Retro-Review: ‘Transcendence Into the Peripheral’ by diSEMBOWELMENT

Transcendence into the Peripheral by diSEMBOWELMENT is a strange album and kind of a challenge to review.

Seriously, what am I supposed to call their style? It’s not quite death metal. Not quite doom. Not quite grind. They’re closest to the funeral-doom of Skepticism, but that doesn’t feel quite right either. Instead, it sounds like this nebulous entity that exists outside of classification, waiting to reach its aural tentacles in and tingle the unexpecting listener’s spine.

disEMBOWELMENT’s sound is as interesting as the band itself.

Formed in 1989, the Australian band released one EP before Transcendence into the Peripheral in 1993. Shortly after the release of their first album, diSEMBOWELMENT broke up, never even playing live.

That’s the strangest part to me, managing to get a label to pay for and release your album without having to ever prove yourself live. I don’t understand it, but I guess the demos were just really good.

Anyway, despite that weird and short four-year existence, diSEMBOWELMENT are still talked about and for good reason: Transcendence into the Peripheral is an album that engraves itself on your psyche.

The lineup for Transcendence into the Peripheral is Renato Gallina on vocals and guitar, Jason Kells on guitar, Paul Mazziotta on drums and Matthew Skarajew on bass. Contributors include Tony Mazziotta playing double bass on “Cerulean Transience of All My Imagined Shores” and I’da doing the vocals on “Nightside of Eden.”

Without further ado, let’s talk about this album.

The album

Going into this, I’ll tell you most of these songs are long and slow. If you’ve heard Skepticism Lead and Aether, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Three out of seven songs are longer than 10 minutes, with two other songs between the 7 and 9:59 mark.

That means that if you’re going to listen to Transcendence into the Peripheral, you better make sure you have some time set aside. To appreciate it, you have to actually sit and listen.

If there were a soundtrack to a black and white movie about the last handful of people on earth, setting out on a journey across a dead continent in order to find a possible hope for survival, which may not exist, then this would be it. This album is chilling and digs into that little lonely part of you that hides in the back of your heart.

Much of the impact of diSEMBOWELMENT movement come from its use of melody. Scattered through the songs are these wonderful guitar parts that almost sound contradictory to the music. The music isn’t simple, but it’s not overwhelmingly complex either. It finds a pretty good balance between the two, which helps make the exceptional parts stick out even more.

Things kick off with the “Tree of Life and Death.” From the get go, you hear what sets diSEMBOWELMENT apart. That “what” is their overall sound, which has sort of a large, yet cold, sound to it. Even with it’s typical blast beat beginning, “Tree of Life and Death” has that sound, which is enhanced by a strange guitar melody which can be best described as “ethereal.”

Aside from the “Tree of Life and Death,” the most purely death metal moments are probably on “Excoriate,” the second-shortest song on the album. But even then, it’s death metal speed slows down to crushing doom speeds.

The most familiar sounding to me is “A Burial at Ornans.” I think this is because there’s a lot of use of tone and crushingly slow speed that you’d find on Cathedral’s first album, Forest of Equilibrium. But I don’t even think that album had anything this slow. This song builds to what’s one of the fastests moment on the album, before taking the boulder and carrying it again.

Speaking of forests, “The Spirits of the Tall Hills” shows diSEMBOWELMENT ability to somehow blend ambient music and death metal together. They do this with great effect and I’m not sure if anyone has been able to achieve this same, rather chilly, sound since. You hear this to equal effect on the slow-moving “Your Prophetic Throne of Ivory”  

The song that differs the most from the rest is “Nightside of Eden.” In “Nightside of Eden” Gallina and lets I’da take over. Instead of singing, she delivers spoken word over a guitar melody, free of drums and other instruments. This song works pretty well in the overall scope of the album, despite being utterly different from everything else.

Things close with Cerulean Transience of All My Imagined Shores.” Like the rest of the album, this is an epic, slow moving song. Gallina sounds exceptionally pained in this, kind of giving you that feeling that “this is the end.”  

The verdict

Transcendence into the Peripheral is one of the few albums that I’d call “truly unique.” There’s never been anything quite like it before or since and for that alone I recommend it.

I think that diSEMBOWELMENT sealed their cult status and legacy by disbanding shortly after this album. It pretty much guarantees that the band won’t do what many other bands have done and try to capture lightning in a bottle twice, winding up weakening their legacy by ripping themselves off with a cheap imitation.

So, find this album on Youtube, set aside around and hour and just listen … preferably in a dark room where you won’t have any distractions. No distractions because this is music you feel as much as hear.

 

 

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