The latest release from record label Library of the Occult is from none other than Dream Division, aka Tom McDowell. McDowell locks into the mystical quest of Legend of Lizard Lake, a Gothic and candle-lit ode to the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure‘ series of books and games that, for me, were the highlight of my trips to the Leesburg Elementary School library(only second to the Universal Monster Book series.) In McDowell’s capable hands, Legend of Lizard Lake could very well have been the most intense Choose Your Own Adventure book, had it existed back in 1982.
Dream Division is known for albums filled with hazy synths, macabre melodies, and a healthy dose of Goblin and Fabio Frizzi magic thrown in. On the latest long player that still holds true, but there’s an element of melancholy here not heard before. Maybe it’s the connection to childhood and getting lost in mystical worlds, but this album feels like finding a lost relic from another time. The baroque quality of the music, mixed with those hints of Italio psychedelia and the feeling your jumping into some other time and place gives Legend of Lizard Lake a truly timeless quality.
Those Choose Your Own Adventure books were fun, but they were also one of the first places where you learn the meaning of “actions have consequences”. You choose to open the door that may lead to the gold treasure, or to your ultimate doom. Both actions take you to different endings, and if you choose poorly you’re starting the book all over again. Dream Division locks into that aspect, giving us both melancholy rewards and brooding tension. From swirling psychedelia to Giallo melodrama to ornate baroque melancholy, Legend of Lizard Lake has it all.
“Crypt Keeper” opens the door into this world. Dark intentions and Gothic sounds intermingle with otherworldly vibes as McDowell sets the stage for a musical trip unlike any you’ve taken before. “Church of the Lizard Folk” opens on church bells and organ that quickly deep dives into Goblin territory. The drums and fuzz guitar almost summon 60s paisleys and liquid light shows, but McDowell keeps the groove focused.
One of the standouts here is the melancholy “Mystic Quest”, which puts me in mind of early NES games like Castlesvania, The Legend of Zelda, and Trojan. The hero heading straight into danger, knowing he may not come out alive, all for the sake of the kingdom. McDowell has created such an epic, forlorn song here. It feels like it could be the theme song, had Legend of Lizard Lake been made into a Saturday morning TV show back in the 70s.
The album takes you on a journey all the way thru. From the epic grandeur of “Spiral Of Lost Souls” to the contemplative “The Fire Of Death And Rebirth” to the album’s conclusion in “Dungeon Dwellers” which totally locks into some 80s vibes(think Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.)
Legend Of Lizard Lake will bring all the feels for folks of a certain age bracket. Middle-aged guys that rolled the dice, watched the horror, and read the books in the early 80s. There’s an overwhelming urge to pull a blanket over my head, turn on a flashlight, and tell a ghost story as this album plays in the background. But since I don’t want to get fired I won’t do that at my desk. But I will keep listening to Legend Of Lizard Lake, and I’ll keep revisiting those mystical places in my mind.
Dream Division’s ‘Legend Of Lizard Lake’ is available now. Buy it here.