Friday, March 10, 2023

In Thy Dreams - Highest Beauty (2001)

Highest Beauty has all the hallmarks of its age...the digital artwork with some tattooed angel that might even look a little cyberpunk/futuristic if you stared at it from a distance, a tight-knit thrashing At the Gates spin on Swedish death metal, and a slightly more modern vibe to its mix and songwriting, which was comparable to groups like Darkane, Soilwork, and Dimension Zero. I remember this sophomore album also seemed to have greater availability in my area of New England, and thus a bit more penetration into the fans of this style; several friends bought the album and asked me about it, and it seemed In Thy Dreams were at last on the radar along with their influences. Ironically, I think the band might have already called it quits before this came out, and thus they wouldn't be progressing any further, but did they at least leave us with their best?

I'm not sure. If you asked me to recommend an interested party any of their material, this could be the clear choice, as I just find that it has the most to offer. But there are some downsides. I don't know that the production is superior to The Gate of Pleasure, in fact it's a little dry and uneven, but the riff patterns here retain a lot of that album's nastiness. Funnily enough, this album feels the most AND least like At the Gates to me, because it's got the vocals and the volleying aggression reminiscent of Slaughter of the Soul, but at the same time they embark on a few riffing patterns which don't sound like they'd ever be written in that camp (but maybe in The Haunted later). When they break their formula, as on the slower piece "Spirits Forge", or the churning thrash moments of "Control", you get the feeling the band should have been expanding its dynamics all along, not that these are remarkable tracks, but they show a range that might have helped the band achieve a bit more notoriety.

There are a few riffs on this one that are among their best, like the opening to "Selfpity Human", one of the better tracks here in general, or the glorious charge of "Lower Regions". Indeed, Highest Beauty seems to save a lot of its bangers for the later moments of the disc, and if you took the last seven songs, stacked a few more good ones on at the end, I'd have a higher opinion of it. But it gets its job done either way, flooding your earspace with snarling, thrashing death metal with an occasional outburst of majestic, melodic emotion in a chorus or breakdown. These are no slouches, but I just don't know that I'm grabbing this one over Rusted Angel, The Chainheart Machine, Natural Born Chaos, Steelbath Suicide, Colony, Clayman or Damage Done. It's B-team, clearly, but the guy on the B-team that cheers boisterously and loudly from the bench, and he's ready to play at a moment's notice. He's got spirit.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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