Reviewed: July 2009
Released: 2008, Metal Mind Productions
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Dies Irae is a Polish death metal band that primarily consists of former members of the better-known group Vader. This DVD was apparently designed as a tribute to late drummer “Doc,” who died of unknown reasons in 2005, and also includes their most recent (and possibly final) album SCULPTURE OF STONE, which will be the main focus of this review.
Overall, SCULPTURE OF STONE is a pretty solid technical death metal effort. The songs are pretty straightforward, with plenty of crushing death metal riffs, complex double bass grooves, gravelly vocals, and some exceptionally intricate guita rwork. Guitarists Mauser and Hiro are owed some major kudos for this album – they unleash tons of monstrous riffs without sounding the least bit challenged, but they truly shine in their solos. While most technical metal solos drift far too easily into the realm of Yngwie Malmsteen wannabe-ism, these two shredders are able to give each speedily picked note a lot more “musical value” than the average Joe is able to muster. Each solo feels more akin to a crafted melodic moment in the song, instead of just another lead break filled to the eyeballs with excess wankery. Note the melody/solo/whatever you care to call it halfway through opener “Beyond All Dimensions” that serves several musical functions all at once without sounding like a typical guitar solo. The solo break following the brief drum solo on “The Art of Endless Creation” is particularly catchy.
Unlike a lot of “technical” albums, SCULPTURE OF STONE does a pretty good job of keeping consistent songwriting quality and avoiding the typical pratfall of grotesquely excessive instrumental wanking. However, Dies Irae has forgotten to add one final ingredient that would make this a must-own album – variety and depth. Each of the nine tracks on the album have one feel, mood, vibe, etc., which is something along the lines of “grind, grunt, guitar solo, repeat.” While there are tons of melodically tasty musical nuggets liberally dispersed throughout, adding some cleaner dynamics and some alternate modal/scalar melodies would go the distance towards making this an A-list album. Also, I could do with a different vocalist – Mr. Novy does a solid job of outputting solid brutality, but he epitomizes the metal cliché of “unintelligible cookie monster knockoff” that we’ve been hearing for the last 20 years. He’ll occasionally switch to a higher pitched shriek, which sounds quite awful.
SCULPTURE OF STONE is ultimately just like its namesake – solid and polished, but highly inflexible and predictable. I’m sure that fans of Vader and technical death metal will eat this up with a chainsaw and dynamite, but this isn’t my preferred cup of tea.
SIDENOTE ON THE DVD – I’ll give the producers of THE ART OF ENDLESS CREATION credit where it’s due – this is one great sounding DVD. The clarity of the live recording is top flight. Dies Irae themselves should pat themselves on the back for doing a top-flight job of recreating their album sound down to the last note, especially guitarists Mauser and Hiro. The main fault lies with a dull stage production, with few of the band members doing much besides hanging out in their respective corners of the stage and chugging away. Novy doesn’t seem to be a very engaging front-man either.
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