cover-dissection02

“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.

cover-dissection01

Recognized as one of the early progenitors of the melodic death metal sound together with At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames, Dissection was a band destined to reach soaring heights of success. Instead of cultivating its potential the band fell apart due to interpersonal trouble at the height of its popularity in 1997. Dissection played a dramatic and highly versatile mix of death -, and thrash – with New Wave Of British Heavy Metal type melodies and riff schematics. In its original run the band released two records, of which “The Somberlain” is the first, and by far most traditional heavy metal sounding.

Dissection was formulated in 1989 in Strömstad, Sweden by Jon Nödtveidt (vocals, lead guitar) and Peter Palmdahl (bass guitar), both were members of the shortlived Siren’s Yell before breaking ranks to form their own project. Ole Öhman (drums) was brought in from late 80s thrash metal act Rabbit’s Carrot, where Nödtveidt also figured into prior to his involvement with Siren’s Yell. John Zwetsloot was a local guitarist with a classical background that had no prior experience before joining. In the next couple of years the freshly formed Dissection produced and distributed a number of demo tapes that led to recording contract with No Fashion Records.

In the two-year timespan from 1991 to 1993 Dissection recorded and distributed four demos tapes. In 1991 “The Grief Prophecy” and “Into Infinite Obscurity” were both released. The “The Somberlain” pre-production demo followed in 1992, and finally, “Promo ‘93” was circulated in 1993. Of these two tracks of the 1991 “Into Infinite Obscurity” were refurbished (omitting ‘Son Of the Mourning’, which was part of the band’s live set), along with all tracks of the “The Somberlain” pre-production from 1992. The remainder of the album was written specifically for the session. During the “The Somberlain” pre-production and rehearsals sessions the band relocated to a studio space in Gothenburg, which they shared with local then-abstract death metal force At the Gates.

While typically categorized as melodic black metal Dissection is anything but. “The Somberlain” is a heavy death metal record first and foremost. No other band (with exception of Luciferion), before or since, combined death -, thrash – and traditional metal in such an elegant manner that it emphasized the strength of each. Each of these songs are meticulously structured exercises full of sweeping traditional metal riffing, grandiose triumphant melodies alternated seamlessly with hardened death metal chord progressions and acoustic - and electric solo sections. One of Dissection's biggest strengths was its proclivity for melodramatic, epic song arrangements and its lineage towards earlier traditional metal styles. What makes it different from its more streamlined follow-up is classical guitarist John Zwetsloot. He was responsible for much of the album’s traditional metal aspect, and wrote all three acoustic guitar interludes that came to characterize “The Somberlain”. Compared to its second album “Storm Of the Light’s Bane” the material is more deliberately paced with a great emphasis on its NWOBHM and Iron Maiden stylings.

Dan Swanö provided the falsetto scream and clean singing on ‘Black Horizons’, a song introduced by a sentence that would later appear in the lyrics to ‘Where Dead Angels Lie’ played backwards. The song was already written at this juncture, but would only appear on the band’s second album “Storm Of the Light’s Bane” a few years later. John Zwetsloot co-wrote ‘Black Horizons’, ‘Heaven’s Damnation’, ‘In the Cold Winds Of Nowhere’, and ‘Mistress Of the Bleeding Sorrow’ along with the three compact acoustic guitar interludes. Peter Palmdahl (bass guitar) co-wrote ‘A Land Forlorn’ and Ole Öhman (drums) co-wrote ‘The Grief Prophecy/Shadows Over A Lost Kingdom’. The black metal aspects of “The Somberlain”, mostly the serpentine vocals and the admittedly well-written lyrics, are inconsequential at best and tenuous at worst.

“The Somberlain” was recorded during one week 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. All of the instruments are evenly balanced and given enough space to fully breathe, especially Palmdahl's throbbing bass guitar features prominently in the mix. The artwork was rendered by the much in-demand artist Kristian Wåhlin (Necrolord), a respected scene veteran famous for his work with legendary Swedish proto-death/black metal band Grotesque, which also featured a young Tompa Lindberg (later of At the Gates) in its lineup. On the hood of the carriage the band’s flaming trident cross sigil can be seen, this trident would feature much more visibly on the second Dissection album.

Released in 1993 through Scandinavian death/black metal specialist label No Fashion Records, who famously housed the early catalog of Swedish genre pillars Dark Funeral and Marduk, “The Somberlain” was dedicated to the memory of the late Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous) of formative Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. The dedication isn’t without reason as Nödtveidt briefly operated the Swedish branch of the Helvete record store in the Gothenburg area with Tony Särkkä (IT from Ophthalamia, and Abruptum). The original Helvete store in Oslo only was around for two years (from 1991 to 1993), its Swedish branch existed for an even shorter period of time.

Dissection, realizing the potency of its creation, dubbed its genre “metal of death” to differentiate itself from the death metal bands of its region, and to loosely affiliate itself ideologically with the burdgeoning Scandinavian black metal scene. The album made so much of an impact that fellow Swedes Naglfar lifted the sound of “The Somberlain” in its entirety, while ramping up the Iron Maiden influence, for its own major label debut “Vittra”. This inspired bands in Europe (and beyond) to start mimicking Dissection thus starting a movement. While the wave has crested the influence of the first Dissection record is still felt today. German band Thulcandra has made its unabashed and unapologetic Dissection worship its entire raison d'être. As far as melodic Swedish death metal goes “The Somberlain” is the cream of the crop together with the works of Luciferion.