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There is a time and a place for everything, and insofar as high octane, thrashing death metal of the old school Swedish variety is concerned, that time is always and the place is everywhere. At least that is what Dismember's heavily lauded 2006 slayer of an album (pun actually intended) The God That Never Was has to say on the matter as far as speed and aggression goes. This is one of those albums that's just downright relentless, in much the same way as Sepultura's Beneath The Remains was, but with a few notable divergences in style that actually puts this album in similar territory to recent Kreator output, minus the deeper, huskier grunts that are more a staple of the more conservative adherents of Swedish death metal, or the ones that preceded the melodeath scene as it were.
In a rather interesting twist of irony, despite Dismember not really fitting into the Gothenburg template the way that At The Gates did on their mid 90s efforts, this album occasionally has some "interludes" in a few songs where the harmonized, Iron Maiden tinged lead guitar passages make some appearances. This makes for an interesting duality on individual songs such as "Time Heals Nothing" and the auspiciously similar to Maiden's seminal instrumental "Transylvania" in "Phantoms (Of The Oath)" where the high speed thrashing character of this band's early 90s roots are still fairly pronounced. Indeed, one wouldn't be out of order to dub this an old school Swedish death album with Gothenburg influences, though the resulting sound is generally more vicious and brutal than even prototypical early melodeath albums such as Skydancer and Lunar Strain where some semblance of older death metal was still present.
Nevertheless, the rule for this album is speed and aggression, and the pace of things tends to err a bit more towards a constantly driving character rather than the grooving one of fellow Swedes Entombed. The tendency is for shorter and concise individual assaults, heavily influenced by the work of Slayer and Death, often times clocking in at under or just barely past the 3 minute mark, featuring short lead guitar bursts that are usually influenced by the chaotic approach typical to Deicide prior to the exodus of the Hoffman brothers, but also occasionally bent in a methodically structured melodic style that is almost singing in character. Just a single listen to frenzied thrill rides like "Shadows Of The Mutilated" and "Never Forget, Never Forgive" will instantly bring to mind conjure up images of zombies banging their heads clear off their shoulders to something even more intense than Reign In Blood.
The only thing that really works against this album is when things actually do slow down a bit, which while a very occasional event, does comprise a few less than inspired songs, of which "Into The Temple Of Humiliation" is the weakest link. It definitely makes sense to put a slower song close to the middle of things to keep the listener from asphyxiation via trauma to the upper vertebrae, but things devolve into a lackluster, middle era Entombed sound when it gets slow given the lack of intricacy in the riff set. This is, for better or worse, a very primitively oriented album with a few newer tweaks here and there, and the flow of things is needlessly interrupted. Nevertheless, a few isolated chinks in an otherwise towering suit of armor is far from a deal-breaker, and this is among the better death metal albums to come out of the mid 2000s, in large part because it doesn't really sound like it came out that year, but rather circa 1993-94. Prepare for carnage, prepare for brutality, and don't mind the Sodom mascot lookalike toting a sword on the album cover too much.
Dismember came back after inactivity with Where Ironcrosses Grow, planting themselves back on the death metal map. I’m not particularly a fan of the modern death metal that exists nowadays, so hearing Dismember stay alive with their brand of amazing Swedish death material is always invigorating. Everything that Dismember nails they adopt on their following albums. Since Where Ironcrosses Grow had more than its share of goodness, it’s a no-brainer that The God That Never Was flat out kills. What Dismember brought to the table was a shorter album than their 2004 comeback release yet a darker and more memorable monster.
Straight away, the cover art should clue the listener into the wretchedness of this release. No, Dismember didn’t get more brutal, but you can feel the eeriness in the atmosphere as the onslaught of thick, beefy riffs and bass come without warning or withdrawal of pain. This pain is most felt in the melodic leads on tracks like “Time Heals Nothing”, the harmonic instrumental “Phantoms (Of The Oath)”, and the closer “Where No Ghost Is Holy”. The leads bleed with poignancy and carry more depth than any piece of ear-candy. They’re highly melodic and well-composed, ambitious leads that hold their own in this day and age.
Aside from that, the backbone of the album consists of a large number of grimy riffs across the tempo spectrum, all graced by the chainsaw guitar tone. These riffs, supported by Estby’s proficient drumming and Kärki’s filthy growling, are enlisted and in total make this album closer to Gothenburg-ish melodic death than Where Ironcrosses Grow but farther than Massive Killing Capacity. Once again, though, Dismember are able to utilize enough melody to maintain their death metal sound without deterring the album. Not only that, but no song outlives itself by going on longer than it should, making this album packed at a respectable length.
Any fan of death metal would do well to check this out. It’s my favorite Dismember album of their final years, with enough capabilities to stand just below the early material. It’s the dark, eerie death metal that I enjoy with Swedish death atmosphere and flavor that I’ll always love. For the band, it was a greater victory than before. They reclaimed their name with Where Ironcrosses Grow, but they reclaimed their glory with The God That Never Was.
Sweden...a country famous for Saab automobiles and meatballs...but wait! Sweden has an even more awesome, lesser known, export that you might be familiar with. Death fucking metal. Yes, it's also the home of "Gothenburg metal" but never mind that shit. I'm sure that any serious fan of death metal knows of Dismember already (and with good reason).
The gorey chainsaw guitar tone was perfected on this album. Look no further. Forget Entombed! You can almost smell the gasoline and see the guts flying because they sound so much like chainsaws. Even the phrasing of the riffs sounds like throttling one to a beat. That's all well and fine, because this is a Dismember album and that's what one should expect. You definitely won't be disappointed by the tone and riffing if you are into death metal at all. If you're already a fan of the band, you'll be thrilled. In fact, this is so great I could compare it to Vader's Litany and Torture Squad's Pandemonium.
What makes this stand out from the rest of Dismember's excellent catalog is the inclusion of lead guitars. There are many soaring, melodic leads and solos (even harmonies) on this album, which is highly unusual for Swedeath. It's a direct injection of Iron Maiden into the motors of these chainsaws. This is something that could have gone terribly awry...just look at some of the awful "melodeath". THIS is how you properly incorporate melody and solos into death metal. Don't worry though, Dismember hasn't forgotten how to assault you with brutal riff carnage, barbaric vocals, and ferocious percussion.
What distinguishes the In Flames brand of melody from that of Dismember on this release? Four main things separate their attempts to fuse elements of NWOBHM into death metal.
1) The phrasing of the lead guitars.
2) Awesome riffs.
4) A quality vocal performance (I don't believe you, Anders Friden).
They throw in ripping, blues-rock styled lead guitar into the mix without forgetting that riffs are still more important. See Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. After all, Iron Maiden themselves were influenced by classic rock. Naturally the harmonies here scream Maiden since that's what I always think of when I hear them in metal (I imagine many people would say the same). However, don't expect fretboard pyrotechnics all over the place, the leads are all relatively restrained and used sparingly. This is a major reason why they work so well in their context: real fuggin' death metal.
The production is stellar, too. It achieves the dirty old school sound with a modern touch. The drum kit is quite clear for example. The bass drums are suitably thunderous and the snare will crack your skull open. The bass guitar is mostly absent, seemingly shoved aside for the bass drums. Most importantly -- the guitars are up front in the mix and I already mentioned their midrange, double distortion tone (often linked with Sweden's own Sunlight Studios). The drums fit snugly underneath and are blended perfectly by the levels and panning for each channel. The mix and equalization provide enough separation and clarity so you can hear what's going on. The remarkable thing is that the studio engineers managed to use the right amount of processing and not trample on the pervasive horror aesthetic.
Overall, this album conjures the image of a sadistic psychopath swathed in black rubber (blood is messy stuff you know). He has all the requisite instruments of slicing and hacking assembled in his basement...but his preference is for a big ass, black chainsaw with huge jagged teeth. Few bands pull off the gore theme as well as Dismember and even fewer do it as consistently. This isn't quite the demented mind trip of Demilich or Gorguts, more like the album Jason Voorhees has looping on his iPod 24/7. This is not "as if you were an insane serial killer", instead it's "the shit that villains from slasher flicks headbang to". Highly recommended for driving around town with a ridiculously loud sound system blaring it. I will leave you with epic death metal poetry featured in a spoken word outro section on the fourth track, Autopsy.
"The sound of saws cutting through bone,
Fills my head with psychotic ecstasy.
The feel of that flesh peeling off your face,
Carefully lifted off for my death mask,.
And through the eyes, I finally see Heaven."
This is the way death metal was meant to be played; no uninspired brutal riffage, no wanky and super-fast riffs and solos that are completely disjointed with a billion or more time signatures and tempo changes and no melodic harmonies stolen from Iron Maiden. Just balls to the fucking wall death metal with plenty of thrash influence still lingering in the riffing. On this particular release, seminal death metal purveyors Dismember return to their signature sound present on their brilliant debut "Like an Ever Flowing Stream", however for "The God That Never Was" they've managed to incorporate melodic sections and harmonies without sucking! I know you didn't think it was a possible and I sure as hell didn't think so, now if Sepultura ever return to their former glory hell will probably creep ever closer to reaching 0K. From start to finish this album rends and tears, and your neck will also rend and tear because you'll be stuck in a state of endless headbanging that can only result in serious neck, spine and head trauma. IT'S THAT AWESOME.
Speaking of awesome; that guitar tone. Dear god, it sounds like they've plugged their guitars directly into chainsaws and are letting them go off in an orphanage or the children's ward at Princess Margaret Hospital. Unlike their previous release the guitar tone doesn't muffle the riffs extensively, also the use of a 'cleaner' tone (by Dismember standards) makes it's appearances during the harmonies, solos and lead sections which manages to work greatly in their favour. The mixing is pretty top notch, everything is in its appropriate place and most importantly the drums do not over-power the guitars! I know I mention this is pretty much every review but the US death metal scene seems to have some sort of massive erection for having drums at the forefront with too many blast beats and double bass kicks taking over the riffs, which ruins fucking everything. Nevertheless the drums do their job will with some nicely placed blast beats, good use of double bass kicks and nice fills. The bass is rather non-present but at times it rears its head, of course listening to a death metal album were you really looking for a bass to begin with? Vocally the album is very consistent; those death growls tread the perfect line between brutality, anger and coherency. They lack 'emotion' but again, this is a death metal album not some flowery, keyboard laden wank-fest brought to you by Sonata Arctica.
Best sections? Holy Christ on a moped there are too many to even begin with, although that break in the middle of 'Trail of the Dead' is insanely orgasmic. Every time I hear that break everything on my desk goes flying off as I headbang without self control. Seriously if that doesn't make you headbang until you spasm violently it's probably because your coffin is too small. 'Shadows of the Mutilated' is probably the best all-rounded song with a powerful main and chorus riff, the dual lead guitar work is definitely the highlight of this song, if not the entire album. It's beautiful and majestic but still has plenty of balls, that bridge that leads into the dual lead guitar work is also pretty awesome with some real headbanging quality. 'Time Heals Nothing' opts for some strong tremolo picking not unlike German thrashers, Kreator and like the previous song there is plenty of dual lead guitar work that is just awesome beyond words; they trade off lead work and then combine into one harmony, rinse and repeat a few times to make a fucking epic lead section. I'm trying my hardest to not do a track by track at this point because honestly every song on this album is a fucking killer, there are few weak spots and no regressions into being brutal for the sake of it. Everything has its place and the album flows like a raging but precise river, slicing through wildlife and ignorant tourists. Did I mention it was a river of chainsaws? 'Phantoms (Of the Oath)' is a rather interesting instrumental piece with some stock-standard Dismember riffing but oozing with melodic lead work and harmonies, admittedly I wasn't a big fan of this track but after listening to this album for about the bazillionth time I've come to appreciate it as how melodic death metal should have ended up as rather than the gothenburg abomination that won't go away like those easy, but very unattractive chicks that seemingly haunt and despoil every bar or club.
Really there are few weaknesses in this album, sometimes it slows down but that's because the band probably decided to sympathise with the listeners and give them a break from headbanging endlessly. Powerful but thrashy riffs that are not in short demand, plenty of lead works and amazingly melodic harmonies are what metal scene needed and Dismember have 'em in fucking spades. This is definitely one of the best death metal releases in many, many years that is only usurped by the god-like LP "Pandemonium" by Torture Squad and even then that's just a testament to how fucking awesome "The God That Never Was" is. Go burn your copies of "Fiction", every In Flames release since “Colony” and every Arch Enemy release with Angela Gossow; this is the only death metal album with melodic overtones and sections you should own.
It's only February right now, and already we've had some killer CDs come out by bands such as Drawn And Quartered, Benighted, Gory Blister, etc. But, this was one CD I didn't see coming. Having judged the band pretty much solely based on an average CD (2004's Where Ironcrosses Grow) and their early masterpiece (Like An Ever-Flowing Stream), I settled to place Dismember in the "good but not great" category among a lot of "old timer" bands still releasing CDs and marketing them through the hype of that one special "return album." (Suffocation needs to oil their joints a bit...)
If only this had been Dismember's proverbial return (though, they never really left I guess, just for a couple years, from 2000 to 2004, which I would arguably not even term a "leave"), waves would be abound and people would be a-buzz because of this CD, which contains what is easily their best material since their 1991 debut. Riffs abound, buried in deep, bassy tone and topped off with amazingly competent melodic solo sections (harmonization!). While this may scare some Dismember fans, it has only made me more of a fan, considering the melodic sections in "Shadows Of The Mutilated," "Time Heals Nothing" and "Where No Ghost Is Holy" (the first being a ridiculous melodic thrasher with a fast and interesting gallop in the middle; the second another fast go-ahead with a great couple of verse riffs and an awesome harmonized chorus part; the third the best closing song on a death metal record perhaps ever) are among the most emotional sounding solos/melodic moments penned by this band in their entire career.
Smack in the middle of the CD (well, it's actually track 7 out of 11, but time-wise it fits the criteria) we have an amazing instrumental called "Phantoms (Of The Oath)," utilizing everything from brutal thrash riffs to early In Flames-y romantic guitar interplay (actually the solos and gallops remind me of In Flames' "Dead Eternity" and "Wayfaerer" only with a deeper, more bassy tone). This song alone kills most modern death metal, and it doesn't even have any vocals! From then on, we have a few more tracks, including "Into The Temple Of Humiliation," a huge contrast to the hoppy/happy instrumental, this time opting for doom/death pace loaded with groove and mid-paced sections for the old-schooler in us all. Oh and did I mention the early track "Autopsy," which actually seems like a fantastic tribute to the band of the same name (complete with dismal, plodding approach combined with an insane amount of gloom, and ending with spoken word in a funny, yet strangely fitting, Swedish accent)? I did now, so we can move on. "Blood For Paradise" continues with more fun 80's metal soloing and mid-pace/fast-pace tempo hopping.
But the crowning achievement, I believe, comes in the form of the aforementioned final track, "Where No Ghost Is Holy." Beginning with an unbelievably emotional and gripping slow lead, the song launches into high speed with a catchy riff pulled straight from the "book of melodic yet badass riffage," leading into a slower section later on with a great groove and a slowed-down thrash feel, continuing into an absolutely mindblowing solo section.
Thus, I conclude my review of this amazing CD. Anyone who passes up listening to this because they thought Dismember's last CD was average (since it...y'know, was) is quite frankly completely retarded. After all, I passed it up almost upon seeing the name Dismember: a name I haven't seen as synonomous with anything but "competent" since...oh, I dunno, 1993?
Back to the 90's, I loved bands like Unleashed, Grave, Pungent Stench, Dismember, Autopsy, etc., and at one time those bands started to sound a bit "different" of what they use to be; of course some changes are ok, but usually those changes are in order to "smooth" the sound of the band, and I ended referring to them as: the "old" Dismember, the old Pungent Stench.
I have been listening to the "comeback" of several Death-Thrash bands from the old school, damn! Even Hallow's Eve it's back!! (doing it great, btw) and listening to the Grave's Fiend Regression album I was a bit optimist about the "old Death Metal" sound, but even if that albums has some great moments, it doesn't reach a high level or fails to keep a continuity and at some moments sounds really boring, same as the last album from Unleashed and so on...
Remembering the album "Where Ironcrosses Grow" I was not expecting for this one with impatience or great hopes, cause from that album just 2 tracks were really good, the rest was just "ok, another Dismember album", so, when I started to listen to "The God That Never Was" I was not expecting anything in special (even if still I am a dreamer and I continue hoping that some old bands will do something decent again as they use to be) and I received the first great surprise of the year!!! This album is just great! Nothing has been done so great from their side since the "Indecent And Obscene" masterpice. Yeah, I am radical, old fashioned, against "changes" and blah blah, but albums like this makes me continue believing in "miracles"!
The album is intense, raw, and keeps you for 35 minutes in the same level of expectation and headbanging. The vocals are just great same as the guitars...just assassins. The perfect soundtrack for a slaughter, as Death Metal should be.
The first track "The God That Never Was" gives you the certainty that everything will be all right, but it's just the beginning of the massacre, cause the next one "Shadows Of The Mutilated" annihilates any traces of pseudo Death Metal in our body, it's just sublime. "Autopsy" and "Never Forget, Never Forgive" stay in the SAME level, no high moments up to now, just an endlessly auditive killing. Forget about the forward and skip in your CD player, no need in this album.
And they continue doing the same for the rest of the album. Not to talk about the instrumental "Phantoms (Of The Oath)" that sounds a bit "thrashy" (kind of Orion (Metallica - Master Of Puppets) and Rigor Mortis "Freaks" album, but with the guitars tunned in the typical Dismember style) and gives you a moment to rest just to continue killing your senses after it! sadists!
Highly recommended, in a few words, just buy it! if you love "Like An Ever Flowing Stream" and "Indecent And Obscene" and you were expecting for a bit more eversince, the wait has finished and it's name is "The God That Never Was"
Dismember seem to be an ever-running machine of Death Metal. Even "Where Iron Crosses Grow", relased 13 years after their debut, displayed very few signs of weakness. While melodicism was prominent, it was still as plummeling as ever. A new album in the making was definitely some excellent news.
Upon my first listen of "The God That Never Was", I did my usual Dismember routine. I cranked up the volume bigtime, and awaited the first blasts with child-like curiosity. And what a beautiful massacre it was. These guys have lost nothing in terms of intensity. The sheer pace and passion of the songs are blistering and Matti sounds as pissed off as ever. Actually, this album is flat out brutal even compared to most other Dismember CD's.
Where the last CD sounded more like a mix between "Massive Killing Capacity" and "Death Metal", this one tends to resemble the early 90's style of "Indecent & Obscene". And I must say it's quite a treat, because there's only one band that would do an album like this in 2006. Yes, Dismember.
This is a 35 minute rampage of old school Death Metal and the only downside actually is that it is over way too fast. But hell, I'd rather have a short album full of intensity than a long album with fillers. Death Metal fans who fail to check this one out are missing a treat.
Favourite song cuts: "Time Heals Nothing" and "Autopsy"