2006 Willowtip Records
01. Knives Of Ice
02. Seeing Crows In Silver MP3
03. Great Worm Of Hell
04. Devil Finding Mirror
05. Incident At The Temple At Leng
06. Notorious Vectors Of Disease
09. Perpetuating Corpses
It's interesting how times change and certain styles of music find renewed popularity after years and years. In 1991, Scot Hornick, Scott Ruth and Shaune Kelley were members of death metal band Ripping Corpse alongside Erik Rutan of Morbid Angel. The disc has long been a sought after death metal classic and currently can go for more than fifty dollars. Fifteen years later, these three (alongside former Origin/Angelcorpse drummer John Longstreth) are still playing a variety of death metal and the general metal public is finally ready to hear it again. Somehow death metal has found itself nearly as popular as it was in its early nineties heyday and Dim Mak have released a record destined to become another classic of the genre.
So what exactly has Dim Mak done to deserve such praise There are plenty of bands that can dish out high-speed blast beats, but Longstreth is arguably the premier technical death metal drummer. Most death metal guitarists can play blistering riffs, but few are as capable at songwriting as Shaune Kelley. If a band can take a genre that has existed for twenty years or more and do something new with it, they're talented. If that genre happens to be death metal, they're gods. Most modern death metal acts suffer from over-abundance of technical prowess and under whelming songwriting. Others simply rely too heavily on bizarre gimmicks or crossover appeal to be taken seriously. Dim Mak seem interested in little more than playing genuine death metal with enough variety to keep a listener's attention for forty minutes. I routinely have a had time listening to records two times in a single sitting, but Knives of Ice didn't grow old even after hours on repeat.
The disc begins with the title track and flies through ten songs without taking a breath. Tracks like "Knives of Ice," "Seeing Crows In Silver" and "Devil Finding Mirror" actually feature strong, recognizable choruses that a crowd could easily sing along with, a relative rarity in the genre and a welcome addition in my mind. "Great Worm of Hell" is like an epic poem set to metal and features some of the disc's strongest riffs as well as its only slower moments. Oddly, these down-tempo moments contain some of Longstreth's most impressive drumming, hinting at the obvious diversity that is often overshadowed by pure speed. In fact, each song on this record combines speed and technical ability with creative implementation to result in one of the most listenable albums that could ever be described with the term "tech."
One of the few possible points of contention regarding Dim Mak are Scott Ruth's vocals. Being that I'm not a particularly die-hard death metal fan, his more thrashy/hardcore approach to singing suited me just fine. It was yet another characteristic that helped distinguish Dim Mak from their peers. It might not necessarily suit some death metal fans who have grown accustomed to the guttural growls and gurgles that often accompany death metal, but the music should be impressive enough to win over any true death metal fans, as well as more casual listeners with an appreciation for the best metal has to offer.
The artwork by resident Willowtip artist Aaron Nichols is among the worst I've seen in a while. It looks like a cross between a Obituary's Frozen In Time and a Meshuggah music video. It's a bit surprising, considering Mr. Nichols track record for Willowtip, but it certainly didn't keep me from enjoying this record.
Bottom Line: I don't doubt that this will be at least a mildly controversial opinion, but this is easily one of the best and most interesting death metal records I've heard in years. Though the genre isn't among my favorites, anyone should be able to hear the quality in this record. If you're a fan of the genre, Dim Mak will be a no-brainer for you to pick up. As death metal is finally on the rise again, this is also an easy recommend for those looking to revisit the genre or even explore it for the first time.