Now, I don't mean to suggest that the current music scene suffers from a bit of stagnation as far as new ideas are concerned (to which there is sadly quite a lot of evidence), I really don't. However, the very notion of an album reviving the old school death metal style creating as much buzz as Disma's full-length debut, Towards the Megalith has, does little to disprove this. Death metal has never boasted the most versatility, even in recent years (particularly following The Red Chord's wonderful debut, Fused Together in Revolving Doors), so the idea of any sort of revival within this genre will initially seem quite silly. However, despite the fact that Towards the Megalith would have received quite the tepid reception had it come out in death metal's early-to-mid-90s heyday, Disma's first album offers some of the year's best death metal yet.
Disma's sound comes as no surprise, particularly since members of the legendary Incantation as well as Funebrarum round out the band's lineup. Craig Pillard's vocals give everything that could be expected of death metal, a guttural growl with an extremely low register, while Bill Venner and Daryl Kahan exhibit great chemistry with their sludgy, doom-oriented riffs. Together, these components create an absolutely crushing sound that capture the old school style to a T. Sprectal Domination is a great example of everything this genre has been missing for the last decade or so; casually switched-up tempos, tremendously dark production, and insanely heavy guitars, just dark and heavy music, completely free of pretension.
There are a few gripes though, none of which are foreign to death metal albums. For one, the bass is a bit buried in the mix, only audible in the rare moment that the guitars are not present. Another issue is that songs trudge on for far too long without enough ideas to really justify the lengths. Chasm of Oceanus, for example, feels like a three minute song slowed to a crawl in order to occupy more than twice the time than is necessary, with only a scant few creeping riffs to keep it going along. This leads to what is perhaps the most damning drawback, which is the quality of the riffs themselves; they're simply not that creative. Venner and Kahan seem to rely more on heaviness than any sort of catchiness, and while it undeniably still sounds great, it gives the feeling that the songs aren't really going anywhere.
Lastly, and as previously stated, this album only stands out really because of the era in which it has been released. Had this come out in say, '92, the year of classics such as The End Complete, Tomb of the Mutilated, Necroticism, and most relevantly, Incantation's Onward to Golgatha, it would have been utterly overlooked. There is nothing here that hasn't been done better already. But in all fairness... when has death metal ever been about originality? Truth be told, the formula is applied well enough, and Megalith is still a great listen, outshining most other releases of its style that have come out this year.
Towards the Megalith is a great representation of early death metal, and breezes by quickly enough to catch the ear but avoid overstaying its welcome. In spite of its issues, Disma have put forth a fierce replication of what is arguably death metal's best period, and it's safe to say that there isn't any fan of the genre who will be disappointed with this solid piece of work.