Dimman – Songs and Tales of Grievance Review

There’s something refreshing about looking at an album cover and not having any idea what you’re supposed to be seeing, but knowing exactly what you’re meant to feel. Bleak, muted despairing agony radiates from the succinctly-titled Songs and Tales of Grievance, and that was always going to be hard for me to pass up. The artist is Dimman, a Finnish sextet, and this is, as far as I can tell, their first release under this moniker. Peddling modern melodic death metal, the band’s approach is a familiar one, assured and confident despite the album’s debut status, and an enjoyable way to spend the better part of an hour.

I must admit, I’m not fully sure what “modern” means in the context of the genre, but my first instinct was that it might mean “album intros are overdone, so we’re not going to do that.” I guessed that because Dimman sure hits the ground running here: pounding drums, galloping riffs, and harsh shouts all land before the album is one second into its runtime. The template for the Songs and Tales of Grievance sound becomes clear quickly, and there’s a lot to it. Guitarists Jaakko Yli-Sorvari and Mikael Haapala alternate between chugging riffs and electric leads that give the album a “classic” melodeath base, while vocalists Jenna Kohtala and Valtteri Halkola offer soaring cleans and punishing growls respectively. The remaining duo, bassist and drummer Elias Halkola and Arto Pieksämäki keep everything tied together nicely, which is a reasonably impressive feat in itself – there is a lot going on here.

What it all coalesces into is sort of what I imagine would happen if Within Temptation and Second to Sun collaborated on a melodeath project. Kohtala’s cleans and vocal hooks remind me strongly of Sharon den Adel and that band’s style, while the symphonic flourishes are very Second to Sun in that they add a “lost in the forests” vibe to the music without being a primary fixture. At times, Songs and Tales of Grievance even feels like a very heavy symphonic metal project. For one thing, it has the “beauty and the beast” thing going with its vocalists, who complement each other very well on tracks like “Paroxysm,” where Halkoa takes a backseat to augment the chorus with distant growls beneath Kohtala’s distinctive vocal melody. Elsewhere, on tracks like “Imprudence,” Dimman adopts a thrash-esque approach to riffing before a slow and steady chorus grounds the song into something more unique. “Progradation” is an instrumental track, and one of the best on the album, demonstrating Dimman‘s ability to explore emotional resonances despite the absence of a full third of the band at the mic.

It’s worth pointing out that Songs and Tales of Grievance also sounds really good. Maybe that’s what “modern” means – solid production. No instrument is left out, with the keys in particular ringing loud and clearly to add that special “melodic” flourish to the work. The whole is polished and refined beautifully, which certainly helps the 42-minute runtime to go down smoothly. Not that Dimman really needs the help, but if there’s one fault I can find in Songs and Tales of Grievance, it’s the lack of peaks and valleys throughout. The band tries out a lot across its runtime – and it’s remarkable how much they can fit into a song like “Obscenity,” with only three-and-a-half minutes to work with – but few songs really have climaxes, big moments that make me say, “oh, that was a good song. I’m coming back to that one.” Instead, I remember the pockets of intrigue here and there – the chorus of “Imprudence,” the strong vocal melodies in “Contretemps,” the diversity in “Progradation,” and so on. It’s odd, really, because there is a lot to like about this album, but comparatively little that really stands out.

Across a very reasonable runtime, Dimman delivers a strong debut album that sings of potential to come. I don’t know much about the musical history of any band member, but it’s clear that they know what they’re doing. I love albums that are diverse and nuanced, and Songs and Tales of Grievance delivers that in spades. Is that what it means to be “modern?” I still don’t honestly know. But if this is the direction Dimman and melodic death metal are headed in, you can sign me up for the ride; we’re off to a great start here.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Websites: dimmanmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Dimman
Released Worldwide: July 30th, 2021

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