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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

The Berzerker

Dissimulate

Review by Mike Korn

Somebody is always trying to push the boundaries of extremity in heavy metal and the Berzerker have succeeded in pushing them right to the brink of the abyss. An enigmatic band of monster-masked mutants from Australia, these weirdos have no individual names: they are ALL known as The Berzerker. The concept seems definitely derivative of Slipknot at first, but unlike the Iowans, the Berzerker retain complete anonymity. Not only that, but their "music" ventures into places that even Slipknot would not dare to go.

"Dissimulate" is a chaotic cacophony of riotous brutality, an electronically augmented buzzsaw that pierces your skull and grinds into the throbbing brain beneath. Death metal and grindcore are the foundation of the assault but the Berzerker layer on top of that a sprinkling of samples and pulsating techno beats and an incredibly annoying drum sound that will often make you clutch your ears in disbelief. The band's literature swears up and down that the drumming is authentically human, but I have a hard time believing that. That machine-gun burping is part and parcel of the band's terror tactics but few are the humans who can withstand its barrage. To describe the underlying sound, I'd say the band has healthy influences from early era Carcass (they cover their classic "Corporeal Jigsore Quandary" here), Terrorizer, Bolt Thrower and even some black metal. They whip it all together with very clinical, cybernetic electronics and then top it off with alternating roaring/rasping vocals. There are some excellent and unique samples between some of the tracks that really add to the total package.

The band is rather boring in their total blast beat moments, but when that is alternated with more brutal riffage and atmospheric parts, the result is quite unnerving. Gimmicky they may be, but I still think the Berzerker would run Slipknot off in a fair fight.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disregard
A reasonable sounding narrator invites us to take a trip to strange lands. Then all hell breaks loose with a lethal blast of 1000 mph grind with ravaging vocals on the top. That goofy Berzerker drum sound scorches your skull right away. It's almost too fast for human comprehension.
Failure
After some more creepy narration, this oozes out of the speaker with slower, bone-crushing power and growling death vocals. Then it speeds up into another slaughtering grindcore attack. The alternation of slow and fast parts make this one of the more effective songs on the disc.
The Principles and Practice of Embalming
The ghosts of Carcass and Bolt Thrower hover over this brooding monstrosity, which sports some strangely melodic riffs amidst the total speed blast. Boy, that drum sound annoys me! The duo vocals are really well done, though.
No One Wins
Noisy and filthy, it's hard to imagine anyone human played on this. It's pure grindcore and rather boring because of it. "No one ever wins, no one really loses...except the dead. Together under the sun, they rot with absolute biological equality."
Death Reveals
Still faster than hell, this is a bit more coherent than the previous track and reminds me a bit of some of Morbid Angel's speedier moments. By now, the constant electronic clacking of the drums is really starting to exhaust the listener.
Compromise
Yet more hyper-grind, but this is differentiated by an arpeggiated guitar riff on the verses and a cool chunky slower riff on the chorus. Berzerker is so much better when they mix up their attack instead of keeping to one tempo.
Betrayal
The narration reveals a story of military atrocity, and it leads into this crunching bruiser. If you take away the insanely fast drumming, this cut is actually only moderately fast. It sports some of the most effective riffing and growling vocals of the album.
Last Mistake
I like the slow and deadly way this one starts before hitting the gas. The vocalist (I'd call him Berzerker but they're ALL called that) pukes out his growls with admirable gutteralness over the layered ultra-fast blasting. The chorus is surprisingly catchy and almost punky.
Painless
This sounds like 500 pounds of steel plating going through a wood chipper. The electronic beats become more emphasized here. I like the oozing feel in the middle with the narration over it, but overall the track doesn't stand out that much amongst the rest of the shrapnel.
Pure Hatred
Why doesn't the band get rid of the drummer altogether and just fire off AK-47's for percussion? That's the impression I got from listening to this. Insane speed-based grindcore with more BPM than the fastest techno track you've ever heard. Too bad you can't make out much else but beats and noise here.
Paradox
This is a little bit catchier and again tosses some mid-paced hooks amidst the blast beats.
Abandonment
The opening to this is so much like "Paradox" that I thought it was a reprise of the previous track! Careful listening will reveal differences, but by this point you are so battered that you are just flowing with the mayhem. The sick raspier vocals come a bit more to the fore here, and there's some cool choppy riffing in the middle.
Corporeal Jigsore Quandary
After a few minutes of blessed silence, Berzerker finish up with this cover of the Carcass classic. They are remarkably faithful to it, including the same opening narration that the original track had, but they put their own cybergrind stamp on the cut. A good cover, but nothing will replace the superb original...or Carcass itself!
 
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