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On its second album “Dream Deceiver” Dead Head reached a level of composition, and production values that finally lived up to its stellar live reputation. The band still played incredibly fast, and technical thrash metal but this time around everything was controlled better. Although the overall pace is lower, the album remains rabidly intense otherwise. Enforced by a superior drummer, and Tom Van Dijk adopting a deeper, but but not any less gnarly, biting or venomous vocal style Dead Head released its definitive statement. “Dream Deceiver” was the second of two Dead Head albums to be released through German label imprint Bad Taste Recordings and Intercord Record Services.

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New drummer Marco Kleinnibbelink was less frantic, and chaotic than Hans Spijker, but technically far superior in terms of fills, footwork and general composition. He would take his leave after the independently released “Promo 1995” demo. The songs are densely structured with more fluent transitions, the band’s patented explosive guitar leads/solos, and rapid start-stop sections. All are integrated far more naturally into each of the tracks. The songs sound not nearly as disjointed as some of the more frantic material from “The Feast Begins At Dawn”. In fact the flow of the record is one of its greatest strenghts. Prior to these recordings a promo tape was cut including the tracks ‘Ambiance Of Evil’ (that later became ‘House Of Ambiance’), ‘I Or the Needle’ and ‘Crimson Remains’. ‘Repulsive Emission’ is  a track detailing the dangers of information technology. The remainder of the tracks deal with the nefarious influence of religion.

One of the highlights of the album is the uniformly breakneck ‘Unholy’ that pulls the “The Feast Begins At Dawn” songwriting style into the band’s current creative paradigm. Not only has the track one of the best accelerations, it also has some very impressive drum chops by new recruit Kleinnibbelink, and veritably thundering bass licks. ‘Dream Deceiver’ has some very concrete rhythm sections, and a stellar emotive lead or two. The second half of the record is introduced by the slower, but not any less intense, ‘I Or the Needle’. The track deals with substance abuse, isolation and depression. ‘Crimson Remains’, as ‘Unholy’ before it, is custodian to a pair of fiery leads, and an explosive acceleration during its second half. ‘Shifting Sands’ is an instrumental moodsetting piece in tradition of ‘The Tribulation’ from the debut that was released two years prior. ‘Dying Angels’ is much slower fare once again, but Dead Head manage the style flawlessly. ‘Spiritual Suicide’ ends the album on a high note with its marvellously controlled chaos.

One aspect to take umbrage with on the band’s debut record was its overly dry and thin production. Dead Head understandably moved to a different studio location for this session, although they maintained a working relation with long-time producer Berthus Westerhuys. “Dream Deceiver” was recorded at Westerhuis Audio with Gert Stegeman, and Bertus Westerhuys manning the console. The record comes with a superior bass-heavy production with a lot of body, texture and depth. The instruments are balanced better against each other, with greater emphasis put on the booming bass guitar – and commanding drums with powerful kickdrums and cymbal crashes. The rhythm guitars possess far more crunch, and bite with increased levels of density, clarity and definition for the leads and solos. A lot of more attention was given to vocal production, and Tom Van Dijk’s serpentine rasps were now more malevolent sounding than on “The Feast Begins At Dawn” bordering on almost death metal territory in its gravelly bellowing.

“Dream Deceiver” is based at least in part on the 1987 Robert de Niro thriller “Angel Heart”. The movie itself was a screen adaption of the 1978 William Hjortsberg hardboiled detective novel “Falling Angel”. “Angel Heart” was directed by Alan Parker, who earlier had directed the silver screen adaption of Pink Floyd’s legendary 1979 concept double album “The Wall”. The screen adaption of “Angel Heart” stirred its own share of controversy for its infamous sex scene between leading man Mickey Rourke and a nubile Lisa Bonet. The track ‘Angel Heart’ is  a basic summation of what the novel, and film are about. The track ‘Dying Angels’ samples De Niro’s final speech of said movie.

Disregarding the partial concept “Dream Deceiver” is strong on its own considerable merits. Dead Head abandoned its chaotic approach, and near unhingedness in favor for tightly controlled aggression within more ambitious song construction. All while keeping its savage songwriting formula intact within the perimeter of a thicker, more textured and bass-heavier production. Only the visuals seems to have not undergone quite the same transformation. The photography is fantastic, but the cover artwork is underwhelming to say the least. The album was released in 1993 through Bad Taste Recordings and Intercord Record Services. While somewhat forgotten these days the album remains one of the strongest in its genre. Their sporadic output makes Dead Head one of Holland’s most enduring but still continually overlooked thrash metal entities.

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“The Feast Begins At Dawn”, the debut record of Dutch technical thrash metal mavens Dead Head, was one of incredible controlled chaos and awe-inspiring musicianship, it was also marred by a rather dry and overly processed production. Dead Head formed in 1989 in Kampen, the Netherlands and played technical thrash metal inspired by American and German greats Dark Angel, Kreator and Sadus. Even though they played thrash metal Dead Head were often considered death metal because of their intense live shows. It also helped that in some of the promo shots various band members were holding skulls. “The Feast Begins At Dawn” was the first of two Dead Head albums to be released through German imprint Bad Taste Recordings and Intercord Record Services.

‘Untergang des Abendlandes’ is a semi-acoustic instrumental and feels like an atmospheric, almost introspective Death song. Opening track ‘Saved’ originally went by the name of ‘Saved By Science’ in an earlier form. The slower ‘Desolated By the Shining’ and ‘In Your Room’ effectively foreshadow the direction Dead Head would take with its much better produced second album. ‘Below the Earth’ is an 36 second instrumental that functions as a segue for ‘Slay Your Kind’. This one should have been expanded into its own song as it is a very strong riff progression despite its obvious brevity. After two slower cuts ‘Rites Of Kandar’ ramps up the speed again, and is reminiscent of ‘Saved’ in that way. It is further enlivened by a pair of blisteringly fast leads/solos. ‘The Tribulation’ is called a ballad in the booklet, but that is something of a misnomer as it is merely an acoustic track with rasped vocals that lasts just under two minutes. ‘Pesticide’ is another scorcher full of fiery leads, and some brief growls. The title track is the highlight of the record, even though its one of the shortest tracks of the album.

dead-headAs with most debuts Dead Head plundered its archives to put together “The Feast Begins At Dawn”. ‘Pesticide’ and ‘Saved’ were re-recorded cuts from the 1989 “Promo Tape ‘89”. ‘The Tribulation’ and ‘From Belial’ were both re-recorded signature songs from the 1990 “From Belial” demo tape. ‘The Festering’ and ‘In Your Room’ were re-recorded tracks from the 1990 “The Festering” demo tape. The remainder of the songs were written specifically for the session. Tom Van Dijk’s vocals are more serpentine and raspier. The highlight of each track are the multiple leads/solos. All the songs have the drive and youthful energy that made Metallica a force of nature in its “Ride the Lightning” and “Master Of Puppets” era. Dead Head however is more extreme with rapid start-stop sections, plenty of speed bursts, frantic drumming that almost borders on the chaotic and an impressive amount of technical expertise in both songwriting and guitar playing.

The album was recorded at Franky’s Recording Kitchen with Berthus Westerhuys producing. Unfortunately “The Feast Begins At Dawn” has an overly dry production with fuzzy guitars that don’t possess a lot of body, bite or range. The bass guitar is inaudible nearly for the majority of the album, and the heavily-triggered drums sound kind of flat and clanging. Despite the flat drum tone, the kickdrums end up sounding suprisingly throbbing in what is otherwise a very clean-cut and earthy but ultimately bottom-end heaviness lacking production. The artwork was created by English-born metal – and rock journalist Garry Sharpe-Young under the pseudonym Alchemy. Sharpe-Young would make a name for himself as an author of metal-related literature, and with the Rockdetector band database (these days known as the defunct MusicMight). Sharpe-Young would also produce cover artwork for the likes of Grim Reaper, Queensrÿche and Skyclad, amongst others. On the whole it only in part lives up to the reputation Dead Head had established for itself through its demo tapes, and relentless live campaigns.

“The Feast Begins At Dawn” is marred by both an unflattering production, and unspectacular artwork. While on the surface the album doesn’t look like much the actual music is easily one of the most violent thrash metal of the time. In its mission statement to “out-thrash Slayer” Dead Head reached nearly death metal levels of violence. Especially drummer Hans Spijker was both a blessing and a curse as his sheer intensity often came at the price of tightness. Tom Van Dijk was still finding his true voice, and his shrieking snarled vocals add to the overall hostility of the record. In many ways Dead Head was the European counterpart of Austin, Texas technical metal pioneers Watchtower. The album was released in 1991, being the first of two Dead Head albums for German label imprint Bad Taste Recordings and Intercord Record Services.