Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dissection - Storm of the Light's Bane (1995)


Storm of the Light's Bane is the second full-length album from the masters of Swedish Black Metal, Dissection. Recorded in Hellspawn/Unisound Studios in March 1995, and released the same year, this album had a lot to live up to with regard to their debut L.P. The Somberlain. The result is something that is certainly similar, yet demonstrating a quite different approach. Gone were the slower, doom-like passages and intro sections. Dissection's sophomore effort was designed to be a little less atmospheric and more straightforward. Rather than torturing you first, and savouring the fear and anguish, the band goes right for the kill in most cases.

The album begins with the intro, "At the Fathomless Depths" which has a great classical feel. Immediately, you get a sense of the difference in production on this album. This sounds a bit less raw and more streamlined, certainly not in a bad way. The guitar tone is very cold and is suited for the wintry cover art as well as the lyrics and music contained here. This intro piece sets the tone very well, before "Night's Blood" explodes into your ears.

The first song showcases the very tight playing of this band complete with new guitarist, Johan Norman. The melodies are dark and furious while the vocals possess a haunting effect. The Iron Maiden influence can be heard in the guitar harmonies, showing a bit of this band's influences. "Night's Blood" is very fast-paced and shreds right through the listener like the winds of a northern blizzard. Then there is a slower, acoustic section which does well to add to the atmosphere. It is somewhat reminiscent to the first track on The Somberlain, which features a similar passage. Epic and majestic, this album gets off to a great start.

The freezing Black Metal chaos does not let up on the second song. "Unhallowed" blasts from the start and then goes into a somewhat more mid-paced riff. Jon Nödtveidt's scathing vocals are quite unique, I think, and are in top form here. There is absolutely no mistaking him for anyone else. The lyrics are well articulated and the cold Black Metal melodies make this a nocturnal masterpiece. And, as usual, when solos are utilized they actually mean something and add to the integrity of the song. It may sound repetitious, but this is yet another classic song. Timeless and superior to most others. It must also be said that when Dissection uses clean or acoustic passages, it is done far better than anyone else.

The next song is perennial crowd favorite, and a staple of the live show until the end, "Where Dead Angels Lie." This song is slower than the previous ones, and probably the catchiest one on the album. This, of course, makes this the most accessible track here, I would imagine. This album really displays a band that has cemented their distinct sound. While the trace influences of Maiden and Mayhem are present, this is very much a Dissection album. Whereas others simply copy their favorite bands, Dissection take these influences and incorporate them into a broader sound all their own. "Where Dead Angels Lie" has a creepy and melancholic feel. This is aided by the glass-shattering scream near the end. The cold wintry imagery conveyed in the lyrics of this song, and the rest of the album, fits perfectly with the sound and the aesthetic presentation of the album.

"Retribution - Storm of the Light's Bane" speeds things back up, and then transitions into an old school thrash riff. The hateful venom spewing from Jon's lips is like a battle cry. The band, very confidently, goes from tremolo picking to thrash and into more traditional metal riffing. The cold and epic atmosphere is still very much present and there is no weakness to be found on this album.

The icy acoustic guitar that begins "Thorns of Crimson Death" introduces another melancholy and deathlike melody. The song is carried by a mid-paced thrash riff and Jon's poisonous vocals take your mind beyond reality. The song then speeds back up as the freezing fury of Black Metal is unleashed once more, in full force. This single melody kills 99% of entire albums that have been released since. Again, an acoustic passage adds another dimension to the song. This is done perfectly, and not in a cheesy way such as countless other bands. Then the epic, Hellish main riff returns to carry the listener into the abyss once more. Also worth noting, perhaps, is the backing vocalist, Erik "Legion" Hagstedt.

Nearing the end of the album, we have one of my personal favorite Dissection songs, "Soulreaper." The main guitar riff is typical Scandinavian tremolo picked mayhem, and the song is fast and possessed like a mighty winter storm. Near the middle of the song, one can hear acoustic guitar being played along with the electric. It makes for a nice effect, and is maybe done somewhat better than when Darkthrone tried this on A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Tony "IT" Särkkä makes an appearance, contributing backing vocals here. I have absolutely no complaints about this song, in any way. Very few bands are capable of producing a single song of such quality, let alone and entire album. At this stage, Dissection clearly had no peers.

Finally, to close the album out, Alexandra "Axa" Balogh's "No Dreams Breed in Breathless Sleep" leaves a lasting impression of melancholy and death. This simple piano piece fits very well and accentuates the atmosphere of the album.

I cannot say whether or not Storm of the Light's Bane ranks above The Somberlain, as they each have their own identity while being similar. In this case, I do not wish to compare these two classic albums. Dissection is no mere band. Their albums aren't simply music. They are nocturnal rituals. This is best listened to while walking through the desolate night in a winter storm. You do not merely listen to Dissection, you experience it...