Dormant Ordeal – The Grand Scheme of Things Review

Since joining the AMG staff, a lot has changed, both personally1 and in the world. Everywhere you look, something is completely fucking different from how it was a mere half-decade ago. Poland’s Dormant Ordeal, however, are immune to the trend. Their 2016 opus We Had It Coming certainly had its spot on that year’s Best Of lists coming, and their tech-death sound remains exactly as it was, stalwart and monolithic. But if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward, and Dormant Ordeal can’t risk falling behind in a strong year for a crowded tech-death field. Their new record has to stand apart in The Grand Scheme of Things if it wants any shot at another repeat year-end performance.

The thing with stasis is that, if nothing else, it’s consistent. If you thought WHIC was a standout album, guess what? You can stop reading now and go shove money in Dormant Ordeal‘s faces. This record is Polish death metal incarnate: ambitious, heady, and technically poetic on one hand, the other hand squeezing your dome so hard that your eyes pop out. The band fully recognize their early-Decapitated-without-moral-quandaries formula is their most obvious selling point and wisely lean into it. They come charging out of “At the Garden’s Gates” energized with maniacal intent; they will rend the dissodeath pastiche to its maximum, or they will die trying. Maciej Nieścioruk — now handling every aspect of the guitarwork — drops riffs so heavy, they could tilt all of GMT+1 toward Kraków. The spiraling masterpiece of “Poetry Doesn’t Work on Whores”; Radek Kowal’s pounding annihilation and Maciej Proficz’s crushing roars of “Sides of Defence”; the perfect mix of shrill and stout, dissonant and deadly on “Bright Constellations.” At its best, the album could produce any number of death metal songs of the year (and, for my money, did with the last of those).

If there is an issue, it’s one common to this corner of the genre: once Grand Scheme gets going, not even the band seem capable of stopping it. The sonic black holes of Ulcerate come to mind, not in any tangible musical quality, but for how breathless everything can be. Dormant Ordeal seem intent on bashing you to death with riff after riff. Make no mistake, they’re all choice offerings, but once the walls start closing in, it feels like there’s no escape… because there rarely is any. Starting around the 20-minute mark, “Here Be Dragons” or “Letters to Mr. Smith” specifically, the spin’s metronomic pace and constant consternation start to blur songs together. That the chaos never abates for more than a few moments — a softer bridge here, some spoken word there — saps its punch as the record tears towards its end. We Had It Coming suffered a similar issue to a lesser extent, a singular focus on the onslaught that it nears suffocation, but Dormant Ordeal addressed it better there. The hidden faces and quieter moments, tucked into the corners of the tornado, opened new worlds within the sound.

As such, the highlight of our current outing is, at least for a humble wvrm, the finale “The Borders of Our Language Are Not the Borders of Our World.” Anchored not by what it does but by what it does not, the long-form closer offers balance to a record sorely in need of some. It’s the song I’ve wanted for years, but I can’t help but feel like there was so much more possible on this platter. Dissodeath’s versatility of sound, the genre’s greatest strength, allows for more moods than “I smashed my dick in a car door.” That next level made We Had It Coming truly special to me. Here, the quality of Grand Scheme is more readily apparent, with riffs perhaps even better than last time and an improved production from Paweł Grabowski to boot, but it feels like there’s just one thing missing.

This might be a bit nitpicky in the end, especially as The Grand Scheme of Things is a lock to make my year-end list. Make no mistake: I love this record, and we’ve been far too long without Dormant Ordeal. This band should be near the top of the death metal scene, and if the response to this release that I’ve seen so far is any indication, they may be there soon. But it’s not often the tech-death band that can do more than just noodle and fret, rarer still that they can reach for the atmospheric and come out improved. Dormant Ordeal have proven to be that band in the past; I have every faith they can be again.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Selfmadegod Records
Websites: dormantordeal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dormant.ordeal
Releases Worldwide: December 3rd, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Baby Wvrm, coming soon to a Coal Chamber near you.
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