Over the last fifteen years, Dissection‘s returning, and final, album Reinkaos has acquitted itself honorably alongside other neither-fish-nor-fowl albums like Megadeth‘s Youthanasia, Metal Church‘s Hanging In The Balance, Savatage‘s Edge Of Thorns, and Armored Saint’s Symbol Of Salvation. Symbol Of Salvation excepting, all are albums where bands flirted or outright embraced a more accessible ethos compared to their hard-as-nails work in the past: tempos brought to heel, more pronounced use of the blues, and an all-round polished hard rocking sensibility marked a break with tradition and a willingness to engage with different textures and paradigms. Naturally, this has elicited a variety of reactions from fans, from disdain to flippant dismissiveness, but, as opposed to The Black Album, these albums, to me, represent “selling out” done right, with class and musical intent still in tact. And on a more abstract note, they also serve to emphasize how blurred the lines between “hard rock” and heavy metal can be, and how in the grand telling the only distinguisher we have is the spirit with which they are made.
Of course, Reinkaos is nowhere near as experimental as the mentioned albums. Even though a young Jon Nodveidt probably idolized these bands, Dissection came from a different school of thought altogether, more visceral, more austere, more critical of the relatively brighter places it occasionally dared to tread. Appropriately, then, Reinkaos despite sharing many a trait with Gothenburg bands, also retains something of the sinister air found on another transitional album, Samael‘s Ceremony Of Opposites. In all fairness, this is owed as much to the lyrics as the actual music found here, as relentlessly occult-themed as any album in rock history, with no sense of irony, and sung with great clarity and conviction by Nodveidt. In hindsight, Reinkaos, more than any other Dissection album, was intended to be a vessel and a hymn for its creator’s unorthodox views, its palpable aim to represent a life’s guiding principle in no uncertain terms; and it is a more enjoyable album because of that zeal, the habitual cynicism of this time notwithstanding.
Musically, Reinkaos is the natural culmination of the Dissection sound, finally finding its liberation in the atavisms of simpler music that had been threatening it progressively since The Somberlain. Gone are all signs of the flowing, tremolo-picked riffing style on the back of which an entire subset of black metal was founded, now replaced by a far more syncopated, beat-driven approach to songwriting. The former is an oft-underrated aspect of extreme metal and second-wave black metal in particular; in this paradigm, tremolo-picking becomes more than mere technique; it consciously divorces melody from rhythm and lyrics, thereby establishing a very real hierarchy among the parts that make up a song, with musical narrative leading the charge. Reinkaos, instead, being more concerned with developing a lyrical narrative in the manner of popular music, dispenses with this order of precedence and unites lyrics, melody, and rhythm into an accessible form.
It is a distinctly modern form of heavy metal, too; not quite Iron Maiden, more akin to Sentenced‘s run through the mid-90s beginning with Down, measured and never given to excess, an album that came at the fag end of a particular vogue in the genre and one of its better examples at that.