After a rather standard, toilet-and-trash (and great) brutal/slam debut, Australia’s Disentomb showed bits of growth on sophomore outing Misery. Sure, it was still loaded with pummels and riffs of the most brutal order, but the trash can snare drum was gone, as was the raw-rotten production. In their place were cleaner tones and music that wasn’t entirely single-minded. Shades of Ulcerate (by way of Gorguts) could be heard in some slithery riffs, not so much easing up on the violence as peppering it with some psychological horror. It still remained a near constant onslaught, of course, and also naturally a ton of fun.
This increase in space and dynamics means that The Decaying Light is not a nonstop hammering onslaught like its predecessors. Sure, it’s pretty often a barrage of blasts, pummels, and technical death riffage, but it makes a point to build to its biggest moments through the intertwining use of menacing melody. The naked, almost blackened trem lines in “Undying Dysphoria” help the song to arrive at its more nightmarish latter half. The slow, kinda slammy trudges in “Indecipherable Sermons of Gloom” foreshadow some really slow mega trudges later on. (Side note: Disentomb knows how to execute The Slow Part at an almost Suffocation level, and The Slow Part reigns supreme.) The title track might be one of the least brutal songs on the album (it’s still really brutal), but the swirling, maniacal riffs make it as downright disturbing as anything here. The needle-sharp, almost magnetic hooks in “Dredged into Existence” seem to construct the song as they go along. (Side note part the second: “Dredged into Existence” is a brilliant title for a brutal death metal song.)
The record also just sounds incredible. There’s a modern sheen to the production, but never to the point that it sounds mechanical, and the balance of it all is impeccable. Every snare tap, bottom-feeding churn, nasty squeal, guttural growl, and bass rumble comes through perfectly. The latter is also one of the album’s funnest aspects; Adrian Cappelletti slaps, blings, blangs, and twongs all over this thing, at times providing a counter to the guitars, and at others just upping the sass level. There’s even the tiniest bass break in “The Droning Monolith,” as if to make sure the listener is paying attention to the low end. It’s a small moment that ought to also remind that just because there’s plenty of proggy action going on, it’s also okay to just sit back and grin like The Joker at all the nuttiness.
The only real criticism about The Decaying Light is that it begins to sound a tad repetitive by the end. The 45-minute run time is by no means overlong, but it also isn’t particularly brief, and the presence of an intro and outro ‒ along with the very short breaks between tracks ‒ hints that Disentomb wanted the record to be more of a holistic listening experience, but it never quite reaches such a lofty goal. The obvious rebuttal to this criticism is that nothing is truly worthy of the cutting board. They’re all strong songs, but if only certain songs tried to expand the scope, while others went straight for the throat, there would likely be a better flow. The Decaying Light’s biggest flaw, then, is that most of its songs are strong in too similar of a fashion. That is undeniably a nitpick, but with greater ambition comes greater scrutiny.
Still, overall Disentomb’s little micro-micro-niche ought to greatly please quite a lot of ears. They should appeal to people that maybe think Ulcerate has gotten a bit too repetitive in riffery, or to folks that dig guttural slams for a song or two but also like at least the illusion of dynamics. Just because it works better as a set of songs than as a truly complete album doesn’t mean it isn’t also almost constantly killer, and as stated, a whole heap of fun. Having a metric ton of great riffs ‒ both crazily brutal and brainiac dissonant ‒ certainly helps matters.