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Wading Through Poo to get to the Prize - 57%

boboy, April 24th, 2013

From glancing back through their discography, you would be forgiven for thinking that Italy's Karnak are a band who exist with the sole intention of hunting down the worst album cover art in the world. In these terms, the release of 2010's Dismemberment superficially represents a watershed of sorts, as it features a cover which is at best generic, but thankfully not inadvertently hilarious as per past opuses. More pertinently, Dismemberment also stands as a reinvention of Karnak's sound, from the ludicrous synth-imbued, prog-death car crash that appeared on the equally ludicrously titled “Melodies of Sperm Composed”, into a more simplistic, but infinitely more palatable classic death metal blueprint.

Karnak kick the disc off proper with the thick, saturated opening riff of “15th February 1622”, before twisting into an interesting, clattering chord haze. The track glows with old school, brutal musings that are pleasing to the ear, and well performed, but in order to access this pulsing core of Karnak's sound, the listener must begrudgingly wade through the most torrid and cringeworthy midi introduction that I have heard to date.

On its lonesome, this faux-pas would be forgivable, as even the creme-de-la-creme of 1990's death metal often had such aural abortions tacked on the beginning of their seminal releases, but not to be outdone, Karnak have gone so far as to splice equally terrible midi segues between each and every track on this album.

The result is not pretty. For the most part, these instrumental abominations sound like compositions that Trey Azagthoth was too embarrassed to include on Heretic, resplendent with Nobuo Uematsu's most ancient SNES-era synth voices. The track “Purification (The Blades of the Saints)” sounds like the final boss battle to a terrible J-RPG, while the thankfully ten second long “Kaly Yuga (Litanies of Suffocation)” sounds like it should accompany the opening scenes of an early Jackie Chan movie, set deep in the yakuza infested underbelly of Toyko.

Unless disjointed and confusing is the tact that Karnak are aiming for, I cannot label these instrumental tracks as anything else other than a total failure. The only saving grace here is that they are generally under one minute each for the most part, so at least a determined listener can train the ear to phase them out fairly quickly.

Elsewhere, in the non-midi bread and butter of this release, we are treated to sporadic bursts of competent and enjoyable death metal, with stellar production to boot. Karnak tiptoe nonchalantly along the line between the old guard's classic sound and the gurglier, brutal stylings of the newer generation; think of a halfway point between Inveracity and old Deicide and you are pretty close to the zone Karnak occupy. There are also some more flamboyant moments on the disc, such as the track Scavenger's Daughter, which features some scintillating lead melodies which soar over the tidal power chords of the songs midsection.

Despite these positives, the robustness of the Dismemberment's death metal backbone is compromised repeatedly during the album, by constant reprises of open string breakdown riffs. Yes, That loathed variety of syncopated rhythm which has been the staple diet of the fallen “-core” genres since time immemorial; and it makes an appearance in one form or another on almost every fucking song on this disc. Granted, some of these chugulations are used quite well, such as in “1584 URSS”, where the drums flail around the riff in a bizarre jazz scat style, while clean overdubbed guitars play lounge music in unison; but this still does not cut the mustard for this level of repetition. Even the convincing Meshuggah worship of the title track does not raise the spirits, mainly due to the fact that the listener has already sat through a virtually identical breakdown segment which comprises most of the preceding track, “The Black Hole”.

The whole arrangement just oozes a lack of creativity. One can almost envision the writing process, as one member poses the question: “Should we write another riff for this song?” whilst another replies, “Lets just put an open string chug section there”. The style of riff simply screams filler, and the band seem to crowbar it in at every available opportunity.

The lasting impression of Dismemberment is that Karnak are a band who do not proof read their work. The whole album reeks of ideas that have not been thought out or quality checked to any degree. I find it difficult to listen to any of the instrumentals on this disc without wondering how this even ended up on the final release. The haphazardly flung together concept is then dressed with cheap filler riffs, embarrassing artwork and some incredibly strange lyrical content. It comes across like a photo-op by an out-of-touch politician, doing what he thinks is cool with the kids, without any consciousness of how toe-curling the ordeal is to watch from the outside.

It is in some ways a real shame, as the core of the band's sound is solid, no-nonsense death metal, and there are even sparse moments here and there when the band string together something very interesting. However, the rushed and poorly developed ideas of Dismemberment are the lasting aftertaste, and leaving such an impression on a listener condemns the album to wallow deep in the mire of mediocrity.

miserable-curmudgeon.blogspot.co.uk/