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Doctor Smoke - Dreamers and the Dead (Ripple Music)

2 September 2021

Taking its time in following up its 2014 debut The Witching Hour, Ohio’s Doctor Smoke sno time in distinguishing itself from the underground metal hordes on Dreamers and the Dead. “Reborn Into Darkness” and “These Horrid Things” come romping out of the gate with NWoBHM riffs and doom-laden rhythms, not to mention melodies catcher than the average spiked-bracelet bearer and a lyrical aura of near-gothic gloom. Matt Tluchowski’s smoky burr sounds like it could shift to either a piercing screech or rumbling growl at any moment, but never does either. “Nothing lasts forever/Nothing’s truly free!” he asserts on the especially catchy “Out of Time,” and while the sentiment may be depressive, the licks fight hard to dispel the black clouds. That seems to be the running theme here – the vocals fall into despair, while the music rages against the dying of the light. Guess who wins?