One lesson I’ve learned in my tenure at AMG is that burgers can be successfully compared to just about anything. Just like burgers are a great plan for a meal in a pinch, they also work in that annoying pinch when a lede just refuses to come to mind. I think we can largely agree that listening to Swe-death records is like the endless quest for the perfect burger. Sure, all burgers and Swe-death seem similar, and they are; especially in the sense that I seem to tire of neither. Also, the details are what stand out, given that the frame is already great, and there are in turn few outright bad things in either category; both tend to falter more when they give you no reason to consume them instead of the endless other similar options. Sweden’s Miasmal have thrown some Swe-death meat seasoned with death n’ roll on the grill with their third record Tides of Omniscience, hoping fans of death metal will be left full, satisfied, and come back for more.
Miasmal sounds like what would happen if you asked Demonical to play a modernized Wolverine Blues but keep their reliance on speed intact. Naturally Tides of Omniscience is unthinkable without Clandestine and Dismember, but I also hear a pinch of Dutch death metal here in the vein of Gorefest’s grand finale Rise to Ruin. There seems to be some American metal influence here as well, so it makes sense that the production forgoes the HM-2 sound and opts instead for a modern and chunky if not overly polished sound overall. So far, nothing too surprising.
Like any good record of this sort, Tides of Omniscience lives and dies by the strength of its riffs. “Key to Eternity” succeeds in the riff department, mainly alternating between Left Hand Path and a bouncy Wolverine Blues on speed, never taking its eye off the metaphorical ball of being a taut and catchy headbanger. The solo is excellent as well, giving the song a good reason to drop into the chugging of modern Entombed if Entrails were to play it. In a weird but interesting twist, “Fear the New Flesh” decides to spice up its decent but standard-issue Contemporary Wave of Swedish Death Metal riffing with some nods to Florida’s death metal scene and top it off with a bunch of entertaining guitar heroics, becoming a decent song overall. Opener “Axiom” wastes no time throwing a simple but effective chug that sounds like what Pantera would do if Pantera listened to more Swe-death. The rest of the tune sticks with more extreme death n’ roll, features another great solo, and an enthusiastic and engaging performance from the whole of Miasmal. “Earthbound” gets closest to post-Wolverine Blues Entombed and dutifully brings the riffs required for this sound to work. Part Morning Star and part Motorhead, the song follows a predictable structure but makes a positive impression due to good riffing.
Like most records of this sort, Tides of Omniscience has its flaws. First is the sequencing; apart from obvious opener “Axiom” and obvious closer “The Shifting of Stars” the whole track list could be shuffled entirely and chances are nobody would notice. Sure, the boring “Perseverance” is a glorified three minute interlude and it makes sense to put it as the fifth of ten tracks, but nonetheless there’s a lack of a meaningful structure for the majority of the record and it loses the appeal of a fully-realized album because of it. “Deception” shoots for Morning Star in the verse and misses, doesn’t hit the mark with an off-brand latter Dismember styled melody-laden chorus, and unsuccessfully appropriates a random few seconds of typical black metal. “The Shifting of Stars” has an arbitrary acoustic intro to give it an “epic” feel that generally benefits closing numbers, but the ending makes the biggest impression, making the unconvincing Iced Earth ripoff of the intro an unnecessary waste of forty seconds.
As I mentioned above, Miasmal sounds quite polished. It’s not hugely detrimental, but in the more rockin’ moments like those in “Venomous Harvest” and “Earthbound” a bit more grit would’ve gone a long way. At the end of the day, Tides of Omniscience has plenty of decent material that’s essentially Swe-death with a compelling death n’ roll swagger, being entertaining and unobjectionable for the majority of its runtime. The lead work is consistently of a high quality, the riffs are enjoyable for the most part, but sadly nothing about this screams necessary listening. If you’re hungry for some death, Miasmal won’t let you starve. The problem is that neither will any of their contemporaries, and Miasmal doesn’t really give us enough reasons to choose their work over that of their cohort.