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The Longest Songs in Metal, Part Nine - 80%

Insin, February 1st, 2017

So far, all of the songs I have covered in this series have been of the progressive or doom metal vein. Neither crushing and impenetrable drone metal, nor hypnotic stoner music, nor often cheesy conceptual prog rock, characterizes The Dwelling. This is different, and I want to say that it remains within Sabbat’s typical style, a black/thrash metal hybrid, but that’s not completely true. While it certainly possesses overtones of the sound they’re known for, it’s simply metal that one could say transcends a more specific classification, twisted into an hour-long epic.

The Dwelling begins with a strong and epic introduction, but shortly thereafter loses some of its clarity. It’s difficult to tell where this song is going; it meanders rather than building, though this is more excusable when the meandering is interesting, which, in this case, it is. Generally, the flow is decent, but some transitions are illogical, sudden, and rough. They cause some more distinct sections to emerge, the a perfect example the switch at about twenty minutes that sounds like an entirely new song starting. Others are smoother — the first acoustic break back to a fast-paced metal solo is a quite dramatic yet natural change. All in all, they get the job done and move the song along in one way or another.

The album begins to take a more definite shape once it passes the halfway point, though it still twists and turns unconfidently. The finale seems to have all the makings of an epic ending, with a shredding solo, speed and aggression, a dramatic feeling, and repetition of the introduction. But the buildup leading to this section is not quite long or defined enough, there’s no reason that the end couldn’t have come ten minutes earlier or later.

The solos are among the highlights of the album, adding a more melodic counterbalance to the riffs that run beneath them. They pace themselves rather than devolving into a shred-fest, and repeat melodic phrases instead of changing constantly. However with the sheer amount of soloing, especially towards the end, it can get a bit monotonous and take on a more jam band feel.
The vocals are normally harsh-thrash with some downright ridiculous parts, where they take on a very King Diamond sound, and the “ALALALALA” scream at about 36 minutes. Sadly, The Melody of Death Mask is rather barren of keyboards; they lend the song some Burzum and Enslaved-like atmospheric ambiance during their rare appearances.

I’m unsure how to rate The Dwelling, perhaps because it’s hard to stack up against more “traditional” songs of length and the genres that tend to generate them. It manages to hold the attention, with enough variety to keep it interesting but not an excessive amount that creates a sense of disjoint. Despite its musical strengths — its fantastic and tasteful soloing, and its somewhat diverse array of sounds — structurally, it lacks the cohesiveness and the payoff that closes the best of long songs.