5/9/2008 - Review by: Etiam
When a band releases a self-titled record far into their career, chances are it's intended to make a special statement. Whether it marks a new theme, a return to an old theme, a swan song or a new beginning, self-titled albums make an implicit promise of momentous change that is difficult to live up to. After seeing Dismember's boisterous set on their latest State-side tour (as compared to the surly Grave, also on the bill) it was clear that they were heading in such a direction, off the path of primordial Swedish death they had blazed themselves (along with Grave and Nihilist). A possible contributor to this divergence is the infusion of new blood--original drummer Fred Estby departed in '07, and the band has also brought on a new bassist (Cristiansson) and rhythm guitarist (Persson) in recent years. And even though the stalwart David Blomqvist and Matti Kärki remain, meaning that Dismember today sounds not too unlike Dismember of 1993, enough changes have been made to keep a sharp, fresh edge on this limb-clipping machine.
The foremost of these changes is how confidently and smoothly it establishes the band in new melodic territory. Splashes of clean leads and harmonized Swedish shuffles have always been a quirky component of Dismember's sound, but only in recent years have they begun to explore the lower end of the gain knob this extensively. 'Under A Bloodred Sky', though admittedly overlong, prominently features the new approach in an instrumental break where Blomqvist and Persson lay down a convincing interpretation on the classic Iron Maiden theme. As usual, Blomqvist receives the lion's share of the songwriting credit here, but at least one of the new members appears on most of the tracks, and those few written by Blomqvist and Kärki alone contribute to a weaker second half.
Overall, though, 'Dismember' retains an invigorating crackle that leaps right out of the speakers. This is in no small part due to a critical element of any production job that is much easier said than done: good tone. Nearly all of the Swedish greats have mastered the art of distortion with tones that cut like fuzzy machetes, but few have been able to break from this style, much less integrate it smoothly with any other sound. Dismember succeeded in this critical area and found a nearly ideal balance between grit and glide that gives some leads a warmer, almost buttery tone.
Of course, not all of 'Dismember' is that sweet. Stompfests like 'Legion' (great gang vox chorus for future shows) and the memorable refrain of 'Europa Burns' find Dismember hacking away again with bruising force. From punky jaunts to bending, doomy sneers, Blomqvist and Kärki are refusing to mellow with age and have recruited just the right talent to help them along. 'Dismember' is a confident and gutsy album that achieves its ends, proving 'The God That Never Was' to be no comeback fluke. After enough time spent with these past two albums, we might all forget that 'Hate Campaign' ever happened.
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