Dissection is one of those bands which really doesn't need an introduction, or any metaphor to describe their sound. If you've bought this album, you already know what Dissection is all about. They are the gods of Melodic Black Metal, and the ones who released one of the best albums of the 1990's, the now legendary "Storm Of The Light's Bane". However, "Storm Of The Light's Bane" was so monumental it quickly overshadowed Dissection's first full length album, 1993's "The Somberlain", so much that most who know and like the band have never heard this album. What I can tell you about "The Somberlain" is this, it is unrelenting, epic, melodic, heavy, somber, brutal, emotional, and technical all in one, even closely rivaling "Storm Of The Light's Bane" as Dissection's finest work. Even before the music begins to play, you can tell the overall atmosphere of this album by the cover. I don't know about anyone else, but I think Dissection has some of the best album cover art out of any band I've seen. The cover art, created by Necrolord, showcases two black horses galloping down a thin path in a graveyard, pulling a buggy with a dark, mysterious man whipping the horses on, truly a very cool album cover. Dissection frontman Jon Nodtveidt states on the inside of the album case, "We were thrilled to use this opportunity to put our metallic black symphony of death on a full length record".
Dissection is known for combining intricate, harmonized guitar leads with the raw force of Black Metal, and here they pull it off flawlessly. "Storm Of The Light's Bane" shows remarkable similarities to this album, but then again it is so blindingly different that it may seem this could be a different band. First off, its different in the fact that the album structure is totally different from "Storm Of The Light's Bane". The album is cut into 3 sections, or chapters if you will. Chapter 1 consists of tracks 1-3, Chapter 2 is tracks 4-7, and the final, mind-blowing Chapter is tracks 8-11. It is like reading an epic tale full of sadness and despair, putting the listener into another world entirely. Also different is the change between brutal songs and melodic songs. While each song has its own melodic riffs respectively, there are some where the song is full of these melodic riffs, and vocals just as epic and melodic. While the album may not specifically state it, I like to think of this album in the 3 chapter format, and I will review it as such.
Chapter 1- The Somberlain
The opener, "Black Horizons" kicks it off with a brutal start, but gradually gets more melodic as the 8:11 of this song ticks away, before coming to a climactic end, leaving you completely obliterated from what you just heard. But don't be fooled, the title track, "The Somberlain", slows it down, bringing you to the dark, melodic world that Dissection had aimed to create with this album. This song is a highlight of the album, it shows that Dissection knew how to write a great melodic track without it being overly cheesy and ripping apart the somber atmosphere of this album. The chorus is great, the riffing is great, the drumming is spot on, what more could you ask for" Dissection manages to do all of this but put their own twist on it, making you know that you are listening to Dissection, and not some other band who are trying to copy their sound.
The next track is the first instrumental, but at a mere 50 seconds this song will fly by so fast you won't even notice the nice, calming acoustic guitar work. The acoustic plays a simple set of chords, but it sounds very relaxing, a change from the unrelenting metal which is hurled upon you during the other 40 minutes of this album. It also serves as a great transition from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2. Chapter 1 closes with this somber note, marking the most depressing section of the album. It takes up a total of about 16 minutes for Chapter 1, roughly one third of the totally running time.
Chapter 2- Heaven's Damnation
The drums pound away before breaking into a great, epic riff, pulling you out of the dark, cold land of the first 3 tracks. However, Nodtveidt's vocals don't change from the brutally, raspy growl he is known for having. This is the first track of Chapter 2, track 4 on the album itself, "A Land Forlorn". This is a good track to introduce the most melodic section of the album, with even the rare Dissection solo thrown into this track, not to mention the godly riffing put forth here. "Heaven's Damnation" is much like "A Land Forlorn", but it begins with a fast riff which really isn't very melodic at all. But man, the chorus in this song is catchy as hell, backed by awesome riffing and double bass which will get your head banging in literally no time at all. You'll instantly latch yourself onto this beauty, taking in the immense emotion and effort put into this song to make it what it came out to be, easily the highlight of Chapter 2 of our journey into the mind of Dissection.
"Frozen" is the next song, and it may seem a bit out of place to some, much resembling the first track "Dark Horizons", in the fact that it is very brutal and not that melodic, quite the contrast to the two previous songs. "Frozen" was the first Dissection song I had ever heard, so its status is elevated a lot for me, but even without my personal attachment to this song it is still very, very good. The opening riff is fast and complicated, with the vocals to match. showing the bitter Black Metal roots of Dissection. This is a great track to mosh and headbang to though, I would love to hear it performed live (sadly though, this isn't possible anymore). Another great chorus on this song, you'll have it in your head for a long time. The guitar solo in this song adds some melodic variety to this song, wrapping it up to be a really well executed track.
But alas, here we are already at the end of Chapter 2. The second instrumental, "Into Infinite Obscurity" is another really well written track, with a melancholic acoustic guitar riff which is a great track to place after the brutal "Frozen". Fading along with the somber riffing of the acoustic guitar is Chapter 2, but the amazing Chapter 3 is only coming into earshot.
Chapter 3- In The Cold Winds Of Nowhere
The title to the next track "In The Cold Winds Of Nowhere", says it all about this track. It's lonely, dark, cold, and lost. The opening riff simply hammers in this fact, that you are in Dissection's realm, and there is no way out but to keep pushing forward. The riff is pounding and catchy, backing Jon's vocals perfectly. This is one of the few non-melodic songs that I really liked a lot (not that the other ones were bad in any means). The solo in this song is the longest I've ever heard out of Dissection, and a sped up version of the opening riff follows afterward. This song is heavy and right to the point, earning its awesome name. A great listen, one that you will surely not skip over. "The Grief Prophecy/Shadows Over A Lost Kingdom" is a rather short song for Dissection's standards, but its also one of the most melodic on the album. It starts off slowly with a repeating riff before the lead comes in, playing an awesome harmony which captures your attention from the moment it begins. It's not fast, but it is ultra catchy. We don't hear the vocals until almost halfway through the song, which is quite strange, but you won't care because you want to hear more of that amazing riff which you heard in the beginning.
"Mistress Of The Bleeding Sorrow" is the final "real" song on the album, and like is predecessor it starts off slowly, but at 1:30 in it breaks into an unexpected guitar solo, very fast and totally out of place for what Dissection normally does, but you know what, it sounds amazing and fits right in, which is all that matters. The guitars highlight this track, with the vocals really doing nothing memorable (but they are still great, I love Jon's voice). The guitars make this song the monster it is, crafting a very fitting song to place here, one which will stay in your memory for a while.
The soothing acoustic guitar floats back into your ears as slowly as if, well, Feathers Fell.... "Feathers Fell" is the soft acoustic outro, a farewell to the epic grandeur that is Dissection's first, amazing, full length CD "The Somberlain". A truly great piece of metal craftsmanship, I'm on the fence as whether to say this or "Storm Of The Light's Bane" is my favorite Dissection album, but this one seriously hit me like a thousand pounds of bricks, I had no clue it would be this good. For most band's, a CD like this would be their masterpiece, but with Dissection, it's just another album, not to mention their debut.
Dissection frontman Jon Nodtveidt states on the inside of the album case, "We were thrilled to use this opportunity to put our metallic black symphony of death on a full length record".
Oh what a metallic black symphony of death this is.
The title I gave to each of the 3 Chapters I highlighted above are my favorite tracks from each section, respectively. But honestly, I cannot say anything bad about this album.