Thursday, October 27, 2011

RIP Dismember

"Let's pour a little for our homies, as Dismember recently called it quits."

In their latest podcast, Mark and Jason brought up the fact that death metal OGs Dismember broke up earlier this month. I've been out of the loop since I've been bouncing around the region, so this came as quite a shock. The band released a statement, saying simply "After 23 years, DISMEMBER have now decided to quit. We wish to thank all our fans for your support."

WTF? Dismember are no more? 2 years short of their 25th anniversary? With the sound they pioneered more in fashion than ever, and while their peers like Grave enjoy their highest profile in years? Seriously, WTF?!?!

My history with Dismember goes back to 1996, when I bought Massive Killing Capacity on cassette. At the time, the album's slower tempos were not well received by either critics or long-time fans; Dismember later admitted that they were pressured by their label, Nuclear Blast, to pursue a style more akin to Entombed's Wolverine Blues, which was a huge hit at the time (never mind that Entombed were enjoying the support of Sony/Columbia's major label promotional machine). As a death metal n00b, I enjoyed the album and its NWOBHMisms - truth be told, it was the first time I understood what the NWOBHM's twin guitar melodies were and how big an influence Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were on Swedish death metal.

But I only truly understood Dismember's legendary status when I heard Like An Everflowing Stream a year later. With only Entombed ahead of them, Dismember pioneered Swedish death metal, and in opener "Override of the Overture," created two of the greatest riffs of all time (the fantastically twisted intro, and the epic chorus).

Dismember countered their fans' Massive disappointments with the succinctly-titled Death Metal; ironically, as the popularity of melodic death metal bands like In Flames and At the Gates superseded that of older death metal bands, Dismember found themselves embraced by that audience as well.

Throughout the 00's, Dismember remained fairly prolific, releasing a slew of albums that were consistent if not classics. In 2007, drummer and founding member Fred Estby left; instead of this being a killing blow, the band soldiered on with one last self-titled album.

I never got a chance to see Dismember live, but I did have an unlikely run in with them in 2008. On a flight from Kuala Lumpur to New York via Stockholm, a group of totally heshed out Swedes were seated in the row adjacent to mine; they were all decked out in shirts of old school Swedish death metal bands like Grave and Entombed, and one of them even had a Dismember belt buckle. I considered striking up a conversation with them, and then decided against it; Swedes tend to be pretty reserved, and I didn't want to come off like a weirdo. As the flight neared its stopover in Stockholm, I got up to go to the bathroom and one of the group was waiting in line behind me. I commented on his Dismember belt buckle and told him what a big Swedish death metal fan I was; he listened politely as I name dropped Entombed and talked about seeing Demonical in Prague a few months earlier. He smiled and said that he was friends with all those bands in Stockholm.

"Our band just played a festival in Australia," he mentioned casually.
"Oh yeah?"
"Yeah. Dismember."
It was then I realized that I was talking to David Blomquist, a guitarist that I'd admired (and ripped off) for more than a decade. I was so stunned that I blurted, "Oh my God, Like an Everflowing Stream is one of the greatest albums ever!" He seemed tickled by the comment. I would have continued the conversation but the toilet was suddenly free, and I sheepishly decided to avoid any further awkwardness by disappearing into it.

On the way through the Stockholm airport I got to talk to Blomquist some more; he answered my questions politely. Vocalist Matti Kaerki caught up to us and greeted me with a booming "Hello!" I was still pretty starstruck, and all I could say was, "The new album is fucking killer!"
"Thank you!" he boomed back.

That whole experience changed my attitude towards flying: I've never gotten on a plane, looked at the people sitting next to me and thought, "I bet those guys are in a band, and I have all those albums." But now, the thought is never far from my mind.

Anyways, RIP Dismember. The metal world is a poorer place without them. Dibs on their HM-2 pedals, if some American hardcore kid hasn't gotten them already.

Mark and Jason did a terrific show about the band here.