Released: 1997, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
Hidden Gem Review
There are few other albums over the whole course of my life that have helped me through darker times than this one has. I don’t know how, and can’t even recall when it started being so, but somehow Dismember’s DEATH METAL has become the album I turn to time and time again when things are going particularly badly, and when the aggression and frustration of life boils over. Nothing less than a blazing feast of unrelenting brutality, DEATH METAL is an album to listen to in the final extremity – when nothing else but pure, raw, blistering violence can help rehabilitate your soul.
DEATH METAL is widely touted as Dismember’s “comeback album.” What they needed to come back from was their disappointing 1995 effort, MASSIVE KILLING CAPACITY. Released two years later, DEATH METAL – simply, descriptively and aptly named – did more than simply revive Dismember’s flagging career. It finally did for them what people thought nothing could do: it finally set them apart from their image of being nothing more than “Entombed clones.” History was on their side, for by 1995 Entombed was already crumbling, but Dismember, slogging it out in the gore-flooded trenches since 1991, never changed, and still remains a bulwark of the Swedish death metal scene.
The music here is as dry as a hundred-year-old bone, perfectly epitomizing the scalpel-like efficiency of the Stockholm death sound. The first track, “Of Fire,” roars forth with numerous barrels blazing at once, but later lapses into what makes Dismember’s form of death metal so special and memorable – an almost hidden melody, buried under layer after layer of grinding, fast, heavy guitars, but recognizable just the same. Despite this, the pace never lets up. Woe to a Dismember should they ever slow down! In fact they never do. Eleven tracks later they’re still blasting at the same frenetic pace, having covered highlights along the way such as the cathartic “Trendkiller,” the self-explanatory “Let The Napalm Rain,” the melancholy (but fast) “Killing Compassion,” and the melodic, almost Gothenburg-esque “Silent Are The Watchers.” The only break in the panoply of speed comes at track six, “Stillborn Ways.” Probably the best cut on the album is number five, “Live For The Fear Of Pain.” This is death metal at its finest. It cuts into you like a gleaming blade, then beats what’s left of you rhythmically over the head with a sledgehammer, and does it all in the framework of a particularly haunting melody. The guitars of David Blomqvist work in perfect tandem with Matti Karki’s tortured vocals. Yes, he sounds like L.G. Petrov of Entombed, but by the time DEATH METAL came out, Dismember retained a kind of honesty in their sound that Entombed had long abandoned. You always know what you’re getting with a Dismember album, and this one delivers in spades.
I admit I don’t listen to as much death metal as I do power metal, but DEATH METAL reminds me of why I love metal in much the same way as anything by Manowar, Rhapsody or Blind Guardian. Its sheer power, funneled through the channels of talented musicians who are themselves dedicated metal fans, works wonders for a hurting soul. There is something tremendously therapeutic about albums like these. I can’t even explain why an album like DEATH METAL has that appeal, but clearly it does. Sheer brutality never sounded quite so beautiful as it does here.
Dismember scored a direct hit with this album, and it belongs in the CD case of any self-respecting metalhead, whether death metal is a primary interest or not. Consistent from beginning to end, bristling with fine technical talent, excellent songwriting and pure, old-fashioned adrenaline, DEATH METAL delivers in every category. It probably won’t be remembered in the pantheon of truly great death albums, but it arguably deserves to be. Check it out, and decide for yourself.