After the roar of approval for their 2016 self-titled debut, Sumerlands have returned from the astral plane with their hotly anticipated follow-up Dreamkiller. The Ultimate Sin inspired haze of the first album has been turbocharged with bigger hooks (“Dreamkiller”), Jan Hammer worthy synths (“Force of a Storm''), and forays into Badlands gone doom (“The Saviors Lie”). But although doom crackles at the edges of Dreamkiller, this is metal forged with the melodrama of the Scorpions, the emotional heft of Foreigner, and Dokken with an extra dose of depression.
In the driver’s seat is producer and guitarist Arthur Rizk who polished these eight metallic gems at Philadelphia’s Redwood Studios with his brothers in Sumerlands. Coming off of recent production credits with Kreator, Soulfly, and Show Me The Body, Mr. Rizk needs no introduction. His past work behind the boards with Power Trip, Sacred Reich, Ghostemane, Code Orange’s Grammy nominated album, Forever and many others have blown minds for over a decade. But it is Sumerlands that truly fulfills his dream of melancholic chug.
The band’s alchemy is on full display as bassist Brad Raub (Eternal Champion, Leather) smirks behind his P-Bass while drummer Justion DeTore (Innumerable Forms, Dream Unending) stares you dead in the face, swinging. New vocalist Brendan Radigan (Magic Circle, Stone Dagger) sings of lost souls in a world gone mad in his confident Graham Bonnet meets Ray Gillen wail. Brendan expands on his lyrical inspirations:
“Although this is not a concept album, there is the common thread throughout: the idea of something incredible being possible, and that same hope being dashed in a spectacular fashion. Imagine cruising back to the mansion on the beach in the Lambo as the sun rises, and the Feds are already there waiting to burst that bubble. Picture a colony of bats on their last flight in the twilight before White-nose Syndrome snuffs them all out. There’s always that constant: the dream of immortality and the reality that is death.”
Rizk and guitarist John Powers keep their “Strats only” policy intact while wheeling in the full Marshall stacks to douse the record in glorious solos (witness the album closing duel of “Death to Mercy”). Galloping lead single “Dreamkiller” is an uptempo tour de force with an instrumental break to make Brian May blush and that festival-worthy chorus. Arthur elaborates:
“The ‘Dreamkiller’ instrumental section was inspired by Elton John’s ‘Funeral For a Friend’ which has the most evil sounding Bach-like guitar harmonies. I was drawing from the epicness of that song, as well as Judas Priest’s ‘Stained Class’ and Billy Joel’s ‘Movin’ Out’ which to me all typify that big 70s sound.”
The pulsing synth intro of second single “Force of a Storm” morphs into a spellbinding workout of AOR metal. The verses are peppered with drips of countermelody courtesy of Arthur’s stash of Ensoniq and Roland keyboards.
“I buried the synth on the first record but this time I wanted more accents in the vein of soft R&B inspired 80s rock like Foreigner’s ‘Agent Provocateur’. As I get older my ideas change of what good sounding mature heavy metal should be, and right now I guess it means Lionel Richie, Hall & Oates, and Earth, Wind & Fire.”
Make no mistake, Dreamkiller is full of traditional metal fuel. After an amicable split with original vocalist Phil Swanson (Hour of 13, Solemn Lament), Sumerlands have dug deeper into their secret well of cathartic riffage to soundtrack a planet “Running in circles as the bells, they chime.” Songs of the spirit that speak equally to Muskelrock punters and St. Vitus tastemakers. Sing along, dream along, Dreamkiller kills ‘em all!Sumerlands is: