Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Dismemberment - Embrace The Dark
I'm not surprised at the sound of Dismemberment's so-called highly anticipated 2014 offering, Embrace The Dark. I guess the first thought that crosses my mind when I see an album noted as highly anticipated or some mixture of words that mean the same thing is does any album from an unknown band really constitute something that would be "highly anticipated?" Highly anticipated, often times rings in my head as "too much money was spent on post production," and that is on display here. To be frank, Dismemberment are nobodies. Unfortunately, even though there is a lot of skill on display with Embrace The Dark, I fail to see this whale pick up any krill. Amongst anyone other than aficionados of Joel Grind mixed albums, the extreme metal blend here will probably fail to grip, twist and interest. To say that Dismemberment's album is as anticipated as say, Carcass' Surgical Steel or Morbid Angel's flub Illud Divinum Insanus is playing with one's own illusions. Dismemberment's lineup contains little clout or name recognition, effectively negating that side of the marketing angle as well. Playing a live role for a band that has made a career of dragging people on tour for a year or two then giving them a firm boot to the ass is not going to sell albums. I also don't see the subtextual black thrash attack here moving much either. Also, Dismemberment sounds like a brutal death metal band name, that might also throw people off. Maybe I'm completely wrong, though and there are enough people out there that want to listen to the same boring mediocrity over and over again without actually looking for new and worthwhile stuff. This is days-old sushi. It's not appetizing, no matter how much sauce you put on it.
Dismemberment's main problem falls with the sterile production of the album and the superlative riffing in spots that drag on and offer little to the listener other than temporary oohs and ahhs if they happened to be monkish enough to be able to stay focused on the music. Songs like "Labyrinth" and second track "Eye of the Keeper" are a mix of too-melodic transition riffs, perhaps drawing comparisons to the aforementioned Carcass but lacking the memorability or finesse and over-thought syncopations. Coupled with a sound better suited to a band like Necrophagist it's constant problems and blunders which offer little to those that would normally latch onto a band like Dismemberment. Opening track "Confess Your Flesh" blasts around some well manicured melodic death metal, but sections of riffs sound incomplete without vocals and the whole tired style of amoebic extreme metal with no real identifying characteristics or originality seems to drag on and on. Even on short tracks like this one and "Eye of the Keeper," I'm left feeling beat and finding it hard to focus. When the first memorable moment of the album, a breakdown riff halfway through "Archaic Wisdom," appears I have no idea what song I'm in or if I cared it happened.
There are some good memories though. Best song for me is "Sacrifice Reality." It has some atonal stuff reminding me of bands like Aspid, Voivod or the more modern and less talented Vektor. It's a well written song that stands out because of the lack of extraneous riffs and parts. Transitions lead to places that I want to go and when Luke Shively's vocals gratingly smear the apocalypse-tinged riffs my attention is piqued. Melodies here are not dull and not used like a stadium toilet. The melancholy acoustic passage that fades out the end of "Sacrifice..." is a nice break from what, until then, was endless guitar phrases and drum blasts. It leads nicely into the slower "Aura of Obscurity," which also has merit for it's engaging and hazy intro. It's ruined by the following parts, which leave the delicious offerings the intro cooked up in the kitchen while they run away to play on empty stomachs. In many ways, it's this emptiness in the riffs which lends the album a weak sound. "Anathema" is another track which suffers a similar fate, though maybe to a lesser degree than "Aura." Dismemberment build a strong intro but leave it behind, drawing nothing from whatever possibilities it created.
Even though Dismemberment are obviously talented musicians, and they've packed a lot of showmanship and ability into the forty minute Embrace the Dark, their technical ability does not propel the songs. There are some great solos and some great parts of riffs but nothing feels as if it ever comes together. Other than "Sacrifice Reality" much of the album lacks individuality and causes problems with flow and maintaining listener attention. With the talented guitar playing of Luke and Jacob Shively, there is a lot of opportunity for Dismemberment to improve in the songwriting area without losing the slightly wild and out of control style they are going for. Drummer Taylor Emerine is great on the album, and lends a great percussion foundation but the too-modern drum tone loses me. Albums like this really need, in my opinion, a powerful, heavy low end from the drum kit to support the thinner guitars. If this album were mixed more like an early 90's New York area death metal album, the whole release would feel stronger. Vocally Luke sounds a lot like Jeff Walker. Not a bad thing, not a GREAT thing. Bassist J. D. Henderly also offers vocals to the album but his strongest additions are his bass playing. He knows when to throw some novelties and fills in, and when to fall back to supporting the rhythm section. The four-man unit has their work cut out for them, and while Embrace the Dark has some negative qualities, it also shows some strong intent.
The grade-school artwork doesn't help much either.