Album Review: Dirge Within - There Will Be Blood
Change happens so gradually it's hard to recognize the shift that's been made. Listening to “There Will Be Blood”, the immediate impression is that Dirge Within is a perfectly capable middle-of-the-road metal band. It's only when we stop and think that it becomes apparent how much metal has changed in the last thirty years. From the clinical guitar tones to the gruff shouting that encompasses most of the vocals, this is music that would have been extreme in the 80's, yet today it doesn't raise an eyebrow. We have been conditioned as metal fans to expect and crave more and more extreme music that we rarely stop and think about the consequences we impart on the music.
Trying to please everyone in this metal climate is impossible, and the bands that try are destined to fail. They may make good music, but having to go in multiple directions at the same time means that in the end, we're taken nowhere. That's the feeling I couldn't escape as “There Will Be Blood” unfolded. It is really two albums in one, a schizophrenic duality that fights for attention by trying to undercut the other. On the one hand, Dirge Within is a modern metal band that blends the elements of thrash and melodic death metal into their sound, with aggressive rhythms and an assortment of growled and shouted vocals during the verses. But then everything changes when the choruses come around, as the guitars smooth out and the vocals try to lend an air of pop to the melodies. They go from sounding like Soilwork one moment to Papa Roach the next, never quite finding a way to integrate the disparate approaches.
“For My Enemies” may not be the best introduction to the album, blending not only the obvious influences, but also shades of hardcore with the gang vocals in the chorus. It feels like a song trying to be everything other than an honest song. “Memories” improves things immediately afterward, as the pop elements are stronger, a better illustration of what Dirge Within could be if they were more focused on an ultimate goal. From track to track, the band changes their mind, going from a metal-meets-pop approach to Asphyx-tinged death metal on the title track. No rationale for the shift is given, leaving the listener confused as to where the album is headed, and whether or not we want to find out. The dual personality of the early tracks extends to the album as a whole, as it feels like a split record between two bands sharing equipment but not philosophy.
That's not to say that “There Will Be Blood” is bad, because while frustrating, there are songs worth taking note of. The aforementioned “Memories” is the obvious highlight, but is joined by most of the first half of the record as worthwhile listening. The second half completely abandons the efforts at melody previously made, reducing the sound to a mix of thrash and death metal that doesn't embrace either well enough to work. Those songs exist in limbo, waiting to decide which direction will be most successful, but never making the choice. In the end, anything about “There Will Be Blood” that appeals to a listener will be tempered, and then drowned out by the other sounds that will be harder to swallow. It was said that you can't please all of the people all of the time; advice Dirge Within would have been wise to heed.