posted on 2/2008 By:
I absolutely love Swedish death metal; I get all weird inside when I hear that dirty fuzzy guitar tone. Not weird in a creepy way, but weird in a good way, like an intoxicated way. It makes me want to bash things with clubs, to go all berserker and tear stuff up. It just hits me the right way. With Entombed and Grave seemingly unable to live up to their legacies (although nothing that either has done is less than decent), only Dismember have consistently kicked my ass in the new millennium. When they stumbled a bit with Where Ironcrosses Grow, they bounced back for The God That Never Was. Now they’ve managed their second consecutive monster.
Dismember is the band’s eighth album and their first without founding drummer/songwriter/producer Fred Estby—he’s replaced by Thomas Daun of Insision. (I hope it doesn’t offend Fred to say that even though I knew he was gone going into this, it didn’t make much of a difference in the end.) This record is a tougher, ballsier affair than its predecessor. Like Ironcrosses, it’s heavy and darker than some previous efforts, but like TGTNW, it’s very well-written. Like all Dismember records, it pits the band’s penchant for Maiden-like guitar-work against their dirty primal riffing. On the vocal front, man, I gotta say: Matti Karki still has one of the best voices in death metal, even some twenty years into his career. His gruff bellow is perfect; neither too gravelly nor too rasping; it’s not as concerned with being evil or menacing as much as being powerful, and it achieves that in spades. It's just huge.
The songwriting on Dismember is first-class. One of the things I’ve always loved about this band is that they don’t rely solely on sheer blasting force. They’re not as one-dimensional as some of their lesser contemporaries. They blend their filthy death with d-beat and thrash and classic metal and a little grind, and they know how to temper brutality with interesting songs. They’re intense without being exhausting. The one-two punch that opens the album, the stomping “Death Conquers All” and the absolutely massive “Europa Burns,” is a complete kick to the stomach. “Under A Bloodred Sky” is a blistering death/grinder that shifts into melodic Iron Maiden territory for the coda (a trick the band reprises for “To End It All”). “Tide Of Blood” features one of David Blomqvist’s best harmonized intro riffs before slipping into a frantic thrashing gait. From the beginning through the “Combat Fatigue,” this album simply does not let up. “Black Sun” closes the record with an atmospheric intro that leads into a stomping mid-tempo death groove and then a full-force, balls-out approach. That riff at the 5:00 mark is a killer way to end things—melodic but slightly twisted, with the bent notes and all.
On the production side of things, the sound on this record is crushing. It’s massive. It’s heavier, fuller, and edgier than the previous record, with that same guitar tone, but just bigger, harder and slightly less warm. From a sonic standpoint, I think this one sounds every bit as good as The God That Never Was. From a songwriting standpoint, I think God is impeccable, and I’ll admit that there’s a moment or two toward the middle of this one that aren’t complete knock-outs. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, “No Honor In Death.”) That minor complaint, the presence of a few non-stellar minutes, is the only thing that’s keeping this from being a straight-6 review. When I first got this, I listened to it daily for about two weeks, and then I purposefully took some time off from it so I could see if it was a quick burn. When I popped it back in the player some weeks later, it was still a “Hell, yes”—especially as soon as “Europa” kicked in.
So here’s the dealio: Dismember is as Dismember does. I know this review is pretty enthusiastic, but when it comes to this record, I’m pretty enthusiastic. (I’m more enthusiastic than I am pretty, as you can probably imagine.) If you like classic-styled Swedish death, then you’ll be enthusiastic, too. And quite frankly, if you already know that you don’t like Dismember, no record they’re willing to make will change your mind. They’re one of the most consistent death metal bands on the planet, known for making quality record after quality record within their chosen framework. I happen to love what they do, and so I’m very happy to report that this one’s among the best records they’ve ever made. In fact, this may be my death metal album of 2008. (I will reserve the right to change that should someone come along and release a record that trumps this. Either way, Decrepit Birth, you’ve been demoted. So sorry…)
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