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Disma - Towards the Megalith - 90%

Thatshowkidsdie, August 1st, 2011

At first the old school death metal revival was refreshing. Since its early 90s heyday, death metal had become overly produced and overly technical, a bloated, sterile, wank-fest that had absolutely nothing to do with the guiding principals the genre was founded upon. In other words, the death had been taken out of death metal, replaced by endless sweep picking and squeaky clean production values. A seemingly endless legion of bands were either cranking out spastic, antiseptic anti-songs, picking the bones of Slaughter of the Soul, or otherwise dragging death metal’s name through the cesspool (and not in a good way).

Of course, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, so along came came a slew of bands flying the flag of old school death metal, attempting to take the genre back to its unholy roots. Some of them were impressive upstarts (Vasaeleth, Impetuous Ritual, Grave Miasma) some of them had been here all along (Nominon, Vomitory, God Dethroned), but the vast majority of them weren’t worthy to lick Bolt Thrower, Entombed or Incantation’s boots. Putting the death back in death metal brought with it a dearth of innovation and attention to craftsmanship. I can live without the former, but the latter is an absolute necessity.

Enter New Jersey’s Disma. Featuring legendary ex-Incantation throat Craig Pillard, as well as members of the long-running Funebrarum, Disma aren’t a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears kids who just discovered death metal. They’re a group of battle-tested veteran musicians with a thirst for devastation, and no other modern band to date has managed to capture the old school death metal zeitgeist as well as they have on their debut full length, Towards the Megalith.

Towards the Megalith is heavy. Impossibly heavy. It might just be the heaviest death metal album of the year, hell, it might be the heaviest death metal album of the last five years. The guitars and bass are de-tuned to the bowels of hell and drenched in distortion, and Pillard’s vocals are so abyssal that they actually add another layer of heaviness to Disma’s slow ‘n’ low sonic assault. You might think that all this unabashed pursuit of heaviness and distortion would lead to a murky Incantation-esque sound, but Towards the Megalith retains a high degree of clarity without sounding overly slick. In fact, being able to hear the filth dripping off of each individual instrument just makes it that much heavier. Hey, did I mention that this album is heavy?

The other immediate highlight of Towards the Megalith is its tempo. Although the band does pick up the pace occasionally, the bulk of the album is characterized by lumbering, doom-y passages, like a horde of legless zombies slowly dragging themselves across a desolate graveyard turned quagmire in search of flesh, their rotting entrails leaving a trail of putrescence behind them. I’ve always been drawn to sludgier tempos over the relentless blastbeats that characterize modern death metal, and the album’s glacial pace, combined with it’s aforementioned sonic weightiness makes for a totally suffocating listening experience, the musical equivalent of being buried alive in concrete.

I’ve talked a lot about a lack of “futurism” in death metal of late, but I’m also a big proponent of the idea that progression simply isn’t necessary if a high level of craftsmanship is present. What Disma lacks in innovation, they more than make up for with an unwavering desire to be the heaviest fucking band on the planet and an inherent understanding of what makes compelling traditional DM. Forget reinventing the wheel, Towards the Megalith crushes it into dust.

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