Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dismember - Massive Killing Capacity (1995)

In 1994, Dismember entered Studio Sunlight, under the guidance of Tomas Skogsberg, to begin recording their third full-length album. Released in August 1995, Massive Killing Capacity soon became the most controversial album from this Swedish Death Metal band; possibly moreso than the "Skin Her Alive" incident. The album, as a whole, is more melodic than their previous efforts. Of course, there was always a melodic strain that ran through the albums before this (and since), but it was here that it took center stage. Dismember also utilized more traditional Metal structures, giving rise to the argument that they were following the footsteps of Entombed, whose stylistic alterations earned their music the title of Death 'n' Roll. However, Massive Killing Capacity is far more entrenched in traditional Metal than Rock, which nullifies the Entombed comparison. It is no surprise that this record is looked upon as the black sheep of the Dismember catalog, easily being the weakest album that they released. The change in the sound was not as drastic as some have made it out to be; there were definite signs of this on Indecent and Obscene, though found in smaller doses. Nonetheless, this L.P. is quite impure and filled with problems.

On its own merits, this is not a terrible album. Had this been a side-project, it would likely have been a little more accepted. The main issue is that these songs were released as the third full-length album from Dismember, a name that meant something in the Death Metal scene. To call this Death Metal, melodic or not, is quite a stretch. The music is rather tame, for the most part. Songs like "I Saw Them Die" and the title track feature rather bland riffs and catchy choruses. The latter does allow for a pretty decent tremolo melody to creep in, albeit briefly. The vocals follow the path that began on the previous album, being less harsh and more shouted and throaty at times. The feeling of the band's sound being 'cleaned up' can also be attributed to the guitars which, still maintaining a familiar tone, seem more clear and immensely weak when compared to Like an Ever Flowing Stream. The simplistic songwriting gives off a rather relaxed feeling on lame songs like "Crime Divine" and "Casket Garden", which become a rather tedious listen. 

One of the better tracks on here, "On Frozen Fields" starts out with a cold tremolo melody, which is one of the most unforgettable of the entire record. From the first moments, one can tell that this is a superior song to the previous two. It's a bit faster paced, while remaining melodic; even moreso than the other tracks. Had this been recorded in a more pure Death Metal style, minus the obvious choruses, it would not have been out of place on the previous album. Though it's here, in contrast to so much weaker material, where it is most allowed to stand out. 

"To the Bone" is not a terrible track, though still far too weak for a Dismember record. It starts out with a simple bass line, joined by a riff that gives a sense of impending doom. The vocals are a little harsher, on this one. Implementing the same style as some of the previous songs, this one manages to be a little more dynamic and memorable.

"Black is all I see
Within these walls of pain
If I can't find myself
I'm better off dead"

As evidenced by the lyrics, this song bears more of a sorrowful feeling, in a sense. The melodies are somber, the vocals convey a sense of misery, without completely wallowing in it, and the overall feeling is one of despair.

"Wardead" sounds like something from a different recording session, for the first few moments. It seems more straight-forward, with harsher vocals than on some of the songs, as well as a faster pace and riffs that would not be out of place on their earlier albums, with the exception of the strange riff that accompanies the chorus. For some reason, they were unable to resist the urge to spoil the track with more experimental nonsense. Again, the solo adds life to the song, serving some purpose instead of being thrown in for the sake of having a solo.

"Hallucigenia" is a fairly decent tune, incorporating more mid-paced riffs that create a gloomy vibe. Some of the riffs sort of hearken back to old Candlemass. The vocals are deeper and more harsh on this one, possessing a sound more vicious than what is found on the rest of the album.

"Collection By Blood" opens with a riff that is very similar to "The Hellion", by Judas Priest. After this intro part, the song speeds up and is dominated by thrash riffs. It has kind of an epic feeling to it, as a result of the guitar melodies. This may be the one song on the whole album, done in this more melodic and traditional style, that actually works in its entirety. It is certainly one of the most memorable songs on here.

"Nenia" is an instrumental, seemingly inspired by Metallica's "Orion", which sets the stage for the end that is soon to come. These riffs are rather miserable and the song probably benefits from the lack of vocals, allowing for the music to create a somewhat dismal and draining effect. It flows well with the intro section of the following track. 

The album ends with "Life - Another Shape of Sorrow", which is a rather varied track. It seems quite promising, beginning with the sounds of a funeral organ and rather doomy riffs, creating an atmosphere of impending death. However, the band soon shifts gears toward something far more dynamic than might have been expected. The next few minutes see them combining pure Death Metal riffs with more melodic ideas, to create one of the strongest tracks on the record. However, that might not be saying much. The speed of the song doesn't quite match the lyrics and the feeling that one would assume is meant to be conveyed. As well, the weaker vocal style is certainly a detriment to the material. On one of their previous albums, this song would have been seen as quite mediocre, and is probably helped by the intro and outro sections, making it seem more 'epic' than it really is. That said, the final moments do serve as a good way to end an album, as the guitars fade and the funeral organ returns. A voice, almost reminiscent of Vincent Price, speaks in a calm voice:

"Come, sweetest death
Come, blessed rest
And take my hand
And gently lead... me... on..."

Massive Killing Capacity is definitely the weakest Dismember album, showing a band that seemed to be quite lost and simply experimenting with anything that came to mind. There are a few decent tracks, though still incredibly tame and weak by Dismember standards, as well as a lot of plodding and uninteresting garbage. This is absolutely undeserving to be spoken of in the same breath as a classic such as Like An Everflowing Stream or even Indecent and Obscene. Don't bother with this.