When I was searching for something to review this week, I was really excited to run across a name I instantly recognized. Dismalimerence are local to me, and I saw them open for Wayfaerer and the almighty Saor the last time they came to Chicago. In spite of the fact that they were on a bill with two absolute powerhouses, they put on a very memorable performance and when I saw Tome: 1 on our list, I knew I had to snag it. I definitely was not let down. This is an album that is unabashedly My Brand™.
Dismalimerence play a style of highly emotive black metal reminiscent of Australia’s Woods of Desolation (especially Torn Beyond Reason era), Vukari, Afsky, Panopticon, and other such purveyors of whipping drums and buzzsaw guitars. It’s not quite what I would call “atmospheric,” or “post-,” nor is it quite DSBM, but it is mournful, extremely melodic, full of raw emotion and replete with lush textures. It’s an album that sounds sleek and modern, but the writing process for the album began almost ten years ago, in 2011, when frontman Elijah Cirricione first started the project as a creative outlet during a dark period in his life. It took until 2014 for the writing to be completed, and by then Cirricione had put Dismalimerence on the back burners. Tome: 1 sat for four more years until 2018, when a solid lineup was finally secured and the band sat down to record slowly over a year and a half, taking breaks to build up a sizeable cult following in and around the Chicago music scene. Almost a decade later and with a solid footing under them, they finally have a debut full-length to show the world. To say that it’s been a long time coming for Tome: 1 is an understatement, but it has definitely been worth the wait.
As opposed to death metal, I love my black metal with a lot more subtlety, a lot more depth and layers to it (I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me say this by now…). Tome: 1 is chock full of nuances and facets to explore. It begs repeated listens, for this reason and for the reason that it’s really goddamn good. “Sequestered Hearts” was released as a single at the beginning of the recording sessions in 2018, and it gets an updated sound on this release. Opening with a bang, the whirring guitars, wild drums and tortured vocals quickly give way to an extended acoustic passage before exploding back with dense strummed chords and more soul-stirring melody. Album opener “Crimson Glow” is an eleven-plus minute journey through a range of emotions, with melancholic ringing arpeggios and a bittersweet melody leading giving pause for somber pianos and string synths before building all the way back up into a furious, almost melodeath-like rage. There’s a lot of emotion in these songs, and they’re highly melodic, but proper kudos to Cirricione for not falling into the trap of making them too saccharine. Every shade is in the proper proportion, and it’s a deeply emotional record without sounding forced or insincere. Tracks like “My Only Love” and “Negligence of the Forgotten” hit with a raw anger, tempering the more sorrowful mood on most of the other tracks, providing some needed variety and reminding the listener that Tome: 1 is more than just a one-note album. It’s a composite of all the places and headspaces Cirricione has been in from the time he was in high school until now, as well as a path for the future of the band.
Besides Saor and Wayfaerer, Dismalimerence have also opened for Septicflesh and Ensiferum, as well as extensively played around Chicago. It’s truly a testament to their work ethic that they can get on a bill with such household names and only just be releasing their debut album this week, but that’s always been the story of Dismalimerence. It’s not a short one, but it’s only beginning. This is an album that should absolutely cement them as part of the next wave of great American black metal. If I wasn’t already a fan, this album would have converted me within the first 90 seconds of the opening track. It’s that good.