Review Summary: Excellent melodic death metal with hardcore punk influence.
Dismember was a Swedish band well known, alongside their contemporaries in Entombed, for pioneering the signature Swedish death metal sound. They are often lauded for their groundbreaking 1991 debut, Like an Ever Flowing Stream, and not without reason. The album stands as a landmark death metal release and a true genre classic. It would be unfair, however, to praise the debut without making note of the two other extremely strong efforts the band put forth in the first half of the 1990’s. One of them, Indecent & Obscene, was very much a sequel to the debut; it featured a very similar sound and atmosphere and was a worthy follow-up. The other record released during this time period was a little more experimental. Massive Killing Capacity, Dismember’s third full-length release, showed a change in style that added a much stronger emphasis on melody than previous releases. This new emphasis resulted in an excellent album that manages to express emotion through the melodic guitar work without losing any of the brutal edge present on previous releases. Massive Killing Capacity is an essential album in Dismember’s discography and stands among the best melodic death metal albums of the 1990’s.
While Dismember had included a fair amount of melody on their previous albums – with “Override of the Overture” off of Like an Ever Flowing Stream serving as an excellent example of this – Massive Killing Capacity differs from the albums that came before it in that melody , as opposed to sheer brutality, is clearly the album’s focus. Every track features impressive melodic guitar work that adds an emotional depth to the music not present on the more straightforward death metal of previous releases. “On Frozen Fields” is a great example of this, with the track beginning with an extremely melodic tremolo-picked riff that drives the rest of the song. The track “Collection by Blood” further emphasizes the album’s focus on melody, featuring some of the most expressive leads on the album. “Collection by Blood” is not only a clear album highlight; it also stands among the best songs Dismember has ever written.
The guitar work on this album truly is impressive, with the band’s instrumental skills being demonstrated far beyond anything featured on previous albums. Not only are the majority of its tracks driven by catchy, emotional melodies, many songs also feature lengthy and expressive solos by guitarist David Blomqvist. There is some excellent bass work featured on the album as well, with instrumental track “Nenia”’s second half being based around a soothing bass melody. “Nenia” stands as a unique piece in the Dismember discography, being one of only two instrumental tracks the band ever released. This exclusivity is a shame, for the piece shows musical depth to the band’s work rarely expressed on other albums. The instrumental is well-composed and flows along very well; if it was the band’s idea of an experiment it was an incredible success.
It must also be noted that Massive Killing Capacity features a surprisingly strong hardcore punk influence, something that may seem strange alongside the new focus on melodicism. While this is an element Dismember would develop further on future releases, notably 2000’s Hate Campaign, Massive Killing Capacity is the album where the punk influence really begins to make itself noticeable. This influence can be best seen in Matti Kärki’s vocal performance on the album, a performance consisting of a shouted style of vocals that recall the aggressive vocals of early hardcore. While Kärki had used the shouted vocal style on Dismember’s previous albums, the style was performed on those releases alongside more guttural vocals typical of the death metal style. On Massive Killing Capacity one notes the complete absence of any guttural vocals, with the shouted style being expressed exclusively. This in no way detracts from the quality of the album’s vocals; Kärki is an exceptional vocalist and the shouted style fits the music quite well. The punk influence is also present in the music and song structure of several tracks on the album. “Wardead” and “Casket Garden” are the two standout examples of this, with both featuring catchy choruses and simplistic, punk-esque riffs. These songs serve as a fun addition to an otherwise rather serious album.
One of the best things about this album is that Dismember keeps the running time brief. The album is just long enough to demonstrate the band’s diversity and talent, and short enough to make a lasting impression and enhance replay value. There is absolutely no filler on this album. Every song has a purpose, and Dismember knows how to make their point without any unnecessary repetition. The album’s 37-minute run time makes its presence known and does not overstay its welcome. It also ends in a very strong fashion, with closer “Life - Another Shape of Sorrow” standing as another album highlight. The song features surprisingly strong lyrics and some of the album’s best melodies, and concludes with an interesting keyboard part played underneath a vocal sample.
All in all, Massive Killing Capacity is a fantastic album that should not be overlooked. Fans of melodic death metal would do well to give this a listen, as well as anyone looking for some fun, fast-paced death metal with some interesting twists. This album has all the makings of a classic, second to only Like an Ever Flowing Stream in Dismember’s discography. Truly one of the band’s greatest moments.
Album Highlights: “Collection by Blood”, “Nenia”, “On Frozen Fields”, “Life – Another Shape of Sorrow”