It was in August of 1997 that Dismember's fourth full-length was released, as always via Nuclear Blast. As they made the rounds, doing promotional interviews with various magazines, the main theme appeared to be that there was regret with the previous album's experimentation. The new record, simply titled Death Metal, was meant to be a return to their roots. However, the band proved unable to shake the more melodic elements and to return to their glory days, resulting in an album that fell quite short of its mark.
Only a few songs manage to return to the more pure Death Metal style that these Swedes were once known for. Tracks like "Trendkiller", "When Hatred Killed the Light" and Ceremonial Comedy" are more straightforward, though not entirely bereft of any melody. The more abrasive production of this record certainly suits these compositions and improves upon the weak and clearer sound of Massive Killing Capacity. The playing is more intense, as the primitive riffs are pushed forward by Estby's thundering percussion and Kärki's hateful vocals. While not quite at the level of the aforementioned songs, "Bred for War" is a solid tune that shows obvious inspiration from early Autopsy. If this were an E.P. that featured only these songs (as opposed to the dull Misanthropic that preceded Death Metal), it might well have proven to be a proper return to form. Unfortunately, two of the three best songs are buried near the end of the album, while much of the rest is still filled with concepts similar to the band's previous outing.
The most prevalent influence heard on this album doesn't seem to be Repulsion or Autopsy, but rather Slaughter of the Soul from At the Gates. Tracks like "Of Fire", "Live for the Fear of Pain" and "Killing Compassion" are more in this melodic and thrashy Gothenburg style, though oddly done better. Just as out of place are such songs as "Misanthropic" and the overly weak "Silent are the Watchers", the latter sounding like an outtake from Massive Killing Capacity. Then there are the slower and uninspired "Let the Napalm Rain", "Stillborn Ways" and "Mistweaver", the latter being the only one with any decent riffs. Unfortunately, even those were spoiled with the poor vocals.
In the end, the generic title Death Metal may be a bit misleading. Though this record is an improvement when compared to its predecessor, it by no means represents a return to the pure Swedish Death Metal roots of Dismember. Outside of a few tracks, one would be hard-pressed to connect this with such superior releases as Like an Ever Flowing Stream or Pieces. Give it a listen, but don't expect much.