Friday, January 4, 2013

Dismember - Like an Ever Flowing Stream (1991)

Released in May 1991, Like an Ever Flowing Stream is the debut full-length album from Sweden's Dismember. However, this was by no means the first L.P. that these guys put out, as three of the five band members participated in Carnage's Dark Recollections, just one year earlier. Along with that record, this stands as one of the true classics of the Swedish Death Metal scene and is absolutely essential for anyone into this style.

From the opening moments of "Override of the Overture", it is clear that the former Carnage members retained the crushing power and devastating heaviness of Dark Recollections, while also infusing it with an even more violent sensibility and a razor-sharp edge that slices right through you. The somewhat sombre tremolo melodies give way to intense and barbaric riffs that split your skull in two and leave nothing but scattered remains in their wake. This album takes a similar approach to that of Carnage or Entombed's Left Hand Path, yet this is far more forceful and really showcases the total brutality (in the proper sense, not the technical Death Metal garbage that misused this word later on) that these Swedes had to offer. There are some good lead solos featured here, mostly played by Nicke Andersson of Entombed, though they take a completely different direction than Mike Amott's work on the Carnage L.P. The eerie melodies are replaced with something quite abrasive and powerful. Matti's vocals are more venomous and hateful here, being a bit less guttural and using more of his throat. This adds to the more urgent and, sometimes, maniacal feeling of the songs. The drumming still utilizes a lot of the punk-inspired beats, though there appears to be a bit more variation than before. The only song on here from the band's demo days is "Dismembered", which still includes the melodic intro. Most of the other high-quality demo tunes had been used for Dark Recollections. While this and the intro to "In Death's Sleep" adds another dynamic to the band's sound, it would have been nice to see them work these parts into the songs better, rather than just serving as intros that really could have been tacked onto the beginning of any track. As compared to some of the other albums that were being released around this period, such as Left Hand Path, Into the Grave, Nothing But Death Remains, Where No Life Dwells, etc. Like an Ever Flowing Stream is by far the most violent and intense of the bunch, though sacrificing much of the doom influence that many of the other bands shared, as well as being present on the Carnage debut. Regardless of this, Dismember managed to stand out from the rest, proving to be superior to their peers and approaching Death Metal with a bit of a different perspective.

The production is still as heavy as the other albums that were coming out of Sunlight Studio at the time, if not more so. The one thing that Like an Ever Flowing Stream has over them is that, while still utilizing the same kind of buzzsaw guitar tone, there is something more raw and primal about the sound that they achieved with this record. The drums are mixed in such a manner as to really help drive things forward and to obliterate everything in their path. Meanwhile, the guitars act as rusty chainsaws, carving through everything and leaving utter destruction behind them. This is not an album to put on in the background and, from the songwriting to the production, it demands your attention from beginning to end. This album is the total antithesis of the typical Death Metal album of this time period, many of those having somewhat of a soft sound, with a pathetically non-threatening guitar tone and the warm bass that almost makes it seem cartoonish, to go along with generic vocals and uninspired songwriting.

Like an Everflowing Stream is one of the cornerstones of Swedish Death Metal, filled with memorable riffs. Far from being among the legions of Entombed clones, despite some of the similarities, Dismember was one of the most violent and bloodthirsty bands out there at the time. If you're new to this style of music, skip all of the retro gimmick bands and seek out the originators. This is a classic of the Swedish scene and of old school Death Metal in general.