The Metal Examiner: Miasmal’s Miasmal

Every Friday, The Metal Examiner delves metal’s endless depths to present the genre’s most important and exciting albums.

Miasmal - MiasmalMiasmal: Miasmal (Dark Descent, 4/15/2011)

Miasmal: “Toxic Breed”

[audio:|titles=Miasmal – Toxic Breed]

Based in the metal-rich city of Gothenburg, Miasmal offers a punk-ish perspective on the classic Swedish death-metal sound. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Swedish bands like Dismember, Unleashed, and Entombed borrowed heavily from Scandinavian hardcore bands such as Anti-Cimex and Bastards, as well as mainland European thrash bands like Sodom and Celtic Frost. As such, the distinctions between metal and punk in Scandinavia are blurrier than they are in some other regions. Miasmal’s music falls on the hardcore-ish end of the death-metal spectrum, which comes as no surprise given that guitarist and vocalist Pontus also plays in Martyrdöd, a crusty hardcore band.

Many early death-metal bands composed songs as melody-oriented clusters of riffs. However, while American bands in New York and Florida were often playing nearly chromatically, bands in Sweden often employed the Phrygian and harmonic minor modes, giving their music a much more obviously melodic sound. Miasmal continues in this tradition of riff composition, with much of its technique seemingly descended from Dismember’s debut album Like an Ever-Flowing Stream.

Though the Swedish death-metal sound is probably the most bastardized sound in extreme metal thanks to the metalcore explosion in the early 2000s, contemporary bands like Miasmal and Krypts effectively use the idiom to its fullest. Miasmal debuted with a demo in 2008 that made waves after being featured on Darkthrone drummer Fenriz’s Band of the Week music blog. A self-titled, two-song 7” followed in 2010. This 2011 release is the band’s debut full-length album, and it moves even further in the direction of classic Scandinavian hardcore than the band’s previous releases.

Melodic riffs with clever hammer-ons and pull-offs still decorate songs, but most of this album is played on a driving D-beat with syncopated strumming. Melodies are created through rapidly shifting power chords and the odd tremolo-picked riff. Classic hardcore song construction is used, but epic passages break up the fast parts as octave leads play over slower back beats. Stomping, down-picked breakdowns also recall Unleashed’s sense of mid-paced groove.

Miasmal’s sense of melody and intuition about when to drop into a hard-hitting rhythmic part is what separates it from other bands aping the greats of Swedish death metal. Though the language of these riffs has been around for more than two decades, Miasmal creates new works using the best ideas of those that came before.

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