As Dissection fell apart at the peak of its power due to the incarceration of its frontman and creative force, rhythm guitarist Johan Norman went on to create a new band with touring drummer Tobias Kjellgren. The formation initially went by the name Reaper, but eventually settled on Soulreaper, named after one of the songs Norman that wrote for the Dissection swansong “Storm Of the Light’s Bane”, to avoid copyright infringement. A lot more influenced by US death metal than Dissection, specifically “Covenant” by Morbid Angel, Soulreaper, who existed from 1997 to 2004, released two albums. Of these two “Written In Blood” was the first, and probably the best at that.

Soulreaper consisted of Dissection alumni Johan Norman (rhythm guitar) and Tobias Kjellgren (drums). Rounding out the line-up are relative unknowns as Christoffer Hermansson (lead guitar), Mikael Lång (bass guitar) and frontman Christoffer Hjertén. Each of the members had experience with prior bands but none ever amounted to anything substantial. Only frontman Hjertén, a more than capable and versatile vocalist in his own right, had prior experience with early black metal band Mastema, but his presence wasn’t able to elevate Soulreaper beyond mere functionality. Soulreaper debuted on Nuclear Blast Records as a result of the connection that the Dissection alumni had with the label. The brand would not prove strong enough and “Written In Blood” was its only for the German label imprint.

As Norman had a hand in Dissection’s more straightforward death metal oriented songs it isn’t much of a surprise to see him return to that particular well. The genre was winning in popularity again after the second wave (symfo) black metal explosion, and the advent of the more brutal subset of the US death metal sound. Yet as crunchy and functional as “Written In Blood” sounds it’s hardly a revitalization of the genre. Its combination of traditional American aggression with a Swedish melodic sensibility works purely on a visceral level, but on a conceptual level Soulreaper is as bland as its album title and vanilla occult lyrical fodder suggests. Soulreaper suffers from a similar fatigue and regression that Deicide and Morbid Angel experienced in the early 2000s.

The semi-acoustic intro to ‘Written In Blood’ is build around a variation of the central melody to the classic Dissection song ‘Where Dead Angels Lie’ visit the website. There are even more ties to Dissection abound on this album. ‘Satanized’ was the signature song and ideological vessel of the shortlived Satanized, a one-off project from Jon Nödtveidt and Johan Norman that released a solitary demo in 1991. The song was recorded in an earlier form on “My Shadow…”, the lone Decameron album from 1996, the death metal band that Tobias Kjellgren figured into before his involvement with Dissection. The strongest tracks of the album are ‘Seal Of Degradation’, ‘Subterreanean Might’ and ‘Labyrinth Of the Deathlord’. ‘Satanized’ on the other hand stands out for all the wrong reasons, and in just how much it differs from the remainder of the album.

The most interesting, and perhaps most telling, aspect of “Written In Blood” is that its strongest songs were co-written by a member no longer involved with the band. Johan Norman wrote ‘Darken the Sign’ in its entirety, and he had a hand in all other songs of the album as well. ‘Ungodly’ was penned with input from bass guitarist Mikael Lång. The trio of ‘Written In Blood’, ‘Subterreanean Might’ and ‘Labyrinth Of the Deathlord’ were co-written by Johan Norman and original lead guitarist Mattias Eliasson. ‘Seal Of Degradation’ was co-written by Johan Norman and Christoffer Hermansson. It seems only logical that Norman and Kjellgren broke ranks with Dissection as they wanted to branch off into more straightforward and less traditionally influenced direction.

“Written In Blood” was recorded at Gain Productions with Dikk Tator producing, and mastered at the prestigious Cutting Room facility in in Stockholm, Sweden. As expected with Nuclear Blast the production is bass-heavy, crunchy and modern. Especially the drums sound incredibly concrete and powerful. The bass guitar has a rumbling deep tone but it never amounts to anything more than providing the required amount of low end rumbling. The cover artwork was rendered by Robert Ekeroth. The original band logo, which only features on this album, was created by Nicklas Rudolfsson. As most things about Soulreaper “Written In Blood” was good, but just not good enough to appeal to a wider audience beyond the one they had established with their involvement in Dissection.

Soulreaper and its debut were eclipsed by bigger bands and album despite its lineage to Dissection, and the power of a major label behind them. While far from terrible “Written In Blood” wasn’t able to hold its own against other Scandinavian, and European, releases of the time. While possessing enough grit and concrete heaviness to appeal to a more American audience “Written In Blood” lacks in truly unique characteristics to differentiate it from other Swedish acts. Norman’s brief connection with Dissection allowed him to launch his own unit, ultimately Soulreaper wouldn’t prove resilient enough to evolve into an entity worth mentioning. “Written In Blood” is too by-the-book to be in any way mandatory.

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“Storm Of the Light’s Bane”, the only album to be released through German conglomerate Nuclear Blast Records, was supposed to be the breakthrough effort for Swedish melodic death metal hopefuls Dissection. In comparison to “The Somberlain” the record went for a more traditional and streamlined death metal sound. Much what made “The Somberlain” unique had been jettisoned for a more marketable sound. The album was given the required marketing push by its label, but extracurricular activities of frontman Jon Nödtveidt would capsize the band at the height of its power.

Before settling down to pre-produce its second abum Nödtveidt busied himself with two projects in between the “The Somberlain” and “Storm Of the Light’s Bane” songwriting sessions. First there was the very shortlived Terror, a grindcore project that existed for about three weeks, and released a single demo tape. Second, Nödtveidt recorded the “The Priest Of Satan” album with The Black, with whom he had some involvement a year before the recordings of Dissection’s own “The Somberlain”. Once both projects had run their course Nödtveidt focused on the completion of the second album from his own project for its new label home.

Due to internal conflicts (which some sources attribute to apparent laziness) co-songwriter John Zwetsloot was ousted from the band prior to the recording sessions, but was allowed writing credits to two of the album’s most celebrated songs. ‘Night’s Blood’ and ‘Retribution – Storm Of the Light’s Bane’ were co-written by John Zwetsloot. All music was written by lead guitarist Jon Nödtveidt with input from other members. ‘Unhallowed’, ‘Thorns Of Crimson Death’, and ‘Soulreaper’ were co-written by Johan Norman. The outro piano piece was written and performed by Alexandra Balogh.

The album was the recording debut for rhythm guitarist Johan Norman, who had previously only recorded a live demo tape in 1992 with Runemagick. Returning from “The Somberlain” are vocalist/lead guitarist Jon Nödtveidt, bass guitarist Peter Palmdahl, and drummer Ole Öhman. As expected of a unit on to its sophomore offering “Storm Of the Light’s Bane” is far more streamlined and concise in its writing. One of the biggest improvements was that the acoustic guitar breaks, previously provided by former guitarist John Zwetsloot, were now fully integrated into the band’s music. Öhman had improved in leaps and bounds from the debut, displaying some incredible flexibility in regards to his footwork, and creativity with fills, rolls, and cymbal crashes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LGq3KKNbJ0

“Storm Of the Light’s Bane”, an album released during the death metal explosion of the mid-nineties, is more straightup death metal oriented than “The Somberlain”. This was probably due to the popularity of the Florida death metal sound. One of the most lauded tracks is the uniformly savage ‘Unhallowed’, which deals with Viking conquest lyrically, almost borders on black metal stylistically. ‘Where Dead Angels Lie’ was written around the time of the “The Somberlain” sessions – and was part of the band’s “Promo ‘93”. It was never properly recorded before its appearance on this album. In comparison to the rest of the album it is a semi-ballad. ‘Thorns Of Crimson Death’ and ‘Retribution – Storm Of the Light’s Bane’ are the most compositionally ambitious.

There are two notable guest vocalists to be found on this effort. ‘Soulreaper’ has contributions by Tony Särkkä (IT from Ophthalamia, and Abruptum) and Erik Hagstedt (Marduk frontman Legion) lends his throat to ‘Thorns Of Crimson Death’. Hagstedt would appear on the Ophthalamia album “Via Dolorosa” the same year before being enrolled in the more established death/black metal force Marduk. As before the lyrics are well-written with an poetic quality. While various dark entities are alluded to the mythical figure of Satan (or its related figures) is never mentioned by name. The band’s connection to black metal is tangential at best, and non-existent at worst. Only Nödtveidt’s serpentine rasps, and his ideological convictions tie him to the Scandinavian black metal of the day, but musically Dissection is most obviously a death/thrash metal, albeit it a very majestic and traditional metal one.

“Storm Of the Light’s Bane” was recorded in just over two weeks at Hellspawn Studio (a later incarnation of Gorysound Studio before it changed its name to the popularly known Unisound Studio) with prolific producer Dan Swäno. The studio had earlier produced the formative works of former death metal band Marduk and Norsecore pioneers Dark Funeral. Typical of the time the bass-heavy production possesses a lot of crunch and weight. The drums sound very concrete with powerful snares and toms. The kickdrums provide much of the record low-end together with Palmdahl’s throbbing bass guitar that sounds both tonally deep but clear-cut.

An early rough mix was released on cassette format in late 1995 that had a different track order, and included the ‘Feathers Fell’ guitar instrumental from the debut album. In its final form the record omitted the ‘Feathers Fell’ track and switched a few tracks around for the album to reach optimal flow and better pacing. As before the stunning artwork was rendered by the much in-demand graphic designer Kristian Wåhlin (Necrolord), a respected scene veteran famous for his work with legendary Swedish proto-death/black metal band Grotesque, who was becoming a household name.

Touring for the album included a jaunt with headliners Cradle Of Filth as part of the “The Rape and Ruin Of Europe” tour in 1997, that also included up-and-coming Norwegian band Dimmu Borgir as openers. This touring campaign would later be immortalized by the band’s appearance at the “Gods Of Darkness” festival in Köln, Germany that was recorded for the “Live & Plugged: vol. 2” video tape, which also included a young Dimmu Borgir. A recording of Dissection’s appearance on the Wacken Festival in Germany would see release in 2003 as the belated “Live Legacy” album.

After Dissection fell into disarray rhythm guitarist Johan Norman, and touring drummer Tobias Kjellgren regrouped with new musicians in Soulreaper. Jon Nödtveidt meanwhile released an album with De Infernali, an industrial/techno hybrid before a manslaughter conviction effectively put Dissection on ice permanently. Tobias Kjellgren himself had featured on the lone Decameron album “My Shadow…’ in 1996 before figuring into the newly formed Soulreaper, a band that capitalized on the growing interest in American-styled death metal (specifically Morbid Angel) after the second wave black metal boom. However, Soulreaper itself fell into disrepair after releasing two mediocre albums. Ole Öhman (drums) resurfaced with populist industrial metal band Deathstars, whereas Peter Palmdahl featured on two Deathwitch albums before disappearing into the anonymity of civilian life.