Damn. Has it been nearly two years since Dismemberment unleashed new music? 2012's Denied Salvation (and its predecessor, The Condemned, for that matter) still seems fresh and, in this listener's library, still garners regular play. That said, I've been hungry for a full-length recording ever since first catching the band live in 2011 and, finally, Embrace the Dark is set to arrive early this year.
"Confess Your Flesh" announces an evolution. The thrash is black, to be sure, but Dismemberment immediately slithers onto new ground, shedding the skin of hyphenated subgenre descriptors and spawns a sound that is simply their own. There is no doubt that we'll see Carcass and Death comparisons across the blogosphere and, to me, the most consistent element revealed by Embrace the Dark is not that Dismemberment sound like any of these bands but instead how, like any of these bands, they've established a sound that is utterly and entirely theirs. Their first track rages out of the gates with choppy riffs that flail like a knife wielded in darkness and percussion that, once it finds its target, pauses only to blindly pound the blade into bone (check out the killer transition at 1:21). Vocals have achieved a balance of menace and clarity that deliver threats and promises with immediate understanding. Dismemberment are here. And then they're moving. Try to keep up.
Not only does Embrace the Dark find the band evolving over the course of an album but each track exists as some twisted Darwinian microcosm. The brief lead that cuts through the middle of "Eye of the Keeper" kicks off a devastating domino effect of changes, leaving vocals more or less in the past and ushering in riffs that promptly ascend to the top of the food chain. Those bemoaning a lack of bass presence (and, yes, that's usually me) need look no further than the heavy "Archaic Wisdom" which opens up for some solitary bass licks itself amidst its dry heaves of Old Gods lurching forward from centuries of sleep. "Labyrinth" winds with the hesitation with which one would approach its namesake indicating a maturity and providing a variety often absent from the all-systems-go! that often dominates modern thrashterpieces. Dismemberment remind the listener that the journey outweighs the destination and I daresay the melodies that lead us from the maze - or further within - reveal a strand of Thin Lizzy in this shifting DNA. "Sacrifice Reality" transcends its militant rise from the ocean and finds itself racing toward higher ground on all fours via another scorching Shively lead around the 3:30 mark before finally sauntering, fully upright, to an acoustic outro heretofore unheard in the realm of Dismemberment.
There's depth in devolution, too, with the band shape-shifting with ease on tracks like "Aura of Obscurity," slowing unwinding the double-helix to the base elements of primal predator again nearly two minutes in. The guitar's pulse quickens against leaden riffs in "Anathema" and, once the cymbals kick in, one is ready for anything and receives a track that resurrects the feel of the band's stellar demos that preceded Embrace the Dark. "Monolithic Impurity," then, strikes from out of nowhere with a sound unlike anything Dismemberment have dished up before, its stripped-down, tremeloed riffage conjuring up Cthulhu and his cohorts.
"Born to Consume" wraps up Embrace the Dark with Dismemberment as sonic Übermensch, poised above the planet, gazing upon a species it has surpassed - albeit less benevolently than anything Kubrick or Clarke ever imagined. Dismemberment instead go full circle, a beast shrouded in human trappings and possessed of a progressive intellect bent on a stratagem of savagery homo sapiens has yet to suffer - chaos unfolding, spiraling out, the seed of damnation, a creature born to consume.
Note: As Dismemberment were a vital component of this blog's energy, growth and an inspiration for the record label that stemmed from its contents, it is only fitting that their full-length debut, which I have been wishing for since first hearing the band, will serve as the last review posted here. While my passion for music grows daily, the rest of daily life has changed significantly and time and access to bands, blogs and everything required to stay relevant has dwindled. The label itself will likely wind down shortly and, as I turn off the lights one by one, it is with immense respect and gratitude to Dismemberment, whose members personify everything that is good about music, especially metal: intelligence, wit, generosity, a tireless work ethic and the astounding capacity for perpetual growth in their craft and soundscape. These guys are the real deal. In my book there are none better. Thank you to Jacob, Luke, Taylor and J.D. - your music has changed my life for the better.