Maybe it is the spate of masterpiece class reviews I've had lately, or maybe it is just my personal tastes catching up to me. Maybe I'm burned out on death metal, or maybe I'm just not in the mood for heavy music (a very unlikely scenario indeed). Whatever the reason, Dies Irae's 2004 release Sculpture of Stone just isn't blowing me away. Don't get me wrong, we've got a well-rounded, decent, and properly constructed album on our hands here...it is just that something about it lacks a spark of fiery soul, that special something that makes a good band great. Perhaps Sculpture of Stone is a dead-on title indeed; I can't help thinking just how stony these songs are, and how they appear so petrified, a bit too set in their ways. A little bit more variety would have earned this more marks I think, or perhaps a bit more fury.
The order of the day here is usually mid-tempo death metal with tons of Meshuggah nods, melody, and crunchy riffing. Deep growls are all you get vocally, and behind all the elephantine chugging, the percussion is usually pulsing double-bass alternated with the quicker pace of the blastbeat. Nothing is out of the ordinary, and I can think of a bunch of bands playing similar styles to this right now. Yes, Dies Irae are a bit older than their imitations (for the record, the Polish act formed in 1992) but this just seems like a by-the-numbers CD to my ears.
"Beyond Dimensions" has some eerie chimes starting off the album on an ambient note, soon swallowed whole by the monster that is the band's texture riffing and frontman Mauser's vocal self-heimlich. The man sounds like he is going to hawk up a kidney on ya, and it is probably the best part of the song. "The Hunger" features some low-end rumbling grunts and taunting guitar progressions with lots of sinister melody. Even by now though, it is highly apparent that a lot of bands sound like this. Hell, I even hear some Nevermore of all people in the guitars at times! Don't ask me why, but something about the guitar tones and riffs conjures up images of Nevermore's recent work.
"Unrevealed by Words" is the first song I really got into, it's technical pummeling alternating between chugging guitar brawls and fist- pumping, soaring walls-of-sound. "The Art of Endless Creation" finds the band really moving into fast territory for the first time, the song building into straightforward steamroller death metal. "Trapped in the Emptiness" keeps this theme alive, with tons of blasting and ferocious, mammoth guitars. It's decent, but again, nothing has really engaged me entirely thus far.
"The Plague" has some sweet leads, but all the melodies and technical chugging has by now gotten stale. "The Oceans of Filth" turn this trend on its head with an almost blackened death metal barnstormer, complete with massive aplomb in the guitar wizardry apartment and screeches rather then the grunts of past songs. A rousing, furious track, I'd vote it as one of the album's absolute bests.
"The Beginning of Sin" kicks off with a slow drum intro, a meandering guitar rush, and then the song's abysmal riffing. Deep and dank, the song is utterly crushing and finally gets the mid-paced tempo the band loves to have an extra element of "wow" to it. In a vastly ironic twist, "Sculpture of Stone" is actually one of the leanest, fastest, and most brutal tracks on the album. A real firestorm, and a wicked cut from the band. It ends things with a much needed bang, and the album feels a lot less plodding then what it could have had there been more tracks.
Don't get me wrong, the music on hand here is solid and in no way, shape or form, outright terrible. I just can't bring myself to truly get into it, and as a result I find myself thinking of the CD in varying degrees of mediocrity. I guess at the end of the day, all I can do is offer my opinion; Dies Irae have put forth a valiant if run-of-the-mill death metal album, the likes of which are competent but never truly grand. A good buy, but only for people who really love their death metal. Everyone else, maybe download a few tracks first for comparison.
1. Beyond Dimensions
2. The Hunger
3. Unrevealed by Words
4. The Art of Endless Creation
5. Trapped in the Emptiness
6. The Plague
7. The Oceans of Filth
8. The Beginning of Sin
9. Sculpture of Stone