Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dissection - Reinkaos (2006)

Reinkaos is the third full-length from the mighty Dissection. In fact, it is the final album from this legendary band. It was recorded in Black Syndicate Studios, in Stockholm, Sweden. Prior to being arrested, Jon Nödtveidt had already begun working on material for the next album. As he put it, these ideas were but seeds that continued to evolve, during his years in prison, which finally came to fruition as the band entered the studio and recorded the album. This music is the result of years of focus, with no contact from the outside and no idea how the musical landscape was changing in his absence. In this sense, one might say that the album is very pure. Some have expressed some disappointment with the change in sound. One could say that it is a shame that these unfortunate souls have missed out on the magic of this record, but it was not created for them anyway. The easiest thing Jon could have done would have been to repeat himself and copy Storm of the Light's Bane, for example. Instead, he made the music that he believed in. He had made the statement that he wished to, with the earlier releases, and felt the need to go beyond that rather than stand still in time for 11 years.

One of the primary mistakes that many seem to make is claiming that this is not a Black Metal album. Perhaps, these people missed the countless interviews in which Jon said that the band would recruit only Satanists that were dedicated to this concept; a prime factor in the exclusion of any former members. It is all too often forgotten that Black Metal did not begin with the tremolo riffs and blasting drums that characterized much of the Norwegian bands of the Second Wave. If you go back in time, you'll realize that Mercyful Fate was one of the earliest Black Metal bands, and possessed very few similarities to this idea. The concept, lyrical and spiritual, has much more to do with defining something as Black Metal, as opposed to stylistic choices. Whether or not the music has gone back to the roots of Metal and bears a more traditional approach to the songwriting makes no difference and has nothing to do with its distinction. The point here was to "put focus on all traditions that work with the powers of the nightside and which lead through the left hand path towards gnosis and spiritual transcendence". Upon first listen, one might think that these songs are less complicated than those from earlier albums. In fact, this is incorrect. Aside from being a far more spiritual process than in the past, the songs were written in a very meticulous fashion, utilizing occult music theory and creating lyrics to evoke the dark powers that they represent. A great deal more effort went into this than ever before.

Naturally, I found myself somewhat disillusioned with the Maha Kali E.P. I later realized that my primary complaint with that release was the production. I had gone into it expecting the same cold and nocturnal feeling that was present on The Somberlain and Storm of the Light's Bane. The thing is that such expectations were simply unrealistic. In retrospect, the E.P. served well to prepare people for the change that was to come. If I had to guess, I'd say that the material that was developing around '97 was more in line with "Where Dead Angels Lie", focusing more on melody and less on speed. That seems to be the main link between new and old, in a sense. Like many, I was a little skeptical about the new album, but an interview that followed the release completely sold me. Jon's words were filled with conviction and passion for Reinkaos. He viewed it as the completion of his work as a musician, and such words are not to be taken lightly. And, with the recent news of his passing... it would seem that this was all gravely serious to him.

The album begins with "Nexion 218", which bears the trademark Dissection sound. It is a brief intro, beginning with an almost sorrowful acoustic piece that is accompanied by the sounds of cold winds and crashing waves. This, suddenly, turns into something of a war march. The riffs are crushingly sinister and filled with some majestic essence. This is the perfect build for what is to come.

"Beyond the Horizon" explodes with a vicious, yet melodic, thrash riff that isn't too far removed from the title track to their last album. The first thing one might notice is that the production is a lot thicker than on the first two albums. The bitter cold feeling is gone and there is little risk of these riffs freezing your skin. However, the dark melodies will easily send chills throughout your being. By the middle of the song, the pace slows down a bit, building toward another epic melody. The vocals are nothing short of amazing. Jon's voice has held up, extremely well, and is as venomous as ever. The music is very memorable and even haunting, at times. Another key element is the passion that is evident from the performance. The hatred for this world, and for existence itself, is overflowing.

"In this place so sinister I shall find my dreams
Illuminated by the blackest flame
To transcend with dragon wings"

The next song is "Starless Aeon", which erupts in a similar manner as the first song, with some brief thrash bit, before a more melodic riff serves as a transition to the main theme. Near the middle of the song, things slow down and one of the greatest solos of Dissection's career grabs you by the throat and begins to suck the life out of you. It is ephemeral, yet effective. One might say that Tomas Asklund's drumming seems a little mechanical, but it's a minor complaint. Lyrically, it could not be more epic than this, as one truly feels that the forces of chaos are working all around, unraveling cosmic order and bringing the end.

"This is the winter of the last aeon, the hungry end is coming soon
Harbinger of the day of wrath will eclipse the sun and rape the moon"

The brilliance of the song arrangement soon becomes apparent, as "Black Dragon" opens. Not only was each song crafted with great care, but the placement of each, in relation to the others, was no accident. It begins with a dark and introspective acoustic piece, accompanied by ethereal sounds and black invocations. This is followed by another soul-piercing lead solo, which haunts and enlightens. Not as fast as the previous songs, this one is more mid-paced, while still being quite dynamic. As with the rest of the album, the melodies are very memorable and take permanent hold in your mind. Jon's vocals sound serpent-like and possessed. Later in the song, there are more lead solos of utter genius. What many seem to neglect, and where Dissection seems to excel, is infusing the music with genuine passion and maintaining this element. This forceful hymn to the destruction of life and light is one of the highlights of the album.

"Jormungand - Lord of the poisonous sea, fulfill the twilight prophecy
Unleash your hatred upon all life and kill this world in the final strife"

"Dark Mother Divine" begins with an ominous tone, with a brief clean interlude, before the furious hymn to Lilith is unleashed from the shadows. The riffs are very memorable and it is worth noting that, despite the stylistic differences between this and earlier recordings, it is nearly impossible not to recognize exactly who this is upon first listen. Jon Nödtveidt is a very skilled musician and knows well how to achieve the goals that he set for himself. Regardless of what manner he chooses to express his ideas, it is all unmistakably Dissection. The song continues to build, until a very frenzied thrash riff takes over, near the end. It is all very powerful and one must realize, again, how the placement is designed for the album, itself, to serve as a ritual of sorts.

"Open now wide the Kliffot''s shell - Open wide the gates of Hell!
And lead us to the kingdom of Chaos where the dark gods forever dwell"

This is followed by "Xeper-I-Set", which is one of the shortest songs on the record. It starts with some sounds that seem as if they're coming straight from hell. It stands in contrast to the previous couple tracks, in that it is faster and more straight-forward in its approach. However, it is no mere thrash-fest, by any means. Once you get beyond the initial moments, there are more melodic moments and an absolutely blood-chilling scream that freezes your skin to hear. One might expect this to be some filler track, given its position, but it is also integral to the overall design. The epic nature of Reinkaos is also present in this song, growing as it progresses. The ending sequence is of particular note.

"Chaosophia" is an instrumental piece, consisting of a simple acoustic guitar. The feeling is very somber and haunting. It works well as an introduction to "God of Forbidden Light". This one begins with dark melodies and a feeling that seems to indicate that the end is drawing ever nearer. It's more mid-paced that the last few songs, adding to the epic ritual feeling. It must be made clear that, while words can give some idea of what one can expect from the experience that this album provides, they fail utterly at truly capturing the essence of this masterful work. There is some dark power that is labouring within these notes and lyrics. The solo, in particular, is like some dark mist that makes clear your true path, as opposed to obscuring the way. While listening, you can feel something awakening from deep within.

"Raise the hidden flames within us
Into chaos set us free"

"Reinkaos" is another instrumental, though much longer than the last one. It is worth mentioning, at this point, that the album is meant to be listened to in solitude. Preferably, one would be illuminated only by a few candles, placing all focus on the magic being created by this music. There is a dark beauty to be found in these somber and doom-inspired melodies. The riffs, the solos... everything here is perfect. Around the mid-way point, the tone takes on an even darker vibe. It is almost as if your spirit is being dragged toward the murky depths, far from the light. The music has a calming effect, as if preparing you for something.

"Internal Fire" is the final burst of energy before the dark ritual is complete. In a sense, it's like some form of cleansing. It's very fast-past, by comparison, and quite straight-forward, possessing a great deal of intensity. Despite this, the song is still dynamic and features enough variation to remain relevant and interesting. As it progresses, the tension continues to build within you. The time has come.

"Black - The flame I bear inside
Black - The flame shall never die
It will burn to ash the cosmic lie
Awaken me to ride the Internal Fire"

All of this energy that has been building, it now finds release in the form of "Maha Kali". This is the black ritual that will offer liberation from this cosmic prison. Regarding the music, it is much more natural than the E.P. version (which was recorded in prison) and sounds more organic. It's fairly mid-paced, bearing similarities to "Where Dead Angels Lie". The word 'epic' applies to much of this album, and this song is no exception. It truly feels like the climax to the entire affair, and the ultimate end. In the latter half of the song, there is a calm section with female vocals in the background and Jon's impassioned invocation. All of these elements come together to create something quite powerful. The walls begin to break down and the haunting melodies serve as blades with which to slash open your veins and seek your own freedom from this feeble reality.

"Through all illusions I shall see
I shall cremate this world and set my essence free"

This is a very brilliant and powerful record, not to be so easily dismissed based on unrealistic expectations or the complaints and grievances of others. It is a masterpiece of black art and something that may not be understood by all. It is their loss, truly. The magic within this album cannot be denied, yet it is for each person to experience and judge for themselves. Reinkaos is the final chapter, and ultimate statement, from the legendary and eternal entity known as Dissection. It is all the more poignant in that Jon felt this was the crowning achievement of his musical career (perhaps his life) and has since passed from this mortal realm. He has left behind a legacy that will live on until the flames of chaos consume this world.