Dissection’s debut, The Somberlain (1993), unleashed its majestic wrath 30 years ago on December 3, 1993. This canonical, Swedish record was the first of Dissection’s three historic full-length efforts — the milestone that was Storm of the Light’s Bane (1995) and the shockingly original Reinkaos (2006) both followed. These masterpieces have proved timeless. After all, Dissection was not only one of the best black metal bands, but this pioneering powerhouse also ranks among the most influential. Dissection’s body of work has served as an undying well of inspiration to countless artists. As can be heard on The Somberlain, Dissection’s thoroughly misanthropic dark art had a prophetic flavor.
The Somberlain is, of course, a melodic black/death triumph with some elements of heavy metal, thrash, and classical. This innovative album was Dissection’s only full-length effort to feature the band’s original lineup. We hear the late Jon Nödtveidt on vocals as well as lead, rhythm, and acoustic guitars; John Zwetsloot on rhythm and classical acoustic guitars; Ole Öhman on drums; and Peter Palmdahl on bass. The revered Dan Swanö actually provided a bit of guest vocals and keys. While Dissection produced The Somberlain, Swanö handled engineering.
Yes, Zwetsloot’s classical guitars added the perfect elevated touch. The three acoustic pieces — “Crimson Towers,” “Into Infinite Obscurity,” and “Feathers Fell” — were all composed and performed by him. Nödtveidt wrote The Somberlain’s other songs, though he was assisted by his bandmates with all but two. He co-authored four of these tracks with Zwetsloot. In addition, Nödtveidt penned all of the lyrics by himself.
Nödtveidt is remembered as an almost unparalleled talent — a top frontman and composer, as many great musicians will eagerly confirm. He was an absolute visionary whose art was always profound, gripping, and immersive. Thanks to Jon’s supernatural charisma, The Somberlain has a spellbinding allure. As Nödtveidt declares on The Somberlain’s first song, “Black Horizons”: “I am the almighty, the one with wisdom wide.” (Nödtveidt, by the way, started a label called Black Horizon Music, which would reissue The Somberlain and spread more of Dissection’s material.) The child of teachers, Nödtveidt was a true intellectual with a thirst for knowledge. A proud Satanist, Nödtveidt was deeply spiritual. These qualities are reflected in the refined nature of his gorgeous lyrics. Take, for example, the following lines from “The Somberlain,” which was entirely composed by Nödtveidt:
“Thus far a long journey through my soul’s infinity
It has been a journey far beyond mortality
I have found what I wanted, tranquility
I’ll thrive on evil, eternally…”
Nödtveidt’s youth on The Somberlain is astonishing. He was just 17 when The Somberlain was recorded and 18 at the time of its release. This noble and evolved soul couldn’t have been any more inspired. He displayed the ability to bravely gaze into the abyss with a certain bright-eyed enthusiasm. As a result, The Somberlain is as vibrant and fiery as it is cold and dark, divine as it is utterly hellish:
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