Dismember – Like An Ever Flowing Stream (1991)
If I understand Dismember’s career arc, and that of your average Swedish death metal band, most everyone lavished their attention on Like An Ever Flowing Stream‘s (then) extreme guitar distortion and overall ugly production. However, this album’s harsh, bossy exterior belies the care and craft within. Dismember writes a mixture of short, punchy songs and extended mini-epics and keeps the songwriting density even higher than the sonar density. I’ve heard that they stopped doing this after this album, but I’ve never heard those albums. Like An Ever Flowing Stream, however, is a fine lesson on how to write packed songs all on its own.
The stereotypical “Stockholm” sound that was in relative vogue in the early 1990s is simple enough in concept – death metal that leans heavily on the hardcore punk/d-beat side of its ancestry, at least as filtered through the preceding years of extreme metal. Instrumentally, LAEFS isn’t a shining example of technical wizardry; it’s certainly competent and professionally performed enough, but the emphasis definitely is not on instrumental complexity. I’d even go as far as to say it isn’t really on the production, either. Sure, it’s got the buzzsaw guitars and is reasonably intelligible, but it’s also quirky in ways I can’t quite explain, and in ways that a more mainstream studio for 1991 probably wouldn’t consider. One thing I’ve noticed is that when the guitars tremolo, there’s this faint mid-pitched vibration in the background; not exactly a negative or positive, but it is noticeable if you pay attention.
The reason we remember Dismember (or at least dismember them) is that they were very gifted in their niche. As I’ve mentioned before, working in this style requires a deceptive level of care and attention to song structure. Dismember has more leeway due to writing more elaborate songs, and in particular due to their subtle but effective use of harmony, but without an almost instinctual understanding of what order to arrange their musical elements in (I can’t use the term ‘serial’, because it refers to something else), Like An Ever Flowing Stream simply wouldn’t stick in the way it does. Another point I frequently mention – when you’re working with a very limited subset of musical ideas as Dismember is here; when every song must be ugly death metal with little room for aesthetic variation, what you end up doing with your tools is exceedingly important.
In short, you should be glad that Dismember succeeded the way they did here. Like An Ever Flowing Stream is yet another brief formative work of death metal, but it spends its time well and will reward repeated listens in ways that lesser works will not.
Highlights: “Override of the Overture”, “Bleed For Me”, “Dismembered”