Some people—demons, Satan, Naas Alcameth, etc.—just don’t need to sleep. As if being a founding member and multi-instrumentalist in seminal American black metal band Nightbringer wasn’t enough—to say nothing of his work in the trio Bestia Arcana—Alcameth decided to form yet another band, called Akhlys. The name derives from Achlys—the “eternal night” in Greek mythology—which falls over the eyes just before death, and personifies in goddess form both misery and sadness. By his own admission, Alcameth has some truly horrifying dreams, and founded Akhlys as an outlet for those nightmares—an act to “serve as a voice for the muse that arises from the dark lands between death and dreams.” And on the debut LP, The Dreaming I—from the ambient opening to the full sound of his vomitous black metal—he has absolutely achieved that goal.
The Dreaming I is not only chilling and harrowing but it’s a beautiful experience. With Alcameth handling just about everything except the drums, the album feels highly personal—not something often found in black metal that isn’t described as depressive and suicidal. When the subdued growling and ambiance fades away, and the drums assault your ears, you will know what it feels like for him to dream.
Sleep scientists believe that we have up to five dreams in a full night of sleep and the album cleverly includes five tracks. “Breath and Levitation” opens the album in a harrowing fashion. The production is absolutely stellar—it sounds completely enveloping and, when listened to through high quality headphones, sucks you right in. Lyrically, it’s a bit on-the-nose, but effective nonetheless. The layering of the guitars along with the depth of the vocals provides an encapsulating feel. From there, tracks bleed together seamlessly, creating an overlap of fear and terror that mimics a dream sequence. As the first track bleeds into the chaos of the second track, “Tides of Oneiric Darkness,” the hair on your toes will stand up. As one of the shorter tracks here, Alcameth’s polished songwriting is immediately felt, and the shorter format allows for quicker pace and an exceptionally frenzied and chaotic experience.
“Consummation” begins the tortured REM cycle of this nightmare. The longest thing here at nearly seventeen-minutes, it delivers a heaping portion of terrifying screams and whipping wind before a galloping double-bass drum arrives. Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve soiled yourself by the ninth minute—it’s only natural. With a full, two-minute-plus intro and an equally long outro, the actual song is only about twelve minutes, but it feels shorter—and that’s a great thing. It’s so perfectly edited and crafted that no note seems extraneous or tiresome. Rather, the track wraps itself around you like a maggot-filled blanket.
“The Dreaming Eye” is, like the opener, a roughly ten-minute track. It’s also the most intense track on the album. Blast beats dominate as the vocals drop to a growl and the guitars thicken up. A relentless display of craftsmanship closes out the chaotic portion of the LP. In another clever move, the final track is entitled “Into the Indigo Abyss”—signifying the end of the terrors of the night. It’s an ambient track comprised of perfectly-utilized space and sound effects that harken to the approach of dawn and the awakening of the earth.
I don’t think Horns Up will allow me to gush about this album in as many words as I’d like. It’s simply phenomenal. I’m always blown away when a concept album actually achieves its goal. Here, the name Akhlys and the mythology behind it are absolutely apparent in the musical product delivered. The Dreaming I actually feels like a horrifying night of tossing and turning—like sleeping on a stomach overly stuffed full of extra spicy, oily food. I suggest listening to this album with headphones on and the lights off. You’ll find yourself entranced as these 46 minutes simply soar by. Beware of the things that go bump in the night and protect yourself with a dreamcatcher.