To the layperson, calling something “melodic blackened heavy metal” may look one tagline too far. But even a casual sampling of artists tasked with playing this style should make one see the light, or the black, that results from Dissection’s peculiar albeit not entirely original approach to early Scandinavian black metal.
Take the ear candy of proto-gaythenburg melodeath, the euphoria or Iron Maiden, add a smattering of Dimmu Borgir inspired gothic melodrama to the riffs, lyrics, and vocals, and combine this with an excess of tremolo strumming lifted straight from early Phantom albums, and you get some way to encapsulating this style that Dissection “pioneered”. Or at least how it differs from typical black metal or death metal.
That’s not to say that Dissection’s “The Somberlain” doesn’t have any elements that belong to the black and death metal genres, on the contrary, but these are just superficial ornaments. The core of the music played on “The Somberlain” is clearly Iron Maiden influenced NWOBHM. Basically, heavy metal.
The main difference between “The Somberlain” and future Dissection releases like “Storm of the Light’s Bane” and “Reinkaos“? The debut album “The Somberlain” is actually good heavy metal, unlike the two other full-lengths the band would go on to release later in their career. I strongly object to calling this “buffoon music” like user Arual of Metalious did on his/her review.
“The Somberlain” boasts some heavy weight metal anthems, actually good and powerful musical experiments, broken up by minimalist baroque acoustic interludes that perfectly break down the album into bite-sized chunks.
The guitar tone for the black metal tracks is sharp and clear enough to bring out the complexity of the twin guitar leads, without ending up in plastic Arch Enemy territory. Yet, the riffs sometimes take the proto-gothenburg route of cheesiness just for the sake of being cheesy. The playing is creative and competent enough, but the Iron Maiden NWOBHM can at times be to overpowering, effectively nullifying any and all remnants of black metal atmosphere – as on track 4, “A Land Forlorn”.
This style, while executed competently on “The Somberlain”, is nonetheless capable of so much more. I do not resent Dissection’s fame, nor will I compare them to Watain or call them poser cucks, as their popular take on an extreme metal style is not necessarily something bad in and of itself. At least on “The Somberlain”. It’s just that when it comes to “black metal fans” who’ve heard of Mayhem and Phantom yesterday telling me about this awesome “melodic blackened heavy metal” band called Dissection, I roll my eyes as I know that underneath the surface of big name Gaythenburg worship, there were many more artists, perhaps with less exciting album titles, that just played it straight up better. See Sacrementum, Demonecromancy, Dawn and Neraines for examples.