Review Summary: A masterpiece that proved that Dismember could write a near-perfect album in a short space of time and still put in all the necessary ingredients to make for a classic debut, with some stellar guitar work and some varied drum patterns and chaotic vocals.
Dismember are a band that has been conjuring up bleak portraits of terrifying acts of violence and murder through their sickeningly creative instrumental work and horrifying vocals for more than twenty years now. This is a band that has been influencing almost every artist in the death metal genre since the release of their debut record, Like An Ever Flowing Stream in 1991. That particular album is often cited as being an essential album; a classic of the genre that contains not a dull second, and rocketed them to the forefront of their genre.
The band were formed in 1988 by several members who would swiftly depart and become a part of the band Carnage; and therefore the project was put on hold for a few years. The Stockholm-based band resurfaced in 1991 with details of the recording of their debut project, an album that would silence any doubters they may have acquired due to the speed with which they had disbanded initially. Their debut release went on to be heralded as a milestone, and also solidified the band's status in the death metal limelight due to a little controversy which erupted due to the song Skin Her Alive, which almost got the band charged with obscenity in the United Kingdom. The band released eight studio albums, all of which received at least decent reviews from the press, before bassist Tobias Cristiansson announced in 2011 that "after 23 years, Dismember have now decided to quit", leaving an impressive legacy behind.
Like An Ever Flowing Stream is a release that hits hard right from the get-go by erecting a solid wall of sound which will continue throughout the entire album. This is not an album that ever lets up in the intensity and the sound could be equated to that of an old school death metal album with an added dash of melody. This is a 12-track monstrosity (eight on the original release) that plants its foot firmly on the listener's throat and never threatens to remove it. The band are best characterized by the tormented vocals and variety of guitar styles found here. Matti Karki is the man behind the microphone and he gives this band such an incredible voice through which to channel the tales of violence and blasphemy that it is hard to think of anyone who could nail the vocals better than this man does. The end of Bleed For Me shows his John Tardy-sounding lows rather well, but he is also capable of some manic wails and shrieks, and Override Of The Overture is a fantastic opener that shows off a hardcore-punk influenced style of shouted growls that would become more prominent on this album's successor.
Dismember's debut contains three guitar tracks on the majority of the songs, with only the opener containing the standard two guitars for death metal music. Former Entombed drummer Nicke Andersson performs the lead work here and puts in a masterful display throughout, with many of the songs containing solos that will blow the listener's mind. His lead work is particularly impressive in the latter half of the album such as on In Death's Sleep. The soloing here has a hint of melody that many bands in the death metal genre forget in favor of sounding as brutal as possible, but it works in this case, with the solos each sounding unique and having a really nice sound to them. The guitar solo on the first track is played by one of the band's other guitarists, David Blomqvist. Both he and Robert Senneback make for a formidable team as they lay down a number of brutal and infectious riffs that will hook you in with a mesmerizing sound throughout. Override Of The Overture contains one such riff with its opening highly melodic tremolo picked line that will remain embedded in your brain, but Skin Her Alive arguably has the best riff set. There are various chord-based riffs scattered all the way through the album that mix well with the fast lead work and the tremolo picked lines and keep a solid feeling of variety, adding to the A-class instrumental performance.
The rhythmic side of the band is made up of the bass work and Fred Estby's frantic drum performance, but only one of these really matters as the bass is buried under the impenetrable wall of noise that the guitars lay down and, as such, it is rarely audible. As such, it really falls on Fred to hold up this end of the band's sound and he does so with real class. This is not an example of a death metal album with omnipresent blast beats but nor is it one where the drummer only appears to understand how to play a simple thrash beat and never scatter a fill no matter how many measures he plays this beat for. The speed of the drumming fluctuates and keeps a sense of mystery as to where Fred is going, whilst fills are frequently thrown in for good measure. Double bass is found on this album but not incessantly as is the case with some albums in the same vein as this one, which will please some people who are considering listening to this release. There is a constant sense of evolution in the drumming here, with the highly melodic Dismembered best displaying this, containing a lot of cymbal use before the really heavy side of this track kicks in following a breathtaking string of riffs and a marvelous guitar solo. This track shows off the tightly performed blast beats and some great thrash beats as well as a whole lot of other drumming techniques and some incredible fills.
Dismember really did make a masterpiece with Like An Ever Flowing Stream, and the one minor criticism that can be made with this album and also the only thing keeping it away from perfection is the fact that the production is not the best out there. As a debut, the band had not really had a chance to make enough impact to warrant a high-budget production that would enable them to put out as crisp a sounding release as their later material and, as such, their guitar work sounds quite flat and also has some horrible tones to it when played on the higher pitched strings. As mentioned, the bass is pretty much not there throughout, and the drums sound hollow at times, whilst the vocals are exceedingly high in the mix. Aside from this minor blip in an otherwise magnificent album however, Dismember's debut is a spectacular affair that almost everyone should check out.