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Album Reviews : Disentomb – The Decaying Light

By on August 1, 2019

Queensland brutal death metal band Disentomb has recently released their third full-length album The Decaying Light in July, delivering another slab of punishing and technical death metal gloom. Following up such an acclaimed release as 2014’s Misery is certainly difficult, but the band have pulled out the stops to rise to the challenge. In the five-year gap since, Disentomb has made the effort to push their sound a little further and a little more depth to the usual rumbling riffs that comprise their genre, with some noticeable doom elements to the album and the inclusion of an acoustic guitar on ‘Withered’. This depth is an encouraging marker of a band that is still seeking to evolve musically ten years into their career, yet it comes at the cost of polish and execution of all elements. Most obvious is the mix, which is just a little too heavy on the low end and muddy, meaning the sharp technical guitar riffs and gurgling vocals are somewhat lost in the mire of distortion, bass and drums. For some tracks, such as ‘The Decaying Light’ ‘Dismal Liturgies’ and ‘Invocation in the Cathedral of Dust’, this mix works well, complementing the doomier elements with a sense of space and adding contrast when the faster sections come in to create an oppressive atmosphere that suits these tracks well. However, the standard Disentomb fare of low, fast and brutal riffs lose their clarity and consequently some of their heaviness.

As a result, The Decaying Light is let down somewhat by its structure. Organising a 13-track album is no mean feat and Disentomb have slightly missed the mark with the song order. The first five tracks (‘Collapsing Skies to ‘Centuries of Deluge’) open strongly with a heavy punch and groovy riffs, yet these songs quickly blur into one another due to the muddy mix. This is not to say that there are no good moments here; the opening and breakdown riff to ‘Undying Dysphoria’ are both excellent and leave me wanting more of these meaty riffs in the rest of the album. One positive consequence of this ‘blur’ together in a sense of cohesion offered by the beginning of the album, as these tracks feel like one long song. The dominant effect, however, is a sense of aural fatigue, as I find myself wanting a bit of depth and variety around the third song that doesn’t really come until about halfway through the album.

When it does arrive, however, it is great. ‘The Decaying Light’ pulls the tech elements back slightly to provide some great moments of contrast and space that is continued with ‘The Great Abandonment’. ‘Dredged into Existence’ has a strong arc as a song, with some excellent heavy moments and a fantastic riff around 1’30” that really pushes the song forward and develops its motivic seed. ‘The Droning Monolith’ has a nice flow from the previous song, with a Psycroptic-esque opening riff while ‘Dismal Liturgies’ goes all-in on the really doomy vibes that some of the previous songs have flirted with and suits the mix perfectly. ‘Invocation in the Cathedral of Dust’ is perhaps the strongest song on the album with a great vocal and riff opening, showcasing the register of singer Jordan James. While these songs are all great examples of what Disentomb can do well, they are held back somewhat by the monotony of the earlier songs.

Unfortunately, the final two songs extend the album just a little bit too long. ‘Rebirth through Excoriation’ is a solid, groovy song, but feels a little generic after the depth and range of the previous group of songs. ‘Wither’ is another positive moment of contrast with the acoustic guitar but feels a little musically disorganised. These issues could again have been solved with a structural re-arrangement: ‘Invocation’ would serve as an excellent closer to the album, ‘Wither’ might perhaps be better suited to a mid-point breather halfway through while ‘Rebirth’ may have been better left on the cutting room floor to keep the overall album stronger and punchier. There is plenty of good material on show in The Decaying Light but it may have needed a little more editing and pruning in order to let the truly excellent elements shine through fully.

Structural issues aside, The Decaying Light still features some excellent songs and heavy riffs throughout. If you find yourself a bit tired out by the opening salvo of songs then I would encourage you to stick with the album for the excellent middle half, full of songs that will no doubt be a staple of Disentomb’s live shows and back catalogue for years to come. At no point does the album feel formulaic or lifeless and it is evident that a great deal of effort has gone into the writing and arrangement of the individual songs. Established fans of Disentomb will surely find plenty of material to enjoy on this album and will likely find the style of the opening songs a positive element, meaning that the entire album stands as a strong release from one of Australia’s prominent death metal bands.

Band: Disentomb
Album:  The Decaying Light
Year: 2019
Genre: Brutal Death Metal
Label: Unique Leader Records
Origin: Australia 
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About

Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.