Well, this is a specter from the past. Cult Dutch darlings, Gore, have been resurrected after over two decades with their first two albums being digitally re-released by FSS and a cd/lp package through Southern Lord records. Mean Man's Dream is the second of these, originally released in 1987, and I believe it was their last album as a full band before becoming a solo project. A bit of trivia - Bohren & der Club of Gore were inspired by Gore to play without a singer, and their name is a reference to this.
Gore were an instrumental band with a style somewhere in between the splayed legs of noise rock and doom metal. Unconcerned with the world around it, Mean Man's Dream always moves at its own contented, purposeful pace. It's heavy and distorted, yet stuffed full of looping, thrashy riffs and aloof grooves. You would be right to expect the guitar as the big draw here, but you'll be nicely surprised to notice the attention that has been payed to each instrument. The drums have a lovingly spacious sound, while the bass is a serious presence shoring up the album. With that said, though, the production is somewhat lighter than it deserves. I'm not sure if that's because of the remastering or what they had to work with originally, but there's not enough heft to it. That is, of course, if you're listening to it at normal levels, which I advise against - the sound definitely comes into its own once the volume has been sufficiently cranked.
So does it all work? Yes and no. There is a high degree of repetition to each song, meaning that you really have to be hungry for the noise intricacies to make it all the way through. The riffs are slightly hypnotic in their repetition and carry you along, yet, with the one guitar being the only real source of variety, it can get weary. The drums have a good amount of difference between songs, but stick to a the same pattern throughout each individual piece. On most songs, however, it's rather worth it to listen through. Without any singing or, well, anything extra, the noise takes on its own identity, providing its own incentive to follow the songs and witness its degeneration. "Chainsaw" is easily the attention-grabber of the album with its insistent drumbeat and urgently decaying wall of guitars. It's a raucous song for dirty, feral streets full of prowling malice. "Last Steps" is perhaps my least favourite piece, with a stop-start riff that never goes anywhere and doesn't let up for the entire song.
On one hand, I have to give this album a nod for its satisfying noisiness and for being pretty unique back in 1987. However, it's not exactly very impressive as an album twenty years later. Many of the songs are really in need of some sort of progression, as they feel slightly incomplete. I can easily imagine these blokes being totally awesome live when listening to the album, but that doesn't make for an experience that will draw me back very often. But, in the end, the fact that this came out so long ago, combined with my overall enjoyment of their sound, wins out. There's a reason why Gore have their cult status, and I can dig that.
Verdict: Win [4/5]