Press releases are normally a bit dull. Trying to find a middle ground between eye-catching and safe, they generally say little of value. Such is the case with German melo-death maestros Dawn of Disease and their third full-length Worship the Grave. Apparently Swedish death metal is “a huge influence” on the band, but they bring their own sound to the proceedings. Their own sound is, apparently, at once melodic and abrasive with catchy riffs and plenty of extreme drumming. These are all things that I like, but would you really recommend someone a restaurant by saying that American cuisine is a huge influence but they do their own thing, which is at once simple and exquisite, with a varied menu that balances both flavor and sophistication? I’d hope not, because as a normal person searching for a good place to grab a bite where I will get a burger and will not get food poisoning, I’m not looking for an excerpt from a twelve-page Yelp review written by a post-doc.
All of this is to say that I had no firm idea of what Dawn of Disease would sound like after reading the press release, save for that I was expecting a boring Nihilist wannabe. What I heard was not that, thankfully. Worship the Grave uses a lot of Swedish death metal in the sense that most of their influences play death metal and come from Sweden as opposed to playing HM-2-core. You’ll hear the influence of early-ish In Flames (think of a simpler Whoracle), the unavoidable Slaughter of the Soul, Bloodbath circa Nightmares Made Flesh and The Fathomless Mastery, and little parts of the last two Dismember records. Demonical will jump to mind often as well, but Dawn of Disease is more firmly planted in melo-death from Sweden than Swe-death as we tend to understand it. As Demonical has plenty of melo-death elements, some overlap was inevitable.
You’ll notice that the influences above all have catchy songs with some fairly big melodies along with more brutal sounding riffage. Unsurprisingly, when Dawn of Disease achieves this balance is when they’re at their most compelling. “Ashes” is the most convincing song here, as it’s structured well, has consistently good riffs, and a monster chorus that, like a melo-death squatter, refuses to leave my head without coercive legal action. The title track begins as competent modern Swe-death, but shifts to mid-90s Swedish melodeath and turns out to be oddly compelling. The coda which ends the track sounds like modern Anaal Nathrakh, and makes the song sound greater than the sum of its parts. “Through Nameless Ages” sounds like the Whoracle, ah, plied her trade with latter-day Kataklysm, especially In the Arms of Devastation, and then nine months later this happened. I don’t like this bastard child quite enough to make it Duke of Richmond or anything, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
While I have plenty more nice things that I could say about Worship the Grave, they’re just that; nice. That’s because this is a good record, Dawn of Disease are a good band, and if you like In Flames before they began what at this point appears to be a truly baffling piece of postmodern performance art, then you’ll like what these Germans are selling. The problem is, I couldn’t bring myself to more than like it. As stereotypes have, generally, some truth about them, I’ll say Worship the Grave is a very German record. It’s main goal seems to be crafting catchy melodies into metal songs, and so every song is set up to efficiently deliver a catchy melody in the most effective way. The leads and melodies are safe, reliable, and run like clockwork throughout. This is a well-oiled machine that produces highly competent Swede-style melo-death that seems to want to be something a lot of metalheads can enjoy. In this I think Dawn of Disease succeeds, much like a safe opening act would.
Dawn of Disease represents the epitome of good melo-death. The hooks and leads work, it’s produced cleanly and loudly to make sure guitar interplay is always being focused on, and there’s nothing out of place. No time-wasters, head-scratchers, or the like to be found here. It’s almost frustrating, because there’s a fanatical devotion writing good music on Worship the Grave, and it’s as if the band are actively preventing themselves from being great because of it. If you like melo-death and the newer hyper-melodic school of Swe-death, there’s no good reason you won’t enjoy what Dawn of Disease does here. But it’s just too good at being good for its own good.