Friday, July 23, 2010

Disgusting - Shapeshifterbirthblues (1995)

The surreal, haunting cover vortex to this obscure Norse death metal record truly hints at something 'different', especially when used in conjunction with the interesting title Shapeshifterblues, but really, Disgusting were a fairly standard act for their day, with a mix of gargled Florida-style death metal, higher pitched snarling vocals which oft remind of early metalcore, grind, sludge or black metal, and perhaps a slight hint of progressive nature that doesn't live up to the visual expectations. It doesn't surprise me that Disgusting were unable to stand out from the crowd in 1994, because they did not even really stand apart from the few Norwegian peers they had in this style, like Molested.

It'd be nice to think of this as some incubator band, with members moving on to other extreme projects, but that's not really the case here. Lasse Johansen (LJ Balvaz), who had already performed in Cadaver, still wallowed in obscurity by the mid 90s, and most of members of this band formed a punkish group called The Rabiators. Aside from the use of acoustic segments, which might have felt more novel in the mid 90s as opposed to today's spree of progressive death metal acts centered around Opeth's inspiration, there are very few moments of interest. The riffing isn't exactly hack, and the band do not shy away from a use of melodies when it suits the material, but they very rarely leave any impact on the listener, due to the lack of decent production and infectious note patterns.

Thus, all their attempts at branching out into a more progressive, folk tinged variety seem to fall below the radar. "Fuch-sia" incorporates a bluesy, drifter solo in the midst of its rambling clean guitars and dull chords, like a sandbar amidst the shallow and unmemorable death metal riffing. "Me and My Mind" is chunky, with some grinding and thrashing explosions where the vocals shift from guttural to snarling like a grind band. "My Shade" features some reeling, swinging rhythms that unfortunately do not produce attentive note structures, and "Voluspa" seems at times like a dull Bathory 90s Viking track with different vocals and popping bass. The album picks up for some of its finer, aggressive songs only at the end, with "Shapeshifterblues" and "Gasp At Your Final Breath", but even these fail to really deliver much meat. "Slimy" might be the single most interesting piece, an interlude of glinting acoustic guitars that dissolves into a primal sludge bass backdrop behind a montage of cussing samples.

Few things thrill me more than the veneration of a great, classic death metal gem, but this album is simply not such an occasion. Points for trying to spread themselves out into a more pensive, intelligent alternative to the more direct brutality of their peers, but the music simply is not of the quality to back up the intentions, and the record quickly becomes tiring, with only a few moments of intensity that tend to manifest as a solo or a single riff in the midst of mediocrity. The production of the record is pretty loose and organic, but does little service to the guitar tone or the way the chords interact over the cleaner drums or the vocals.

Verdict: Indifference [5/10]

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