronky guitar leads in the middle of this song. There was no real thinking about it, it all just kind of happened the second I heard everything.
Justin: My favorite part of writing this one happened while meeting up with Ryan to work on it, and putting in a bass part that was a decidedly slow walk in juxtaposition to the shrieking guitars. I don’t remember who said it but one of us called it “elevator music”, but also a “fight song”. Like an “elevator fight song”. The rest of the band did not share the same enthusiasm for our new found nickname for the track, but the two of us still get a laugh out of it.
“I Dream’t of a Room of Clouds”
Aki: I’m so proud of how this song came out, and it was definitely a challenging one for us to bring into a full band arrangement. The soft-loud-soft-loud bit in the second verse might be my favorite moment on the album. Honestly, whole thing might be my sleeper pick for favorite song on the album.
“Rue de Noms (Could Have Been Better, Should Have Been More)”
Aki: Narrative wise, this serves to push the album farther into a bleak chaotic atmosphere, but it also serves to show how we’ve grown as a band and as writers.
Justin: Coincidentally the last track on the album brings my whole experience of moving to Iowa full circle. For a while I had been debating the decision of dropping out of my program for so many reasons, and I eventually did. During that period I started toying around with the tapped intro riff to this track. The relief of having made that choice and getting back to writing made this track so cathartic. Bringing a tap bass riff in 9 to the band was also hilarious. We spent one full practice with Anthony trying to convince me to drop a beat out of that part, before finally locking in on a beat.
In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You is currently available via Prosthetic Records. Order the album - HERE