What’s the most horrific dream you’ve had? I could think of several, having written down several of them over the years. One that always stuck with me was of green hued shapes walking everywhere, imitating what people did. Like human echoes.
I do not know what The Scaramanga Six consider a terrifying dream. However, I do know their album, The Terrifying Dream, is like a vivid dream you have after a concussive trauma. It approaches a Rock Opera paragon without going for the easy basic structure or melodic refrain. The Terrifying Dream has no easy going tracks but never commits the sin of being overindulgent prog.
It’s a musical. A hard rock musical. Not a jukebox musical as the ones The Great White has been churning since Mamma Mia! but more of a brutal trip through the ups and downs of the human psyche. The songs of The Terrifying Dream are all partially based on dreams and nightmares the band members had. The surreal nature of dreams lends the band the necessary tools to play with genres and changes in signature and key. ‘Arabella’ is a great example of this, changing from rock into pop and suddenly into a slow burning fire.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s not try to re-invent words for genres, because, in nature, this is a punk album. It wants to leave no stone unturned and ‘Rules’ and ‘The Man who couldn’t sing’ do just that. ‘Rules’ flames quickly into ‘The Man who couldn’t sing’, which fiercely whirls around, ending with a guitar chord that would make James Bond proud (and less of an asshole.)
I like the contrast between the hard rocking edge of ‘Out of my tiny mind’, the closest the album goes for “normal” rock and the eerie ‘The Outsider’. ‘The Outsider’ is haunting, with Julia Arnez longing vocals bookending the mostly instrumental track. It oozes atmosphere and speaks the loudest thanks to this.
‘Arabella’ and ‘Citadel’ are very solid numbers, both mutating in style and mood during their healthy running times. ‘Arabella’ lunges at your aorta while still looking as fashionable as an Edwardian dandy. ‘Citadel’, the brutal 8 minute trip, veers into legend territory. Clocking at 8 minutes, it’s the closest to prog the band will come to. Made up of several movements, ‘Citadel’ encompasses what is great about The Scaramanga Six: genres be damned, use what you feel is right and go with it. Length matters not, only that the final product is breezy. And so it is. ‘Citadel’, a rarefied gust that slowly turns into a dust devil.
‘Staring at the accident’ is jovial, perhaps by the inclusion of a musical saw and some whistling, perhaps by its 60s Britpop style (is that a mellotron way in the back?). The last third of this album seems particularly lighter, perhaps the mood is less heady or maybe the line between reality and dream has blurred. ‘Blood on my hand’ jumps back and forth on that blurry line and ‘Be Nothing’, well, it’s a sobering one. It feels like those times you can’t sleep at night and let all those worrying thoughts soldier through your head. Or maybe it’s about the moment you wake on a sunny morning, leaving all those dreams behind. Dreams can be frustrating, they can be terrifying but they are just dreams. Yes, the short-lived offspring of that constant quarrel between axons and dendrites.
There’s something a little extra in the music of The Scaramanga Six. Like an aftertaste. Phantom Head was trip through abject terror and primal fears. Mildly peaty, fierce and sometimes overwhelming. The Terrifying Dream has a similar aftertaste, but this one lingers on, travels back into your nose and remains there. Time later, you might get a small whiff in the late afternoon air and you might wonder if it was all real. Will we ever know?
Words: Sam J. Valdés López
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PS: There’s a Wilhelm Scream in ‘Citadel’ which rules.