When it comes to comprising a list of the most underrated bands, there is always a place for DISBELIEF—a place which is seemingly cosier than the spotlight: a place to hide. Whether or not DISBELIEF is clandestinely seeking a cult status, I cannot tell for sure; but I know that the likelihood of achieving that is at its minimum. As a matter of speculation, with a little more publicity, the ever-changing quintet will not only be liked by a few, yet by many; however, for some reason, “Protected Hell”, their eighth episode, appears to be as fame-proof as were all its predecessors. Moreover, the mere suggestion of adding DISBELIEF to anyone’s playlist is not generally associated with the expectation that they will return gnashing their teeth at me. Therefore, before you bother reading the rest of this review, if you are into Death-tinged Thrash and/or Sludge with an ambient edge, DISBELIEF is your goldmine.
As for the richest gold-bearing ore, it might very well be newly-found: it might just as well be called “Protected Hell”. The album blends lustrous elegance and depressing ambience with belligerent force so as to prove, once more, that DISBELIEF are the masters of harmonised contrasts and contrasted harmonies. The dynamic rhythms and dirgeful tunes are joined in unholy matrimony of ‘hate’; ‘aggression’; and ‘sin’, and the spouses are maturer than ever to orgiastically celebrate the ultimate marriage of heaviness and despair. DISBELIEF is still as difficult to classify as has always been, but the song writing process appears to have shifted from making songs out of rich elements to making songs rich with elements that may sound independently simple but are together capable of creating sophisticated pieces of work. That is why “Protected Hell”, compared to its precursors, sounds more about brain than brawn.
Without being able to attain either band’s mystique, DISBELIEF expertly concocts a narcotic out of ALCHEMIST’s hypnotic atmospheres and NEUROSIS’s visionary textures—a brew to be injected into NEVERMORE-sque veins of pumping intensity so as to appease the frenzy at times and numb the verve at others. Karsten Jäger has never been more qualified to be appointed the sovereign Cerebrean protector of the hell DISBELIEF has created. His vocals are as anguished as usual – apart from the occasional frantic twists – and are much fuller of grievous passion and dark fervour. Actually, there is not a dull moment within the confines of this “Protected Hell” whose fiery river flows swiftly and uninterruptedly ending its course with the same acoustic chord progression of the source, hence becoming an endless revelation of apocalyptic woe.
The relative brevity of the intervals, which DISBELIEF’s albums have been released at since the debut, has not allowed the band much room to radically metamorphose into something it is not. That is not to say that DISBELIEF has been dwelling in stagnant waters for all twelve years, but to stress the fact that the change has been progressively undergone so far. What baffles me about DISBELIEF, however, is how they manage to make music that guarantees them the interminable support of a faithful base of fans, yet, curiously, attracts less and less listeners with each successive record. In view of that, “Protected Hell” is not a new gospel meant to redefine DISBELIEF’s musical beliefs or enlist an additional segment of followers, yet an innovatively altered version of the same old ritual—enhanced and enacted with every bit of expertise the band possesses. Straightforwardly, this is dope – take it or leave it.
(Online May 31, 2009)