It will come as no surprise to fans that the rather unique signature melancholic Death Metal sound upon which DISBELIEF have built their success (critically at least) remains largely unaltered on their latest album 2010's "Heal!"
The album kicks off with a purpose; the aptly named “Eyes of Horror” hammers home the first of many solid Death/Thrash riffs which form the backbone of the album’s hooks. Whilst it’s impossible to listen to this album without thinking of MALEVOLENT CREATION, OBITUARY et al, DISBELIEF manage to take the whole Old School sound and make it sound fresh.
The riffs continue right through the solid, but uneventful, second song “Isolation," reaching their pinnacle on what for me is the highlight of the album, the stunning “Last Force Attack."
This is where DISBELIEF really set themselves apart from the crowd. It is almost impossible to review a DISBELIEF CD without mentioning the superb vocals delivered by Karsten Jäger, which really come into their own on songs such as this. For those not familiar, if you imagine Tandy from OBITUARY, but add a hint of tortured emotion thrown into the mix, then you would be somewhere close. The song opens with Jäger howling the title of the song, accompanied with some cool ambient effects and plenty of echo which really gives the music a thick atmosphere which is often lacking in Death Metal. After the intro the guitars kick in with another thick mid tempo Death/Thrash riff, slowing only to offer more ambience to bolster the atmosphere.
After the first four songs we get a transition from new material to a range of covers and a reworking of “Shine” from their 2002 release of the same name. Despite covering a range of songs from KING DIAMOND to KILLING JOKE, DISBELIEF maintain their sound, thereabouts, with the guitars maintaining their heaviness, although now delivering a Doomy chug rather than Thrash, with Jäger’s vocals stepping up a notch, adding a sinister range of vocal styles from spoken words to drawn out more tortured versions of his earlier efforts to fit the new styles. Within this style, the songs “Love like Blood” and “Welcome Home” standout, delivering a subtle groove, and whilst it is debatable whether or not they are better than the originals, the Death Metal infusion certainly doesn’t do them any harm
It is worth mentioning at this time that the second half also contains the CD’s weakest songs. Possibly due to the vast different in styles, “Red Sharks” misses the mark a little, where the vocals sound a little too harsh for the melodic riffs underneath, whereas “Shine” sounds rather generic compared to the rest of the CD and I would question their decision to rework this song over their other stronger efforts. These minor niggles could possibly be over looked, however, as they come towards the end of the CD they do kill the pace of the album a little.
Overall the criticisms made in the last paragraph are only offered as part of the critique and in no way detract from the fact that “Heal!” is a strong effort, and despite half the track listing comprising of covers/reworked songs, the all of the songs are well-written and well-worked. The four new songs are excellent examples of quality Death Metal, with an interesting range of covers offering a little variation to the usual Death Metal CD experience.
Guest review by Graeme Martin
(Online November 19, 2010)