'Death Metal with training wheels' is the unfortunate impression that Dissection's rebirth EP 'Maha Kali' creates, replacing the previous 'Anti-Cosmic Metal of Death' tagline we were all so familiar with. Rather than the glorious reinstatement of one of black metal's most prodigal (i.e. imprisoned) sons, these two songs sound as if Jon had trouble trying to relearn all his old licks--shake off the cobwebs, as it were. The title track makes this abundantly clear with its awkwardly slow tempo and stagnancy (despite the female guest vocals), from its very first bars sounding like a half-speed warm-up exercise ripped off 'Storm of the Light's Bane's. But it is the subtle emptiness of the second track, Jon's 2005 version of 'Unhallowed', that is most telling.
Many have wondered what Jon was thinking when he wrote 2006's LP 'Reinkaos', and why he abandoned his lauded roots—this EP is the answer. Even when covering his own song, the legendary 'Unhallowed', something was missing. Whether prison had siphoned away his gall, whether it was age taking its toll, or even the hypothesized depression that drove him to suicide, Dissection of the new millennium is simply not Dissection of the last.
'Reinkaos' would take a new direction, gaining some strength for the change, and in its own become an above average semi-melodic Death Metal exercise, but on 'Maha Kali' that energy is absent. Jon was clearly spinning his wheels here, searching for inspiration, and not finding it.
After this regrettable misstep, the collective media shunned Dissection, were in large part predisposed against 'Reinkaos' even before it was ever heard, and harshly critical of it once it was officially released. Yet, had we been more patient, perhaps we would have recognized the changes Jon's prison sentence had wrought, and not been so quick to criticize his efforts and malign him. A positive fan response to 'Maha Kali' would likely not have prevented his suicide, but one cannot help but wonder just how much his decision was influenced by us all.
Empirically, 'Maha Kali' is now no better a musical release than it was before Jon's death. But its lyrics--macabre yet strangely tranquil and elegant--may be his most lasting legacy, as his personal, prescient epitaph.
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