Disentomb - Misery - (8.5/10)
Published on October 24, 2014
When monsters unite.
The idea that nothing is guaranteed is simply untrue. If you choose to wake up every morning and jog a mile, that’s your call; you can make it a staple of your everyday life. But if you break an ankle on said morning run, well, suddenly your routine is no longer so fixed – unless you’re bad-ass and go for broke with a crutch run.
Still, there are things that you just can’t anticipate, and then there are things that you can. There’s the clichéd death and taxes tandem (always being put to the grindstone by any number of Floridians and Chinese senior citizens), but within the dominion of heavy music, one particular stone-cold safe bet must be the gold-standard assurance of Nick Keller cover art.
Basically: you use his work, your album is either good, great, or on the short-list of the year’s best albums. Unsurprisingly, determining the reason why is highly inconclusive, for whether a band feels the pressure of using a Keller creation as extra motivation or whether the exact opposite is true, it’s really a chicken-and-egg scenario.
So, when it comes to Disentomb’s second full-length release, Misery, could they possibly achieve the impossible by letting Keller down?
If you were paying attention to the above paragraph, you already know the answer. And in this instance, Keller’s artwork has reaped quite the profound effect and influence on this Australian brutal death metal quartet. Not only has Keller produced his most insane cover since, well, his last one (Horn of the Rhino’s incredible Summoning Deliverance), he’s pushed Disentomb to the very brink of their creative brutality…or, you know, vice versa.
Nearly four years since their debut full-length, Sunken Chambers of Nephilim, Disentomb have returned with vastly improved production values and obvious maturation in the song-writing department. Disentomb have not only slowed things down, but they also seem to have embraced a more traditional and genuinely wicked death metal structure that’s not so far removed from bands like Immolation or Gorgasm. But make no mistake, brutality remains the ordre du jour, and Disentomb have compiled a record suffused with all manner of adjunct savagery.
While not as doggedly slammified as their debut, Misery is much more the multi-headed freak, juggling Disentomb’s affinity for fiendish grooves with surging tides of technical dexterity and instances of pronounced deceleration. Disentomb’s novel and welcome exploration of more doom-inflected caverns is a promising detour; the hole they plumb in “Megaliths of Despair” emerges as a sturdy and indefatigably heavy death-doom turn, albeit one that exists more along the lines of a primordial draft than it does as a genuine heart-rending dirge. Still, the rolling kick drums and the song’s closing guitar melody are definite highlights.
And while such a death-doom trial imbues the record with extra malevolence, Disentomb’s bread and butter is their unequivocal capacity to crush. Eager to step up their running game, the quartet have employed a much more refined brutal death metal assault that’s reminiscent of several of the genre’s most distinct and celebrated acts. Additionally, Disentomb don’t pussyfoot about with streams of endless notes; the album’s 10 songs were as tactfully conceived as they were viciously performed.
Following the cool yet inconsequential instrumental album-opener “The Genesis of Misery,” the walloping “An Edifice of Archbestial Impurity” sets the bar with its myriad of bursting riffs and pace shifts, ending with a stunningly dense outro aided by the marching double-bass drums of Henri Sison. “The Promethean Altar” stitches riffs and pummeling percussion in a feverishly unhinged manner that reminds of New York brutes Malignancy and Suffocation, while “Cthonic Gateways,” the album monster, levels with Jordan James’ ursine vocals and a melding of barbarism and catchiness, all the while sounding like a Behemoth-meets-Skinless mutation. The album-concluding “Sentinels of the Bleak” is a fittingly massive send-off. Blending fiery chugging riffs with some erratic and dissonant chord pulses, the track hears Disentomb fade into odd-time signature oblivion.
Eternally adjoined with Keller’s sinister walking monolith cover art, perhaps Misery’s greatest achievement is in its ability to strike awe in both aesthetic and auditory realms. Musically, Disentomb have crafted one of the more imposing and versatile brutal death metal albums of the year, and with Keller on board, one of its most memorable creations.