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There are many contenders for the crown of Swedish death metal, but one of the most compelling and downright vicious of the early days is found in the raging beast of Dismember. Their sound, at its inception, represented one of the rawest yet coherent takes on the frenzied rage that went in to the early, largely thrash-infused character of death metal. Much like contemporary albums out of the likes of Entombed and Morbid Angel, there is a strong adherence to the mystic/occult side of the genre's broad lyrical outlook to complement the obligatory gore obsession that was pioneered by Death and then exaggerated by Cannibal Corpse, but the musical content actually proves to be quite conservative, hinting at a very methodical approach to songwriting that balances dissonant darkness with a discernible melodic structure that almost resembles early melodic death metal in the mode of Dissection.
"Like An Ever Flowing Stream" presents itself in a grandiose manner even before the sonic assault ensues, offering up one of the most epic album arts to ever come out of the Swedish death metal scene, and arguably also contends with any metal album art put forth since the 70s. But in an interesting twist, the actual musical contents are noteworthy for a concise brevity that is very appropriate to the traditional death metal sound, only occasionally breaking the 5 minute mark in a single song, and sometimes even keeping it below 2 minutes. The lead guitar work largely resembles the frenetic early leads of 1983-84 Slayer, and at times almost wander into a bluesy territory reminiscent of Entombed in the later 90s, but is also used rather sparsely in comparison to the frequent fret board gymnastics normally engaged in by contemporary counterparts in the U.S. such as Trey Azagthoth and the Hoffman brothers. Blast beats are also rarely employed, in contrast to the signature mode of one-upping the thrash influences of death metal that Morbid Angel and Bolt Thrower had already employed almost to the point of becoming grindcore, and an occasional atmospheric keyboard line in a similar mold to Darkthrone's "Soulside Journey" makes an occasional appearance.
As a whole, this album could be treated as one massive highlight, given that the songs are all but equally infused with a brilliant mixture of blinding madness and pummeling slower sections. But if there is one song on here that truly embodies the unfettered fury and sheer genius at work, it's the multifaceted and longer "Dismembered", which manages to maintain an air of simplicity amid the madness and contrasting sections, and opts for an almost vocal-like melodic lead guitar approach with only the occasional outright shredding section. The melodic content itself isn't the overtly NWOBHM character that would later come to define Dark Tranquillity, but at times it almost seems to be pointing at that approach. The vocal assault, as is the case with the rest of the album, is largely a somewhat guttural but still gruff shout indicative of John Tardy and Chuck Schuldiner, and definitely feeds into the album's thrash tendencies and mild conservatism quite well.
While I tend to prefer the first two Dissection albums amid the slew of powerful early to mid 90s albums to come out of the Swedish scene, this album is the one to get for a starting point in a fine tradition of northern European grimness and grandeur. Dismember would never quite top this one on subsequent efforts, but they did come close several times and stand alongside Unleashed as one of the more consistent bands to storm forth from the frigid borders of Scandinavia, and all newcomers to it would do well to take care when first approaching it, as neck fractures can result for the uninitiated.