The best type of sci-fi
Supergroups have become fairly easy to come by in the metal world, yet that doesn’t make their existence any less deserving of attention. Though they may be just as common now as a sick breakdown, there’s a lot to appreciate now for what once was so underappreciated back in its day. Specifically, Shane Embury’s non-Napalm Death project Blood From The Soul. After joining up with Sick Of It All’s Lou Koller, the Blood From The Soul of 1993 released one of the greatest industrial metal records to come out at the time, though it may not have been recognized as such until much later. That was then and this is now, when Embury has revived the band to include the ferocity of Converge’s Jacob Bannon as the lyricist and vocalist, acclaimed Swedish drummer Dirk Verbeuren (At the Gates, Soilwork, Megadeth) and Nasum’s Jesper Liveröd on bass. It’s fairly needless to say how this union has turned out, since the second release from the band, which happens to be a concept record, says it all.
Based on the other projects of all the band’s members, the endless onslaught of abrasiveness is to be expected in DSM-5. “Fang Tooth Claw” kicks the record off with straight grindcore sensibilities, unrelenting in its pace and Bannon’s vile screams. It’s probably the closest to Napalm Death-esque tonalities on the record—though grind is ever-present throughout (especially on “Lurch of Loss,” where it intermingles with industrial in a hefty manner). It’s not long after that one of the record’s best tracks unleashes itself—“Calcified Youth.” It leans more on the punk side, starting with a pit-worthy two-step beat and a shouted chorus that would be so good to do live with a crowd. “Encephalon Escape” could hold up to a standard Converge song with its tempo changes, while “Subtle Fragment” marries doom and industrial tones wonderfully. On top of DSM-5 instrumentation, though, is the interesting concept that backs it.
According to new frontman Jacob Bannon, DSM-5 as a title refers to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It ends up manifesting itself with the story of the record, which is a dystopian sci-fi told both from the perspective of sentient robots and machines as well as actual humans, as the ship that the humans use to escape from Earth. The idea of reality is fairly moot, as the humans aren’t sure what’s actually happening to them or what they’re imagining. The story unfolds in an interesting way throughout each of the tracks. For instance, “Ascend the Spine” tells of a human who manages to crawl inside the dead sentient being, discovering graffiti sprawled all on its insides. “Dismantle the Titan” details of a human trying to rile his fellow beings into killing one of the machines, analyzing the best ways to success, while “Self Deletion” tells of a sentient machine choosing to shut itself down after realizing evolution is a fallacy. Closing the album out, the title track is meant to be one of the last transmissions coming from the DSM-5 ship as it drifts through space, soon to be forgotten.
Both conceptually and musically, DSM-5 is a lot, but nothing less than that should be expected from the caliber of minds that created it. It’s been 27 years since the first Blood From The Soul record, and it seems that Embury wanted to make sure the band’s return wasn’t one to come lightly, and it surely doesn’t.