Review Summary: Overshadowed by Storm of the Light's Bane for a good reason.
Dissection is a band that has received a great deal of deserved praise over the years, being recognized as pioneers in the genre of melodic black metal. Their 1995 album, Storm of the Light’s Bane, stands as a genre classic and is an excellent demonstration of what the band does best, a signature combination of harsh, chilling black metal mixed with beautiful, melodic guitar leads. While the band showed a great deal of promise in the mid 1990’s, Storm of the Light’s Bane was left to be Dissection’s magnum opus. Nödtveidt’s 1997 imprisonment prevented the band from following up the album for many years, and his 2006 suicide after the release of the lackluster Reinkaos album brought the band’s career to a permanent close.
Dissection had one other full-length release during their career,their 1993 debut, The Somberlain. The album is often seen as a forgotten classic and unfairly overshadowed by Storm of the Light’s Bane, but the album is forgettable and overshadowed for a good reason. While The Somberlain certainly laid down the groundwork for their 1995 masterpiece, it is an album with clear issues. The album starts out strong with the excellent opener “Black Horizons”, followed by the album’s classic title track, but it loses focus after its first half, drifting into an endless sea of boredom and repetition. A large amount of the material on The Somberlain is entirely forgettable, with many of the tracks sounding alike and blending together. There are few real standouts. There are no actual bad songs present on the album, but most of the material is just not anything that should be considered groundbreaking.
That’s not to say that the album has no brilliant moments. The already-mentioned title track stands as one of Dissection’s best songs, and is a clear album highlight. It is a perfect example of Dissection’s signature sound, featuring melodic guitar leads and easily decipherable harsh vocals. The song also features some of Nödtveidt’s best lyrical work, delivered twice in a powerful refrain. The most distinctive feature of The Somberlain is the inclusion of three beautiful acoustic pieces, composed and performed by second guitarist John Zwetsloot. The pieces are spread throughout the album, and serve to break up the album and give the listener a rest from the heavier material. The acoustic work contributes greatly to the overall mood of the album, and is the perfect complement to the icy black metal featured on the rest of the tracks. It is unfortunate that Zwetsloot departed the band after the release of The Somberlain, as his acoustic work is the only aspect missing from Storm of the Light’s Bane.
There is certainly a great deal of impressive guitar work present on The Somberlain, although a lot of it is unnecessary and out of character. The album features several impressive guitar solos, but they do little to add to the mood of the album and serve no real purpose other than showing off Nödtveidt’s technical skills. “Mistress of the Bleeding Sorrow” features what sounds like a synthesizer solo, which, while adding a little to the diversity of the album’s material, seems out of place. Dissection is at their best when their melodic work is presented in more subtle ways. The dark, somewhat simplistic melodies present on “Black Horizons” and the title track are the most effective guitar work on the album, serving to create an overall mood instead of distracting the listener with guitar solos just for the sake of having them. The band seems to have realized what they could do best by the release of their 1995 classic, as Storm of the Light’s Bane features very little unnecessary guitar work, focusing instead on well-crafted melodies that serve to create the perfect mood.
Honestly, this album would have had a much greater impact if it was released as a MCD, featuring the album’s three best metal tracks (“Black Horizons”, “A Land Forlorn”, and the title track)broken up by the three acoustic interludes. There is just too much filler present on this album for it to be considered a classic in any sense of the word. All of Dissection’s key elements are present on The Somberlain, but the material is unrefined, providing a mostly forgettable listen. Storm of the Light’s Bane remains Dissection’s only essential album.
Album Highlights: “The Somberlain”, “Crimson Towers”, “Black Horizons”