DISMEMBER is the sound of dirt and ugliness — always have been, always will be. And aren't we fortunate because of it? Both DISMEMBER and ENTOMBED (and the early incarnation, NIHILIST) are credited with that filthy and motoring, Sunlight Studio sound, but to me DISMEMBER always stuck more closely to it than their Swedish brethren, no doubt in part due to a career-long AUTOPSY-worship among its members. Things haven't changed on "The God that Never Was", the follow-up to 2003's well-received "Where Iron Crosses Grow". The signature sound is every bit as knurled and made even angrier by drummer Fred Estby's nerve-damaging production.
This isn't to say that DISMEMBER shun melody, especially these days. But if you're listening for it in the vocals of garbled growler Matti Karki, you'll need to strain, as subtly and nuance isn't his strong suit (nor should it be). There is just a hair of tunefulness in the arrangement of up-tempo bashers like "Never Forget, Never Forget" and bludgeoning stumpers like "Blood for Paradise" for you to bite into a line, chew quickly, and swallow before the next round of vomiting begins. Through all his guttural barking, Karki is heard loud and clear when he shouts "Kill!" and "Die!" on "Shadows of the Mutilated", making for another memorable bout of hatefulness.
It is when the band dishes out the harmonizing of guitarists David Blomqvist and Martin Persson where the melody takes a front seat to the grinding mayhem. It is almost startling to hear those leads leap out of the mix on "Time Heals Nothing", "Where No Ghost is Holy" (the most melodic of the bunch) and "Shadows of the Mutilated", the juxtaposition cleverly done and always surprisingly fitting. Perhaps the best example of the soaring twin lead work is on "Phantoms (of the Oath)", a slamming tune and one of the better death metal instrumentals I've heard.
But back to the gloriously grotesque, which is the bread and butter of a DISMEMBER album. What the veterans do best is mix and match mid-tempo plodding sickness with teeth-rattling speed, beginning with the album-opening title track. There are numerous examples of crusty grooving turning to frenetic assault, "Into the Temple of Humiliation" a case in point. Sometimes the Swedes do stick with controlled mud crawling though, as the aptly titled "Autopsy" demonstrates.
If prettiness is what you seek, then you've just made a terrible error in judgment by turning down this dark alley. "The God that Never Was" is classic DISMEMBER through and through. There is something to be said for reliability.