Often at times, members of a successful rock band would veer off on their own to express themselves in a way they can’t with their own bands due to a clash of styles. Usually, this would be with more acoustic guitars than their fans are accustomed to. Think Sully Erna and Chris Cornell. It’s a great way for these artists to express their thoughts to a new audience and give you a more subtle side.
Then enter the light-hearted and ever-friendly, Dave Grohl. Fronting a successful band whose repertoire ranges from soft ballads to some hard rock hits, it would have been no surprise to see him bring an album out in a similar fashion with a different group, or perhaps bring an all-acoustic set into play. But Dave doesn’t follow the norm. Having been inspired by the likes of Venom and Testament, he threw away his acoustic guitar, embraced the heavier influences, and brought them to light with a different persona. In 1995, we saw the first shape of these influences with Probot. Now, he has strung his guitar with haunting strings and pushed the boundaries of disparity between the Foo Fighters even further.
“Dream Widow” is the fictional band from the movie “Studio 666” that was released on 25 February. After they recorded their last album “Medicine at Midnight” in the Encino Mansion, they filmed the movie in secret in the same location with a story revolving around the lost album of the band Dream Widow and the shenanigans that then occurred.
Dave teamed up with James A. Rota, the guitarist, and vocalist from Fireball Ministry, who has had a long connection with the Foos. James produced the Sonic Highways (Foo Fighters documentary) and the recent Studio 666 film amongst others. Dave largely distanced himself from his current bandmates for this album but did involve keyboardist, Rami Jafee. He apparently plays on the last song, Lacrimus dei Ebrius.
The album dropped on 25 March and has been eagerly awaited as it has been hauntingly delayed. Its timing was unfortunate considering the news that followed soon after, but Dave had apparently worked tirelessly on the album to get it out.
The opening track, Encino, opens up as explosively as a 3-day old kangaroo carcass blown apart by TNT spraying its contents across the universe. Tones of Sepultura, lyrical drippings of Venom, lashings of Dimebag, and the frantic mentality of screaming death metal bands all belch out in this cacophonic opening track. Hectic. Demonic. Aggressive. And then it settles into a dropped crunching rhythm that chugs along. With the help of James, the rest of the album takes you into a variety of metal and rock genres with groove-crunching rhythms, fast-paced thrash, and hard stoner rock.
“Cold” dips into some desert session stoner rock vibes aided by the vocal talents of James before “March of the insane” rips up the decks tapping into energetic Motorhead and “White Limo”-type tones burning the dials on your stereo.
The lyrical content of the album follows a dark path that fits in well with the theme of the film. Step into line “Angels with severed wings”. Within it, we have layers of vocals from various styles to add depth to the song. We have the strained screeching vocals peaking in the background, the hard rock vocals wedged in the middle, then a softer vocal layer as icing the song. This gives it a more comical “Paradise Lost” feel that perhaps doesn’t work as well. I do find it one of the most memorable songs to recall.
The last song on the album, “Lacrimus dei Ebrius”, is a 10-minute long soirée through rock, thrash, and death metal that has a Trouble-Esque tone running through it. So far as I can work out, the song title refers to “the drunkards weeps for God” or something to that effect. The wispy stringed sections within the middle give the song a unique edge that is the sound version of crepuscular rays shining past clouds in the sky at dusk right before hell breaks loose as the world tips into the night.
It’s perhaps a little harder to take in the lyrics as being serious when you consider who came up with them. This is from a band that doesn’t exist and was created for a slapstick horror, so despite the lyrics having some brutal undertones, there may have been some play as to the content and some undercurrents amongst the deluge of demonic and ghoulish references.
By convention, Dream Widow refers to the feeling of loss of having lost someone close to you.
Embracing Dave’s ambition to venture outside of the box, look back, and dismember his previous playing style with bloodied vigor is so refreshing to see. This is an album that carries some lyrical oddities that will keep you reciting them later (perhaps backward while your head spins around at speed), while his musical talents of Dave shine through with his Midas’s ear being able to create melodies and rhythms that keep people craving more.
Incidentally, if you play this album backward, you can hear the album being played backward and it sounds unintelligible.
Dream Widow: N/A
Release Year: 2022
Label: Raging Planet Records
Reviewed by Byron Lotz