Release year: 2019
Label: III Damnation/Immortal Bytes
Death metal is a rotting grave filled with worms of every kind. It’s all too easy to get lost in a particular approach to the genre and lose sight of how much diversity and width there is to the genre. Lately, I’ve been on a brutal USDM trip, binging on copious amounts of Cannibal Corpse and Cannabis Corpse – yes, by a funny coincidence both bands side by side – with a side dish of Broken Hope. After wading through most of their discographies, I was quite fatigued by it all and indulging in more metal of death felt like a chore.
Until I dug into Dysemblem, a duo from the UK, who with their archaic death-doom pulled me right back into the game.
The promo sheet says that with Autotomy, their second full-length album, Dysemblem wished to take the darkness of early 90’s black metal and reshape it into a death metal form. Whilst Dysemblem certainly do draw from the rich well of 90’s extreme metal, I don’t get much of any black metal vibe here, direct or indirect – instead, the duo of Aees on all stringed instruments and vocals and Nuctemeron on drums have crafted an album with strong ties to the doom-laden death metal of the era, without sounding like a pastiche or another “retro death” group.
Looking for references to Dysemblem’s sound, I am drawn to the nordic countries, and two groups in particular: early Amorphis and Swedish cult legends Gorement. The low, deep growls remind me a bit of Tomi Koivusaari – or why not John Alman from Winter – whilst the music has some of the same mysterious darkness as Gorement, but with less of the melancholy. If you add a dollop of the masters of old school UK death-doom, My Dying Bride or Paradise Lost, to the mix, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what Dysemblem offers on Autotomy.
That being said: though it’s not hard to name references and spot familiar elements from Dysemblem’s sound, they’ve managed to craft an album that’s their own, not just a makeshift combination of things stolen and borrowed from aforementioned artists. And that’s what makes Autotomy such a good album: it catches your attention with its familiarity, but transfixes it with how they masterfully make something of their own from that.
With tempos mostly sticking to the slower side of things, heavy guttural vocals and riffs hewn from rock, Dysemblem’s death-doom has the potential of being monumental in its heaviness. Sadly, it falls short of this due to the only flaw of the album – the mix. Whilst the organic-sounding drums and the appropriately heavy guitars work well, the bass isn’t prominent enough in the mix. This leaves a sort of gap between the drums and the guitars, and the end result is a slight deficiency in heaviness. Some of the time this creates a wonderfully spacious, breathing mysterious kind of atmosphere, but at other times it leaves one wanting.
But overall, that’s a relatively minor gripe, especially because it’s a shortcoming that pops up only every now and then. It doesn’t hamper the record constantly, only some of the really lurching, slow sections. And when it’s my only complaint about Autotomy, I think you can say things are pretty damn good from Dysemblem’s point of view.
So, in conclusion: if you’ve got an appetite for some heavy, old school death-doom metal – and what’s wrong with you if you don’t? – then here’s my advice for you: check out Autotomy. It shows that the old school spirit is still alive and breathing, not just in retro pastiches, but in music that takes pride in its roots but has its own identity.