When I was first seduced by the ragged charms of extreme metal, it took me quite a while to get sucked into the black metal vortex. It wasn’t that I was opposed to the idea of the genre, more that my tastes gravitated in a different direction and instead I consumed as much death, grind, thrash, sludge and anything NOLA as I could get my grubby mitts on. As the years went by, my determination to decipher what was so fucking great about black metal increased. In sync with my general methods of going backwards to move forward, I came across a wee band out of Sweden that played a more palatable and melodic brand of black metal. They combined elements from the famed Gothenburg metal scene, fusing this influence with the burgeoning second wave that had whipped Norway and the larger metal world into a furious storm of notoriety, tremolo melodies, blast beats and corpse paint.
Dissection was formed by Jon Nödtveidt in the small Swedish town of Strömstad in 1989, releasing a demo and EP before dropping their debut album, The Somberlain, in 1993. The Somberlain is rightfully considered a landmark melodic death/black album, however it was the release of 1995’s sophomore album Storm of the Light’s Bane where Dissection really hit their stride and composed a monumental album of frost-bitten melodic majesty and raw savagery. Led by the brilliant and troubled soul of vocalist/guitarist Nödtveidt and featuring Ole Öhman on drums, bassist Peter Palmdahl and rhythm guitarist Johan Norman in tow, Storm of the Light’s Bane remains a defining example of the melodic black metal formula. From the ominous strains of instrumental opener “At the Fathomless Depths” through the hauntingly beautiful piano notes of the closing “No Dreams Breed in Breathless Sleep,” Storm of the Light’s Bane is the sound of a band in the absolute fucking zone capturing lightning in a bottle.
The songwriting remains some of the most dynamic, instantly gratifying and accessible the black metal scene has ever produced. Storm of the Light’s Bane is relentless and expertly crafted, featuring timeless songs like the frantically delivered and instantly headbangable riffs and epic melodic break of “Night’s Blood,” sinister melodies and blasty assault of “Unhallowed,” or the monstrous riff-driven surge of the epic “Thorns of Crimson Death.” Nödtveidt’s slick writing and raspy growl are immense while the outstanding guitar work pumps a constant flow of infectious riffs and writhing leads and harmonies through the album’s veins. The dude had some demons but he delivered at the peak of his powers here. Storm of the Light’s Bane may be defined by brilliant guitar work, but drummer Ole Öhman delivers a truly first class performance worthy of praise. Not content to just sit in auto blast mode, his creative drum patterns, jaw-dropping fills and killer mix of finesse and aggression formed the ideal rhythmic foil.
Perhaps the greatest endorsement of Storm of the Light’s Bane’s endearing legacy rests in just how thrilling it still sounds today. I often find myself chopping and changing between personal favorites, with not a second wasted during the album’s perfectly concise duration. The unique imprint of each song formed vital cogs in the album’s seamless flow, whether it be the beastly riffs and scything melodies of “Retribution – Storm of the Light’s Bane” or the restless energy and blizzard blasts of “Soulreaper” there’s not a shred of weakness to be found. Extra props to the stellar production job from Dan Swanö, which lent the music a slick icy sheen, beefy drum sound and biting guitar tone.
In 1997 Nödtveidt was arrested for his role in the murder of a homosexual man in Keillers Park in Göteborg, western Sweden, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. There was conjecture on whether this was a hate crime purely motivated by homophobia, or a satanic sacrifice (perhaps both), but the deeply disturbing crime casts an ugly shadow over Dissection’s legacy. Nödtveidt would eventually take his own life in 2006, a couple of years after his release. Although I’d prefer to focus on the music, while writing this piece I was reminded of Grymm’s insightful article On the Separation of Art from Artist and more recently Jean Luc-Ricard’s tactful handling of the Enabler review. Not to detract from the greatness of this album or open another can of worms, but it does make for interesting discussion.
Controversies aside, Storm of the Light’s Bane is a surefire classic that holds up exceptionally well and stands as a pillar of strength and innovation in a highly creative yet turbulent era for the black metal scene. Numerous years after acquiring a bloodthirst for the blackened arts, Storm of the Light’s Bane remains one of my go-to black metal albums and is a pivotal album in the genre’s storied history.