I've decided to put reviews for these 2 albums into a single piece. In a sense, they do belong together being the products of the same recording session; there is good reason to put these two fine slabs of death metal art into one coherent and objective review…. But enough rambling. A lot of us folks in the scene felt that the mere fact that Dismember, widely recognized as one of the originators of the second wave of death metal in the late Eighties, have gone back to the roots meant a lot. Will the scene, whored out by its inevitable mainstream acceptance, grow strong again? It really made me feel like something of a great importance was at stake.
Dismember have always been the band symbolizing an uncompromising spirit of the Scandinavian brutality when it came to playing death metal. Even though some viewed Massive Killing Capacity as a sign of them moving towards much more "listenable" sound, none could've guessed that they will return with the new material extreme enough to remind us of the time when the Swedes ruled the scene. Misanthropic echoes the time when we were all waiting for bands like Grave or Entombed to deliver the goods in the fashion so deadly and removed from the mainstream, that it was enough to inspire hundreds of followers worldwide.
Unfortunately, as with many bands before them, Dismember were forced to try to produce an album that would top off the glory of their debut, Like An Everflowing Stream. If you have never heard this grinding opus of true insanity and all-out violence in its most disgusting and gory form than you have missed what quite possibly is one of the best metal recordings to the date. With Autopsy and Entombed being two of their biggest influences, Dismember opted to just let it all loose back in the days…. but what about playing uncompromising death metal in 1997? Well, they still have a certain edge with rawness being the major ingredient of the dish. Dismember, always being very a rhythm oriented band, decided to emphasize the skills of their skin-thrasher Fred Estby and the drum tracks were given an extra treatment. Which unfortunately resulted in a sound that is not brutal but rather unsuitable. Bass is virtually missing in this production. Which leaves us hoping for something special in the guitar department.
And here Dismember delivered. Their guitar work was always rather simplistic to emphasize the speed and aggression. It hasn't changed much, but what makes it truly outstanding is the abundance of melodic riffs that make it work. Just check out that hook for "Live For The Fear Of Pain"! A lot of the guitar parts could be compared to the latter-day works of Dissection and In Flames even - while not as commercial sounding. But again the entire material doesn't sound naturally underproduced and raw. A good comparison here would be Ulver with their Nattens Madrigal, where the band paid a fat studio bill for a kind of production that Quorthon used naturally in his garage back in the days. In this sense Misanthropic does not sound that fake due to the inclusion of an Autopsy's cover; that naturally turned everything into pure death metal in its primeval form. And the full-length… well, it's just a collection of the material that supposedly came from the heart. My impression was that it came from the other considerations, whatever they may be. To make things even worse, Matti Karki sounds like he had a sore throat during the recording of some of the songs, especially "Trendkiller" and "Stillborn Ways". He doesn't growl; instead we're treated to shouts that just don't sound right. He definitely used to have his own style - where is it now?
Altogether, you are faced with a choice. Either you fully accept Dismember attempting to re-establish their past underground credibility and buy both Misanthropic and Death Metal. Or you just get yourself Misanthropic, being the better effort, and drown yourself in the waves of nostalgia… Dismember will undoubtedly continue releasing albums, but what will be their future motivation? Will it be a simple desire to exceed what has already been achieved… or will it be descent into self-parody? Go with your feeling, but my drift here is rather obvious. Oh yeah, and don't forget to grab a copy of Like An Ever Flowing Stream or its brilliant follow-up mini-CD called Pieces - those were the days!