Heavy metal's historical moment continues to stretch itself magnificently, having increasingly more fun in the process. Take Dimension Zero, a band from Sweden with credential-heavy pedigree (In Flames, Marduk) and a John Wayne-like commitment to holding down the fort. Neither wildly excessive nor ready for radio, This Is Hell flails merrily through its 10 thrashing numbers like the guy at the party who's not afraid to start breaking stuff when the moment feels right.
Dimension Zero's roots are in the sort of heavy metal that Congress used to hold hearings about. They've got the speed of early Slayer, the guitar heroics of Mercyful Fate, and plenty of lyrics about impending and violent death. But while such stuff when it was new had, perhaps out of necessity, a bone-chilling gravity to it, This Is Hell is almost festive in its celebration of blood, guts and damnation. Twin-guitar leads yowl with the adolescent thrill of having discovered the minor third, and signs that there's an inner good-time Hessian beneath the growling death-metal shell are abundant: Track five, "Into and Out of Subsistence," has an eight-bar section that sounds lifted from an old Kansas album. Just after that bit, though, the singer shrieks again about how something's been "nailed to [his] spine."
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That sort of juxtaposition is what makes This Is Hell such a replayable, enjoyable ride. Death metal's predictable "extreme" tropes are all evident, but as decoration instead of as the whole point; the difference is a wonderful thing. For extreme-metal purists, of course, it's a disaster; can mainstream acceptance and subsequent genre death be far behind? Perhaps, or perhaps not. For everybody else, though, it's party time.