Gothenburg’s Ensnared have been around in one iteration or another since 2005, when they formed under the name Gravehammer, but Dysangelium will be the band’s first proper full-length, and their first new music of any kind since the Ravenous Damnation’s Dawn EP back in 2013. I have no idea what took them so long, but it’s difficult to argue with the end results. Dysangelium makes some odd for a death metal record, but that oddness ends up being a large part of its charm.
Even though they’re a Swedish death metal band, there’s definitely no HM-2 worship going on here. Frankly, part of the album’s appeal is that Ensnared’s sound leans toward the old-school, but will a lot of variations on that template. Opener “Crushing the Meek of Heart” has a definite Morrisound Studios feel to it, but then “Gale of Maskim” sounds more like Necronomicon, “Antiprophet” almost has an Archgoat vibe to its first half before taking an unexpectedly jazzy turn, and mid-tempo crusher “Apostles of Dismay” reminds me of something off of Dark Fortress’s Ylem.
Those subtle shifts from one track to the next keep the record from falling prey to the kind of redundancy that plagues a lot of death metal records, where by the end of the fourth or fifth track you’ve pretty much heard every trick the band has. The thing that makes the record really different, though, is the five “Interlude” tracks between the six main songs. These “Interludes,” which range from a little over two to nearly four minutes in length, are instrumentals that serve to bridge from one track to the next. At first, I didn’t like them because I thought they felt like half-formed ideas that interrupted the record’s flow, but after a couple of listens I’ve come to appreciate them. In fact, while some of them, like “Interlude I,” feel like in-studio jam tracks, the spacey psychedelia of “Interlude III” might be my favorite musical stretch on the album. Taken as a whole, they add to the swirling dynamics that make the record so enjoyable.
I know it’s something of a cliché, but there really isn’t a dull moment on Dysangelium. There may be a few that don’t quite make sense on the first listen, so listen to it twice – everything really falls into place the on second spin. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take seventeen years for them to follow it up.