Dim Mak // The Emergence of Reptilian Altars
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — Good fighting, but never applied the vaunted “Death Touch.”
Label: WillowTip | Hammerheart
Release Dates: US: 11.22.2011 | EU: 2012.01.10
Dim Mak arose from cult heroes Ripping Corpse in 1996 (after Erik Rutan ran off to join Morbid Angel) and they decided to do something entirely different. And yes, I believe that Dim Mak definitely qualifies as that. A thrashy, techy death metal band with martial arts themes almost exclusively (yes, their first record was called Enter the Fist), The Emergence of Reptilian Altars is the band’s fourth full length and first since 2006. Five years (well, six if you’re looking at the Euro release date) is a long time to wait between albums, so you’d like to think that they were preparing something super special (like the Touch of Death!) for their return. But during that five years down, original vocalist (and Ripping Corpse member) Scott Ruth left the band and was replaced by newcomer Joe Capizzi, whose style is markedly different than his predecessor.
And The Emergence of Reptilian Altars is a record arguably quite different than its forerunners. While the band operates breakneck speed for a good portion of the time, pumping out amelodic riffs galore and pummeling the listener’s brain with ridiculous, tight and fascinating drumming from Origin and Gorguts drummer John Longstreth, there is not the same blitzkrieg kind of blasthappy speed approach. This makes for some pretty awesome material at times. “The Secret Tides of Blood” lilts back and forth between blasty chorus parts and groove laden, almost jazzy, interludes and verse parts that can switch up almost unpredictably. On top of this kind of material, vocalist Joe Capizzi apparently approaches tracks in a much different way than most vocalists. Where others seem to harbor a desire make their vocals work rhythmically, he seems more accustom to spitting his vocals out in bunches, in places that seem vaguely inappropriate and unsettling at times like some sort of crazed, death metal beat poet! This can be really distracting and actually discourages getting into the groove of tracks.
So I was admittedly really pretty cool on this album until the introduction of the track “Between Immensity and Eternity” kicked in and that’s when The Emergence of Reptilian Altars really turned around for me. That track, while still containing riffs that might as well be finger exercises, also contains some outstandingly groovy and crushing riffs that kept me coming back again and again. And this was not just a fluke, the follow up, the vocalless “Through the Rivers of Pestilence,” also contains some riffs worthy of Death or Covenant-era Morbid Angel. In fact, I’d say the entire final two thirds of the disc should probably just have been an EP, because those 6 tracks really fucking rip. And with lyrics like these form the track “Fully Disassembled” it’s not too difficult to feel pretty stoked about this album: “In this landscape forged from dismemberment! I administer the sacrement of pain!” Yes sir, you most certainly do.
So while I’m not totally sold on the first three tracks, because there are basically no riffs or moments that bring me back around, The Emergence of Reptilian Altars wins pretty hard on the back end. The musicianship is awesome (though the bass is *way* too low in the mix), with the riffing actually wandering into the nearly unmatched and highly addictive area of Anata at times, and the drums alone are worth listening to. Still, while this record does salvage itself on the back end (and “Between Immensity and Eternity” is definitely one of the best songs I’ve heard in this young 2012), enter at your own risk. Dim Mak is not for everyone.