Released: 2008, Regain Records
Dismember have come full circle. There’s no other way to describe it. They started out with some really good Swedish death metal in the late 80s, together with the other Swedish greats Entombed, Unleashed and Grave. Dismember played raw, uncompromising death metal that was about as far removed from either the Gothenburg melodic death movement (At the Gates, In Flames), or the legendary Floridian death metal scene (Deicide, Hate Eternal, Malevolent Creation, Death, Vital Remains, Obituary) at that time; they had that unpolished buzzy guitar sound and the minimal emphasis on blast beating and insane drumming that characterised the Floridians and New Yorkers.
However they slowly started moving away from that sound, culminating in 1997’s DEATH METAL, where about 50% of the album sounded like early Gothenburg melodic death. The riffs were sharp, there was definitely a heightened melodic sensibility, and the menacing grooves and bass heavy riffing was gone. However there were some songs on that album which would not have sounded out of place on LIKE AN EVERFLOWING STREAM, songs like “Let the Napalm Rain”, “Stillborn Ways”, “Ceremonial Ceremony” and “Bred for War”. I’ve never heard such an internally conflicting album before. The melodeath parallels continued in HATE CAMPAIGN, although it must be emphasised that they were nowhere near what the Gothenburg bands were putting out at that time (In Flames released REROUTE TO REMAIN in 2002, enough said.)
However, 2004’s WHERE IRONCROSSES GROW felt like a return to their old, late-80s sound, and this was reinforced by the intense and superlative THE GOD THAT NEVER WAS in 2006. And now, they’ve done it again in ’08! This is superb, old-school death metal, where the menace and atmosphere is created by the buzzy, partially muddied guitars playing semi-obscured riffs that just smack you in the back of your head. Forget the soulless robotron drumming of Derek Roddy, Tim Yeung, George Kollias and Tony Laureano. The drumming here is tasteful – it feels like the point where thrash got naughty and rebellious, said a big “fuck you” to its NWOBHM papa and its punk mama, and got pregnant, to give birth to death metal. I still don’t know who the drummer is (Metal Archives states that Thomas Daun is the live drummer, but it might be Fred Estby before he left), but whoever it was, he did a good job – there is a looseness and fluidity that characterises the Swedish sound, emphasising feel and giving enough space to make the beats really really count. When he blasts, he really fucking wants it to mean something.
Matti’s hoarse roar is superb as ever. You can hear the words pronounced clearly, and while you still need a lyric sheet (I did anyway), he is not indecipherable. I have to say that his vocals have always been top-notch throughout the years. And that brings me nicely to what I want to say about this album. It’s consistent. It doesn’t suffer from the schizophrenia that DEATH METAL suffered from. There is a sound, and you know what it is and what to expect. There are a few “melodic” passages here and there, but they are done tastefully and well enough to just give a break from the crushing riffing, but it never gets indulgent, it never forgets its place and purpose.
If you liked that old Swedish sound, the loose, midpaced, groovy, almost sloppy riffing and drumming with that really old buzzy distortion, get DISMEMBER. I love all kinds of death metal, but this record is outstanding amongst the sea of “br00tal”, technical-wank and deathcore that is sadly the defining feature of today’s death metal scene.