How do you like your Swede-death in the morning? I like mine with a kick. I like to gargle the shards of old-school chaos around my mouth with verve. Sometimes I take less pleasure from this, though. Sometimes the taste of old-school chaos can become a numbing experience. The thrill and energy can wear off as swarm after swarm of newer bands look to add polish to the dirty obscurity of the early 90s underground by bringing it to the unwashed masses of 2017. Ensnared are disciples of this old-school sound. With their debut album Dysangelium they seek to deepen the grave re-opened by the likes of Horrendous and Morbus Chron in previous years. Are some things meant to stay buried?
A flurry of malignant spirits cascade forth from the re-opened grave as “Crushing the Meek of Heart” enters with a fizzingly addictive energy. Sometimes it’s hard to pin-point exactly where a song succeeds. In this case, there’s a frantic pulse that ties “Crushing” together to form an opening track that gets the blood-pumping. Sharp quick-fire riff changes, shifting tempos, and an erratic structure bring the song to life, setting the album off to a barnstorming start. Five instrumental interludes inter-dispersed evenly throughout the album provide peculiar lulls and fiery reprieves between songs. “Interlude I” transitions smoothly from the opening track, mellowing proceedings as crying string bends and sombre mid-paced rhythms extenuate the dread caused by “Crushing”.
Then, after the power of the opening parts of the album, Dysangelium begins to show signs of tediousness, and we’re only ten-minutes in. “Gale of Maskin” fades to forgettable quickly. It’s erratic riffage isn’t cemented by varied and interesting ideas. Chaos isn’t justified as riffs misfire and miss their target completely. “Impious Immance” warms the cockles with constantly fluctuating riff patterns; it’s striking at first but lacks the hooks and atmosphere to embellish the old-school back bone. A brief bass led interlude mid-way through the song adds much needed spice, but water in the form of suffocating drumming and hyperactive riff-changes submerges and dilutes the mix. To supplement the music, H.K’s vocals stick mostly to a uniform mid-ranged growl. If this was a create-a-death-metal-vocalist video game, H.K’s vocals would be logged as ‘Default #1’
Tracks like “Antiprophet” and “Apostles of Dismay” sound more unique and because of that they are more memorable and appealing. “Antiprophet” merges its death-metal with eccentric ambient overlays and typically progressive structures. It merges well with strange vibe of “Interlude III” as its jazzy drums and crawling bass-lines shimmer like lamp-lit smoke in a film noir. Follow-up track “Apostles of Dismay” carries a restrained simplicity that evokes a vague sense of doom, especially in relation to the rather emotionless tone of the other tracks. It manages to carry a malevolent stab and crunch as its decrepit pouch oozes dread. The song builds well – traces of black-metal in the high-pitched riffs provide a sharper attack – and picks up pace and intensity to satisfying, if predictable, effect. It’s nothing unique but it’s performed well enough to satisfy for a few listens. The problem is, as with the majority of the album, it lacks longevity.
Dysangelium makes a stinging impact at first but its wash of frantic old-school riff patterns over indulges on itself, flashily hammering away but failing to make an actual dent. Closer “Dysangelium” has a bouncy melodic feel that collides with dismal backing sounds well, but it’s too late by this point. The production across the album has a clean depth, but this fails to embellish the essence of the album. There are moments that show that Ensnared have the chops to produce something very good, especially if they integrate the jazzier/technical elements with a steadier and more consistent songwriting approach. For trve fans of any old-school sound you may find Dysangelium a rewarding listen, but for me it’s another album to add to my gargantuan list of “decent albums that lack a re-vitalising va-va-voom.”
DR: 7| Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Invictus Productions & Dark Descent
Websites: darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Ensnared-SWE
Releases Worldwide: May 12th, 2017