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In 1997 Dismember released the album 'Death Metal'. At the time it was quite the summary of where the genre was going mixing the brutal with the melodic. Dismember's music had its share of melodic lines and passages in the past, but never as prominent as a contrast to the brutal as on 'Death Metal'.
Demonical's previous efforts have been quite in line with the Dismember of old executing the Stockholm sound with routine and talent. All the key elements have been there; the buzz-saw guitars, the heavy tremolo picking, the frantic drumming and the subtle melodic lines. The latter has been particularly skilfully presented distinguishing Demonical from the crowd of revivalists more than anything. On their previous effort 'Death Infernal', they came dangerously close to the shores of Amon Amarth-land but managed to steer away in the last minute.
'Darkness Unbound', the bands 4th full-length, takes Demonical on a journey straight to the realm of 'Death Metal' with the lines between the melodic and brutal being more distinguishable than ever. The recognizable characteristics of Stockholm death metal are still ever-present even in the more melodic parts and the band never travels west to Gothenburg, but it still marks a change in Demonical's sound. Where Dismember managed to work with the contrasts by following up a brutal song with a more melodic and keeping in that fashion an entire album, Demonical has chosen to concentrate the melodic pieces to the earlier half of 'Darkness Unbound' and the more brutal tunes to the latter.
This could have worked out fairly well were it not for the repetitive song structures on each half of the album. The earlier melodic half basically follows a brutal-traditional-death-verse-followed-by-a-melodic-chorus-and-repeat-pattern, whereas the latter half is more unpredictable but with repetitive riffs. The earlier half is tempo-filled, while the latter half is varied from up-tempo to doom passages. The first half is cheerful, well as cheerful as death metal goes, whereas the second half is pitch dark.
This makes the album seem quite schizophrenic and I get the feeling I am listening to two albums by the same band combined as one. I am not quite sure what the band intended with this output. Did they want to take the listener on a ride of contrasts musically and emotionally? Or could they simply not agree on where to take their music this time around? Either way the result makes for a rather incoherent album.
Given this review so far there is a risk 'Darkness Unbound' will come off as a horrible creation, but even though it is the band's weakest output to date regarding both album structure and song writing it is far from a crappy piece of work. 'King of All' contains some nice tremolo-riffing topped with a dark catchy melody. 'The Order' will serve as a short but effective energy-boost on any concert and 'The Great Praise' is an impressive show on how to make a captivating song by varying the same basic riff structure for almost 6 minutes. Sverker Widgren still has one of the best voices in death metal and his feeling for finding the right vocal melody in any riff is ever-present.
I have a feeling much of 'Darkness Unbound' will finally come to place in the live setting where the strict boundaries characterizing the album when listening from start to finish will be diminished. As an album though, this hampers the experience severely.
Dismember never again released an album with such stark contrasts as on 'Death Metal'. Hopefully, Demonical will follow in that fashion and stick to what they do best. That is releasing relentless yet melody-infused death metal with all the aspects well balanced.
also review of: Chaos Manifesto