Sword Toward Self - Dissolution Mantras
Self Financed
Progressive Death Metal
3 songs (16:41)
Release year: 2008
Reviewed by Kayla

It’s generally difficult to get a decent feel for a band from three songs, and Dissolution Mantras is no exception. No matter how comprehensive the listening experience, there’s no way to tell if an awkwardness in one song is indicative of the band as a whole or just an unfortunate fluke. From what I can glean from listening to this particular EP, however, Sword Toward Self have a fairly solid grasp of what they’re trying to achieve, marred only in that their composition seems to want to stop at the level of riffs; while each one fits into the next seamlessly, the structure of their songs as a whole starts to wander onto shaky ground.

The first (and self-titled) track plunges headlong into a workmanlike death metal riff and solid, if unremarkable, drum line. The vocals are what one would expect, a deep, unintelligible but powerful growl. Surprisingly, the fairly inauspicious beginning quickly gives way to a mutating cascade of much faster and more technical riffs, and a solo that, while it doesn’t quite blister the paint off the walls, rises above the slight production-induced muddiness the rest of the song sinks into. After the solo crashes to a close, the opening riff reprises, this time accented by the “ssshhhnnkkk” of what is certainly supposed to be swords being drawn, but is much closer to the sound of a kitchen knife being sharpened.

This could have brought the song to a close at about the four-minute mark. However, in an utterly surprising move for what starts out as a decent death metal track, silence suddenly descends, broken only by a quiet, slow acoustic riff and a clean vocal line (still unintelligible, unfortunately, due to the production again). This new development doesn’t last too long, however, as another death metal riff, this time leaning far more to the prog side of the equation than the technical, screams to life over the acoustic guitar. After another solo followed by another reprise of the opening riff finally does close the song, the listener is left wondering just what the hell happened. With the exception of a few seconds of the opening riff at the very end to tie the two halves of the song together, it feels very much as though the eight-minute musical trek is two songs stuck together; a four-minute traditional death metal song and a four-minute progressive death song.

The second track, Regress/Regret, answers the oft-asked question, “What happens when you write a totally bitchin’ solo but run out of ideas for the rest of the song?” It’s a much more standard death metal offering, about half of which is taken up by a solo which is, indeed, fairly bitchin’. The rest is another swiftly changing set of riffs, similar in structure to the beginning of Sword Toward Self; the opening riff is a chugging Floridian beast quickly conquered by a fast, nastily technical blade. Sword Toward Self’s prog leanings are sparsely represented by an interesting ascending, ladder-like riff accompanying the tail end of the aforementioned solo.

Iridescent Wings Of The Ungods, the third and last track, is an interesting creature; atmosphere-wise, it’s a balance between the two previous songs, and is the one that suffers the most from the muddy production. Most of the riffing is entirely lost until around the middle, when the speedy riffing screeches to a halt in favor of a short doomy passage. Unfortunately for the sense of clarity this passage creates, it’s soon replaced by more muddy death metal speed (and unfortunately for the listener, anything interesting is swallowed in the wall-of-sound morass).

Sword Toward Self are clearly a band of experimenters, taking an impressively solid death metal foundation and weaving in some surprising touches. Unfortunately, their touch isn’t quite deft enough to make those transitions seamless. While the riff-to-riff switch between death metal styles creates an interesting effect, if the jarring transitions in Sword Toward Self are more indicative of the band as a whole than the better-managed doom-death in Iridescent Wings Of The Ungods, they could benefit from a bit more time looking at the structure of their songs as a whole.

Killing Songs :
Iridescent Wings Of The Ungods
Kayla quoted no quote
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