Mmm, old school Swedish death metal. Sludgy, dirty, and 100% evil. Dismember was one of the founding fathers of the movement (Carnage hiatus included), bringing the exceptionally heavy style to the metal forefront in the late 80s and early 90s. While they’ve remained strong in modern times, it’s their first effort that set the tone for the massive outbreak of death metal in Europe in the 90s; and it came surprisingly close to perfection while doing so.
The reason why Like an Everflowing Stream is so legendary (to me, anyway), is the remarkable blend of aggression, melody, brutality, and technical prowess that it features. I really haven’t heard anything quite like it before. There are loads of death metal bands out there nowadays claiming to be “technical brutal melodic progressive blackened death metal with thrash influences” (or some other annoyingly long description), but none of them pull it off like Dismember did…in 1991. You can go through this album and easily pick out the parts that are melodic and the parts that are bone-crushingly heavy, but be just as satisfied with taking in all of the elements at once. It’s just so coherent and wholesome. Waaay ahead of its time in so many ways.
The album is short, with 8 songs spanning a total of just over 31 minutes (10 songs totaling about 40 minutes if you get the reissue), but rest assured that there is no lack of good material here; in fact, it’s the opposite. You’d be hard pressed to find any filler on this album. Each track is a cornucopia of classic death metal riffs, which once again, bind melody and heaviness with great care. Override of the Overture sets the perfect tone for the rest of the album, containing the BEST old school death metal riff you will ever hear in your life. It’s right around 3:15. Listen to it. Embrace it. Worship it. It’s among the many riffs that will absolutely throttle you while listening to this. Did you think that straight-up death metal can’t be catchy? Think again, sucker. I must have played this song 20 times over the first time I heard it. And here’s the kicker: every song is like this. Yes, EVERY SONG. Yeah, they’re short, but that’s just because the band packed so much killer into each of them. Each song is like a compacted ball of evil awesomeness. Evil runs rampant through the riffs of Bleed for Me. Dismembered is half sweet, sweet melody and half total asskickery. And Skin Her Alive, well, that song got Nuclear Blast taken to court for being so damn awesome (actually, they were looking for obscene and indecent material. They found none). That should give you an idea of just how cool this stuff is.
One knock against this style of metal is that in its early days, it wasn’t very technical. Yeah, most Swedish death metal bands were heavy as all get out, but there was plenty of sloppy playing going on under those muddy guitar tones. But sloppiness is one thing you will not find here. Oh no. The musicians in Dismember were well above average at this time. David Blomqvist and Robert Sennebäck throw riff after riff at you with rigor and energy, each striking its target like a smart bomb blowing the hell out of the latest terrorist establishment. The drummer, Fred Estby, is of particular note here, being especially solid with his double bass and cymbal work. He throws a couple of time changes in there for good measure, all of which is more impressive when coupled with the fact that he was only 19 when this album was recorded. And Matti Kärki’s vocals hit the death metal spot right on target; not too incoherent, but evil and aggressive enough to add to the overall atmosphere and piss off all of your neighbors. Of course, some of the members of Dismember got their trial run in with Carnage the year before, but that takes nothing away from their efforts on Like an Everflowing Stream. This is the sound of a band firing on all cylinders, and it’s amazing.
Everything else on this album is about the norm that you’d hear for a Swedish death metal band at the time. The lyrics are about things such as hell, body parts being chopped off, anti-religion, and all that good stuff (once again, perfect if you have some people living around you that you aren’t fond of). The production is just about perfect, considering that it’s 1991 and the engineering in Sweden hadn’t yet caught up with that of American recordings; the drums are a little thin, but that’s a non-issue when you consider that the guitars sound absolutely sublime. Each of those crushing riffs is magnified by a sludgy and downtuned guitar tone, and they’re still clear enough to, you know, actually hear the notes that David and Robert are playing. It isn’t over-produced, as there’s still somewhat of a hollowness during the solos, but this ends up adding to the atmosphere instead of removing from it.
Like an Everflowing Stream is a genre-defining classic, there’s no doubt about it. The amount of influence it had on both sides of the death metal spectrum is undeniable. However, unlike a lot of prototypical metal albums, this one withstands the test of time and is still one of the best that the genre has to offer today. Definitely a must-have for any death metal fan.