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Like an Ever Flowing Stream (1991)
 

Released in May 1991, Like an Ever Flowing Stream is the debut full-length album from Sweden's Dismember. However, this was by no means the first L.P. that these guys put out, as three of the five band members participated in Carnage's Dark Recollections, just one year earlier. Along with that record, this stands as one of the true classics of the Swedish Death Metal scene and is absolutely essential for anyone into this style.

From the opening moments of "Override of the Overture", it is clear that the former Carnage members retained the crushing power and devastating heaviness of Dark Recollections, while also infusing it with an even more violent sensibility and a razor-sharp edge that slices right through you. The somewhat sombre tremolo melodies give way to intense and barbaric riffs that split your skull in two and leave nothing but scattered remains in their wake. This album takes a similar approach to that of Carnage or Entombed's Left Hand Path, yet this is far more forceful and really showcases the total brutality (in the proper sense, not the technical Death Metal garbage that misused this word later on) that these Swedes had to offer. There are some good lead solos featured here, mostly played by Nicke Andersson of Entombed, though they take a completely different direction than Mike Amott's work on the Carnage L.P. The eerie melodies are replaced with something quite abrasive and powerful. Matti's vocals are more venomous and hateful here, being a bit less guttural and using more of his throat. This adds to the more urgent and, sometimes, maniacal feeling of the songs. The drumming still utilizes a lot of the punk-inspired beats, though there appears to be a bit more variation than before. The only song on here from the band's demo days is "Dismembered", which still includes the melodic intro. Most of the other high-quality demo tunes had been used for Dark Recollections. While this and the intro to "In Death's Sleep" adds another dynamic to the band's sound, it would have been nice to see them work these parts into the songs better, rather than just serving as intros that really could have been tacked onto the beginning of any track. As compared to some of the other albums that were being released around this period, such as Left Hand Path, Into the Grave, Nothing But Death Remains, Where No Life Dwells, etc. Like an Ever Flowing Stream is by far the most violent and intense of the bunch, though sacrificing much of the doom influence that many of the other bands shared, as well as being present on the Carnage debut. Regardless of this, Dismember managed to stand out from the rest, proving to be superior to their peers and approaching Death Metal with a bit of a different perspective.

The production is still as heavy as the other albums that were coming out of Sunlight Studio at the time, if not more so. The one thing that Like an Ever Flowing Stream has over them is that, while still utilizing the same kind of buzzsaw guitar tone, there is something more raw and primal about the sound that they achieved with this record. The drums are mixed in such a manner as to really help drive things forward and to obliterate everything in their path. Meanwhile, the guitars act as rusty chainsaws, carving through everything and leaving utter destruction behind them. This is not an album to put on in the background and, from the songwriting to the production, it demands your attention from beginning to end. This album is the total antithesis of the typical Death Metal album of this time period, many of those having somewhat of a soft sound, with a pathetically non-threatening guitar tone and the warm bass that almost makes it seem cartoonish, to go along with generic vocals and uninspired songwriting.

Like an Ever Flowing Stream is one of the cornerstones of Swedish Death Metal, filled with memorable riffs. Far from being among the legions of Entombed clones, despite some of the similarities, Dismember was one of the most violent and bloodthirsty bands out there at the time. If you're new to this style of music, skip all of the retro gimmick bands and seek out the originators. This is a classic of the Swedish scene and of old school Death Metal in general.
 
(4 Jan. 2013)

 
 

By October 1992, many of Death Metal's most renowned acts had completely wimped out and were mere shadows of their former selves. The likes of Entombed, Death, Pestilence and even Autopsy had already dropped the ball. Yet with the Pieces mini-CD, Dismember returned to remind the world what barbaric and cruel Death Metal was supposed to sound like.

Though this release clocks in at only eleven minutes, it completely destroys a good amount of the albums that were current at the time. Records like An Evil Shade of Grey, Unorthodox and even Shadows in the Deep pale in comparison to this violent and powerful recording from Dismember. From the opening moments of the title track, the listener is bludgeoned over the head with massively intense riffs, crushing drums and utterly vicious vocals. At this point, Matti could still sound quite maniacal and filled with rage, as evidenced by "I Wish You Hell". There is more range to his voice, still utilizing the deeper aspects along with the raspier screams, as opposed to the neutered sound of later albums. The guitar tone is, of course, the standard Swedish "buzzsaw" sound that helped define the movement in the early days. Though similar to many other records of the time, the sound here is still a bit more harsh and raw than releases from Grave, Unleashed or Cemetary. The songs here are brief and lack the more melodic elements that were occasionally found on the debut album, while also avoiding the more simplistic groove-oriented sections that appeared on Indecent and Obscene. Yet, each song is still easily distinguishable from the next, proving that solid songwriting is much more meaningful than useless gimmickry that weaker bands rely on. The reason for the inclusion of "Soon to Be Dead" is not clear, though it fits in with the other songs. The vinyl version also features "Deathevocation", which I'm assuming is the same as the Like an Ever Flowing Stream bonus track.

Pieces is a ferocious and bloodthirsty assault on the senses. The three new tracks on this E.P. represent a more concise and direct approach, steamrolling over all of the limp-wristed 'progressive Death Metal' that was already beginning to emerge around this time. With this lethal dose of Swedish death, Dismember maintained the hellish and intense vibe that this sort of music is supposed to possess, making this brief recording still very much worth the effort to seek out.
 
(3 Feb. 2016)

 
 

Indecent and Obscene is the second full-length album from Dismember, released in December 1993. It took about a year and a half for the band to offer a proper follow-up to 1991's Like an Ever Flowing Stream, and the time between albums allowed for their sound to weaken somewhat. While still a good album, this just seems to lack something.

From the opening moments of "Fleshless", it is clear that Dismember has sort of smoothed many of the rough edges. Though it still possesses the typical Sunlight Studio sound, it seems that the band worked with Skogsberg to polish things up a bit, compared to the first record. Here, the drums are more clear and present in the mix. As well, the guitar tone is not nearly as raw or heavy as before. Matti's vocals are less monstrous and more of a shouting voice is bleeding through, with less of the harshness that he conveyed on Dark Recollections and Like an Ever Flowing Stream.

As for the songwriting, the overall feeling is that they band tried to make this album more accessible, to some degree. Though there are still many solid riffs to be found on Indecent and Obscene, there are too many catchy breakdowns that really take away from the intensity of the music. "Skinfather" is very guilty of this and, to a lesser extent, the opening track. One of the other issues with this L.P. is the utilization of more rock-based parts, exemplified by "Sorrowfilled" and "Case # Obscene", as if they were trying to utilize a bit of the 'death n' roll' sound that Entombed had opted for. They do it well, I suppose, but I could really do without such elements.

The second half of Indecent and Obscene is far superior to the first. The best moments of the album are when they revert to a more pure Swedish Death Metal approach, such as during the faster sections of "Souldevourer" and "Reborn in Blasphemy". The latter includes some rather crushing riffs and melodies that would not have been out of place on the band's debut. It's a shame that the vocals are so much weaker than even on the Pieces E.P. since these tracks, in particular, would have sounded quite good with a more hellish vocal approach. "Eviscerated (Bitch)" is another song with a more pure approach, sounding a bit similar to the opener, but minus the lame parts. "9th Circle" consists of really massive riffs that give off a doom vibe, coupled with lacerating tremolo riffs, serving as one of the best examples of pure Swedish Death Metal on this release. "Dreaming in Red" is the favourite of many, with its sombre bass lines and melancholic guitar melodies, adding somewhat of an epic feeling to the song. The faster riffs are a little too brief for my liking, but overall the song is very memorable and well put-together.

Indecent and Obscene is a fairly good album, all things considered. It suffers from the placement of all of the weaker tracks right up front but, once you get through those (and many may not even mind the more simplistic elements that they possess), there are some very solid tracks lying in wait. While this record doesn't hold up so well when compared to previous Dismember releases, it manages to hold its own and is certainly worth a listen.
 
(6 Feb. 2016)

 
Massive Killing Capacity (1995)
 

In 1994, Dismember entered Studio Sunlight, under the guidance of Tomas Skogsberg, to begin recording their third full-length album. Released in August 1995, Massive Killing Capacity soon became the most controversial album from this Swedish Death Metal band; possibly moreso than the "Skin Her Alive" incident. The album, as a whole, is more melodic than their previous efforts. Of course, there was always a melodic strain that ran through the albums before this (and since), but it was here that it took center stage. Dismember also utilized more traditional Metal structures, giving rise to the argument that they were following the footsteps of Entombed, whose stylistic alterations earned their music the title of Death 'n' Roll. However, Massive Killing Capacity is far more entrenched in traditional Metal than Rock, which nullifies the Entombed comparison. It is no surprise that this record is looked upon as the black sheep of the Dismember catalog, easily being the weakest album that they released. The change in the sound was not as drastic as some have made it out to be; there were definite signs of this on Indecent and Obscene, though found in smaller doses. Nonetheless, this L.P. is quite impure and filled with problems.

On its own merits, this is not a terrible album. Had this been a side-project, it would likely have been a little more accepted. The main issue is that these songs were released as the third full-length album from Dismember, a name that meant something in the Death Metal scene. To call this Death Metal, melodic or not, is quite a stretch. The music is rather tame, for the most part. Songs like "I Saw Them Die" and the title track feature rather bland riffs and catchy choruses. The latter does allow for a pretty decent tremolo melody to creep in, albeit briefly. The vocals follow the path that began on the previous album, being less harsh and more shouted and throaty at times. The feeling of the band's sound being 'cleaned up' can also be attributed to the guitars which, still maintaining a familiar tone, seem more clear and immensely weak when compared to Like an Ever Flowing Stream. The simplistic songwriting gives off a rather relaxed feeling on lame songs like "Crime Divine" and "Casket Garden", which become a rather tedious listen.

One of the better tracks on here, "On Frozen Fields" starts out with a cold tremolo melody, which is one of the most unforgettable of the entire record. From the first moments, one can tell that this is a superior song to the previous two. It's a bit faster paced, while remaining melodic; even moreso than the other tracks. Had this been recorded in a more pure Death Metal style, minus the obvious choruses, it would not have been out of place on the previous album. Though it's here, in contrast to so much weaker material, where it is most allowed to stand out.

"To the Bone" is not a terrible track, though still far too weak for a Dismember record. It starts out with a simple bass line, joined by a riff that gives a sense of impending doom. The vocals are a little harsher, on this one. Implementing the same style as some of the previous songs, this one manages to be a little more dynamic and memorable.

"Black is all I see
Within these walls of pain
If I can't find myself
I'm better off dead"

As evidenced by the lyrics, this song bears more of a sorrowful feeling, in a sense. The melodies are somber, the vocals convey a sense of misery, without completely wallowing in it, and the overall feeling is one of despair.

"Wardead" sounds like something from a different recording session, for the first few moments. It seems more straight-forward, with harsher vocals than on some of the songs, as well as a faster pace and riffs that would not be out of place on their earlier albums, with the exception of the strange riff that accompanies the chorus. For some reason, they were unable to resist the urge to spoil the track with more experimental nonsense. Again, the solo adds life to the song, serving some purpose instead of being thrown in for the sake of having a solo.

"Hallucigenia" is a fairly decent tune, incorporating more mid-paced riffs that create a gloomy vibe. Some of the riffs sort of hearken back to old Candlemass. The vocals are deeper and more harsh on this one, possessing a sound more vicious than what is found on the rest of the album.

"Collection By Blood" opens with a riff that is very similar to "The Hellion", by Judas Priest. After this intro part, the song speeds up and is dominated by thrash riffs. It has kind of an epic feeling to it, as a result of the guitar melodies. This may be the one song on the whole album, done in this more melodic and traditional style, that actually works in its entirety. It is certainly one of the most memorable songs on here.

"Nenia" is an instrumental, seemingly inspired by Metallica's "Orion", which sets the stage for the end that is soon to come. These riffs are rather miserable and the song probably benefits from the lack of vocals, allowing for the music to create a somewhat dismal and draining effect. It flows well with the intro section of the following track.

The album ends with "Life - Another Shape of Sorrow", which is a rather varied track. It seems quite promising, beginning with the sounds of a funeral organ and rather doomy riffs, creating an atmosphere of impending death. However, the band soon shifts gears toward something far more dynamic than might have been expected. The next few minutes see them combining pure Death Metal riffs with more melodic ideas, to create one of the strongest tracks on the record. However, that might not be saying much. The speed of the song doesn't quite match the lyrics and the feeling that one would assume is meant to be conveyed. As well, the weaker vocal style is certainly a detriment to the material. On one of their previous albums, this song would have been seen as quite mediocre, and is probably helped by the intro and outro sections, making it seem more 'epic' than it really is. That said, the final moments do serve as a good way to end an album, as the guitars fade and the funeral organ returns. A voice, almost reminiscent of Vincent Price, speaks in a calm voice:

"Come, sweetest death
Come, blessed rest
And take my hand
And gently lead... me... on..."

Massive Killing Capacity is definitely the weakest Dismember album, showing a band that seemed to be quite lost and simply experimenting with anything that came to mind. There are a few decent tracks, though still incredibly tame and weak by Dismember standards, as well as a lot of plodding and uninteresting garbage. This is absolutely undeserving to be spoken of in the same breath as a classic such as Like An Everflowing Stream or even Indecent and Obscene. Don't bother with this.
 
(5 Aug. 2009)

 
 

It was in August of 1997 that Dismember's fourth full-length was released, as always via Nuclear Blast. As they made the rounds, doing promotional interviews with various magazines, the main theme appeared to be that there was regret with the previous album's experimentation. The new record, simply titled Death Metal, was meant to be a return to their roots. However, the band proved unable to shake the more melodic elements and to return to their glory days, resulting in an album that fell quite short of its mark.

Only a few songs manage to return to the more pure Death Metal style that these Swedes were once known for. Tracks like "Trendkiller", "When Hatred Killed the Light" and Ceremonial Comedy" are more straightforward, though not entirely bereft of any melody. The more abrasive production of this record certainly suits these compositions and improves upon the weak and clearer sound of Massive Killing Capacity. The playing is more intense, as the primitive riffs are pushed forward by Estby's thundering percussion and Kärki's hateful vocals. While not quite at the level of the aforementioned songs, "Bred for War" is a solid tune that shows obvious inspiration from early Autopsy. If this were an E.P. that featured only these songs (as opposed to the dull Misanthropic that preceded Death Metal), it might well have proven to be a proper return to form. Unfortunately, two of the three best songs are buried near the end of the album, while much of the rest is still filled with concepts similar to the band's previous outing.

The most prevalent influence heard on this album doesn't seem to be Repulsion or Autopsy, but rather Slaughter of the Soul from At the Gates. Tracks like "Of Fire", "Live for the Fear of Pain" and "Killing Compassion" are more in this melodic and thrashy Gothenburg style, though oddly done better. Just as out of place are such songs as "Misanthropic" and the overly weak "Silent are the Watchers", the latter sounding like an outtake from Massive Killing Capacity. Then there are the slower and uninspired "Let the Napalm Rain", "Stillborn Ways" and "Mistweaver", the latter being the only one with any decent riffs. Unfortunately, even those were spoiled with the poor vocals.

In the end, the generic title Death Metal may be a bit misleading. Though this record is an improvement when compared to its predecessor, it by no means represents a return to the pure Swedish Death Metal roots of Dismember. Outside of a few tracks, one would be hard-pressed to connect this with such superior releases as Like an Ever Flowing Stream or Pieces. Give it a listen, but don't expect much.
 
(7 Feb. 2016)

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