Concept albums often have very dark stories and themes behind them. Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” deals with heroin addiction, assassination and insanity. W.A.S.P.’s “The Crimson Idol” is the story of a rock star dealing with the loss of his brother, his own alcoholism, the emotional distance from his parents, and his eventual suicide. “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” is possibly a concept album, or possibly not, depending on which member of Iron Maiden you ask, but it does cover clairvoyance, foreseeing death, madness and the meaning of dreams. All these pale in comparison to Macabre’s “Dahmer”.
“Dahmer” is particularly shocking and achingly dark because it is a true story. This album follows the tragic true story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer from screwed up childhood to eventual rather messy death. Dahmer’s life and crimes are particularly famous because the brutality and perversion behind the seventeen murders he committed caused a media shitstorm like no other serial killer in history.
This album kicks off with “Dog Guts”. Why? Because a young Jeffrey Dahmer loved playing with dead animals. Second track “Hitchhiker” covers Dahmer’s fucked up teenage years, culminating in the murder of a hitchhiker in 1978, his first victim. Macabre is well known for sticking the odd nursery rhyme into their music, and there’s a few on show here. “In The Army Now” and “Grandmother’s House” steal the tunes from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Over the River and Through the Woods”, lightening the grim mood somewhat. “Coming To Chicago” borrows from “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain”, which is a truly disturbing sing-along about cruising gay bathhouses, looking for victims to fuck, photograph, kill, photograph, fuck, mutilate, fuck, disembowel and finally fuck again. Another borrowed tune, “Jeffrey Dahmer And The Chocolate Factory” has the immortal lines “Oompa loompa doompity dah/Jeffrey loved eating/Men from gay bars/And he lived in happiness too/Like the Oompa Loompa doompity doo”. Oompa Loompas don’t seem quite so innocent after that.
Dahmer tried to lobotomise several of his victims, in order to acquire a zombie sex slave, but kept messing up the operation. The song “Konerak” describes how victim Konerak Sinthasomphone managed to escape during this process, but through some of the most inept police work of all time, the cops returned him to Dahmer, and in doing so, missed seeing a decomposing body in Dahmer’s apartment, and all that was ever found of the the Thai teenager was a few bones.
As you can imagine, there’s nothing progressive or operatic about “Dahmer”, as is often common with concept albums. It’s a death metal record, but like Macabre’s previous two albums, it’s not exactly an ordinary death metal record. Macabre’s style of death metal has always had something of a cult following, rather than really breaking through into death metal’s mainstream, possibly because these guys enjoy a laugh. “Jeffrey Dahmer Blues” for example, is a swinging blues song, topped off with a solo by producer Neil Kernon. “McDahmers” is an anthem for cannibals everywhere. “Into The Toilet With You” hits a tech-death rhythm, while describing how acid dissolved flesh was flushed down the toilet.
Of course, there would have been no Dahmer, no court case, and no album unless Jeffrey was caught. “Media Circus” covers Dahmer’s arrest, using the cheerful circus music melody. “Temple of Bones” describes the macabre (no pun intended, no other word really fits) construction of skeletal remnants police found in Dahmer’s reeking charnel house apartment, along with dissolving body parts, filleted human flesh in the freezer, and putrefying bodily remains.
The song which sets this album apart from all other concept albums, and all gore themed metal everywhere, is “Trial”. Guitarist/vocalist Corporate Death (Lance Lencioni) is quite serious in his obsession with serial killers, and actually attended Dahmer’s trial. “I waited in line to see him/Through the bulletproof wall/In the courtroom/And I had a seat in the front row/To watch Jeff like a circus sideshow/Ten feet away, the cannibal displayed”. This is taking research to another level, and short of interviewing Dahmer, or becoming a victim, this is as close to the source material as it is possible to get. Reading the lyrics, describing how Lencioni was only 10 feet from Dahmer is chilling.
Dahmer was beaten to death in prison in 1994, almost bringing this entire tragic episode to an end. Final song “The Brain” covers how Dahmer’s father wanted his son’s preserved brain destroyed, which it eventually was.
This whole story is told in a coherent manner, never losing its narrative thread, yet most of the songs can be listened to in isolation without sounding strange. Well, no stranger than usual, considering this IS Macabre after all. It’s gory and gruesome, both musically and lyrically, and it stands up well to repeated listens. As far as death metal concept albums go, “Dahmer” is unique, the perfect mix of brutality, humour and true life horror.