This is the first review in a new section called From the Vault Friday. This section will focus on albums that made a mark on us or others from the past. The albums will be at least 5 years old (for now).
Origin: Strömstad, Västra Götaland, Sweden 🇸🇪
Genre: Melodic Black Metal
Label: No Fashion Records
Dissection achieved legend status, and they did it through the release of a mere three LP’s. That along with founder Jon Nödtveidt’s nefarious nature and notorious crimes. Jon was a full member of the second grade and a Priest of Satan within the Misanthropic Luciferian Order, now known as Temple of the Black Light. And though the order operates on a strictly esoteric level these days, during the MLO era, talks of human sacrifice circulated throughout the ranks and Jon was at the center of it all. He was eventually incarcerated for a random murder and subsequently spent ten years behind bars. But we all know the story, just as we all remember the tragedy of Jon’s demise, so no need to rehash all the gory details. What we’re celebrating today is Jon’s early work as a prodigy within the Swedish black metal scene. In 1993, during the height of second-wave Norwegian domination, Jon and Dissection quietly released one of the genre’s most beloved gems in “The Somberlain”.
Compared to the Norwegian product, Dissection’s early output was teeming with heart, soul, and elegance; the product of passion not akin to the misanthropic nature of early 90s BM. And “The Somberlain” saw the band in a rather innocent state as burgeoning black metal artists who happened to also be the best at what they did. Jon’s melodic style of guitar play sparked a revolution within the Swedish movement and basically throughout what was at the time an aspiring genre. For Dissection, sound compositions and what is musically proper was the name of the game. As a result, albums like “The Somberlain” and 1995’s “Storm of the Light’s Bane” have aged more gracefully than any other two black metal albums I can think of.
Just compare “The Somberlain” to Mayhem’s debut, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, and there you’ll find all the proof you need as to just how ahead of the curve Jon was as a songwriter. Had Mayhem spent a little more time honing their craft and a little less time steeped in depravity, they would’ve still fallen short of Dissection-level glory. It’s something that just came natural for Jon. Musically, he was destined for greatness and esoterically, he was destined to transcend the primitive confines of Diabolism.
“The Somberlain” is classic to the core, yet it could be released today, and would blend right in with the current BM climate. Timeless and boasting celebrated tracks: the titular cut and “The Grief Prophecy / Shadows Over a Lost Kingdom”, “The Somberlain” is in many ways the quintessential melodic black metal album. One of the first and by far one of the finest. Jon, with his unequivocal sense of what made for the most immersive musical experience possible, conjures up from some mystical corridor of the mind, “Crimson Towers”, “Into Infinite Obscurity” and “Feathers Fell” – a pair of delicate acoustic interludes and one reflective outro that deepen the mood as they transport you, ever-so-willingly as you go deep into the sphere of medieval. Proper homages to both fantasy and forgotten times, and that trademark Dissection tonality that rings with such authority couldn’t sound any sweeter.
“The Somberlain” was much like Rotting Christ’s debut, “Thy Mighty Contract”, in that it basically made black metal albums like Darkthrone, Satyricon and Mayhem’s earliest offerings sound like they were recorded in some dingy basement by a number of loosely organized hooligans. Artists like Jon and Sakis Tolis who so naturally grasped black metal’s potential, proved with their debuts just what the genre is capable of.
Dissection would go on to release their opus in 1995’s “Storm of the Light’s Bane” and Jon would also continue his desperate soul search as his interest in the occult turned into an obsession. That same year, Jon joined the MLO and neither he nor the music would ever be the same. What started off as a musical career founded upon two genre-defining records turned into something far more complicated than I think it should have. Jon had made up his mind in prison that Dissection would take on a new form following his release and so “Reinkaos” was written and new-blood members in guitarists, Set Teitan and Tomas Asklund, were brought in to replace longtime members, Peter Palmdahl and Ole Öhman. A new vision for the band and a new meaning for the music – esoteric black metal with powerful connotations and formulas linked to The Eleven. In other words, “Reinkaos” was something unrecognizable in comparison to “The Somberlain”. A gorgeous record in its own right, but altogether something that stood off to the side of true black metal’s beaten path.
I choose to remember Jon and Dissection for their first two albums. Part of me feels like “Reinkaos” was more the product of what I consider to be an unsound mental fortitude, unlike “The Somberlain”, which was something vastly more artful and of the greatest importance to the genre. Here’s to the innocence of youth lost but never forgotten thanks to “The Somberlain”.
From the Vault Friday score: 9,5/10
Experience “The Somberlain” by Dissection right here, as presented by Dissection Official below, or you can buy the album on Bandcamp:
A trip down memory lane
For us, this album is a pleasant trip down memory lane, does it invoke the same for you? Or you never heard of this album before and this is your first time? Please let us know on our social media channels, or join us on discord, where we discuss all things black metal! Make sure to follow our Facebook page, Black Metal Zine, to receive notifications when we publish articles. Also check out our Instagram at @blackmetal.zine for concert pictures and more!