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Dictator : Dysangelist (Remaster)

Cypriot solo project Dictator gets an utterly perfect vinyl re-release, ten years on from the original CD. Put simply, essential listening.

I'll keep this relatively brief, given that we already have a solid analytical review of the music, in the shape of this review of the original CD release by Bertrand. And since I happen to agree pretty much entirely with his opinion on the quality, depth and talent that went into making 'Dysangelist', I'm not going to rewrite all of that in slightly different words. I'll simply confirm that it's a huge album, in every sense of the word: a massive, sprawling expanse of funereal blackness, each fifteen to twenty minute track part of an obscure journey through the mysteries of faith, their weighty creativity excellent in isolation, and an absolute tour de force when taken as a whole.

I never imagined, back in the day - well, perhaps not even so far back: let's say around the turn of the millennium - that vinyl would claw its way out of the commercial grave in which the push to embrace digital formats had buried it. Nor that the obscurities of the Metal underground - the tapes, the CDrs, the demos, the lost back catalogues comprising runs of a couple of hundred home-produced albums that, if they were lucky, could aspire to a serial number of something like ASSFUK01 - would be unearthed and given proper homes, by labels following the 'indie' model which drove the Post-Punk/New Wave/Goth of the '80s. But that does appear to be the very welcome case, with a broad range of labels - including the likes of GS Productions, Endless Desperation, At War With False Noise and Aesthetic Death - at least occasionally - and, of late, increasingly - re-releasing lost gems from the '90s and the '00s.

Well, full respect to Aesthetic Death, in this instance, for combining both resurrections at once. Though this particular Dictator debut full-length had a (still available at reasonable price) slipcased CD release in 2008 on Cypriot label Sérpéné Héli Music, and a (now completely unreasonably priced) wooden-boxed tape option through Pale Horse Recordings in 2009, visually, neither precisely did it the justice of this rather beautiful full-size double-album: the heavy 180g vinyl sitting in a single-sleeve package, alongside a very cool heavy-card A4 booklet that captures all of the album's history and lyrics. Here you get one track per side, each of them remixed by Dictator on a timescale leading up to 2015, with mastering - almost inevitably - breathed on by Esoteric's Greg Chandler. I hesitate to make any judgements about the band's original intentions...but, if I was to guess about those, I'd say this must surely be the dream presentation for the whole concept.

Never having heard the original, I can't vouch for how much of a difference the remixing/remastering might have made, and how much was simply tweaking to suit an analogue format. I can say, though, that it sounds bloody lovely, the layers of deep underground atmospheres ebbing and flowing to perfection, compelling and fully absorbing from start to finish. Ironically, this first saw release in the same year as the mighty Nachtmystium launched part 1 of their 'Black Meddle' concept - well, this lush and textural solo work from Cyprus could perhaps lay at least as much of a claim to having channelled a postmortem and ghastly spirit of Pink Floyd into the heart of darkness. It just so happens that it's one which owes more to the likes of Nortt and Mistress Of The Dead than the more obvious Emperor et al of Nachtmystium.

The concept itself, essentially presented as the journey from life in the service of God to the emptiness and deceit of an afterlife in endless outer darks, remains stubbornly opaque, even with the booklet to hand. The lyrics are brief, bitter vignettes - possibly allegorical, possibly meant to be taken literally - shot through with biblical quotes and references. And that, in some respects, simply enhances the appeal: the terseness and ambiguity of the texts allow for interpretation, whilst the forceful and captivating presence of the music encourages exploration of their mysteries and meanings. A word of warning, though - this edition is limited to 250 copies. Essential as it is, you need to be thinking about grabbing one of those as soon as possible.

Author's note: Having now acquired one of the original CDs for comparison, I will say that Sérpéné Héli did make a decent fist of including more or less all of the same packaging, albeit obviously in much smaller format (and, on that subject, I will also point out that the handmade, quite lavishly decorated wooden box of the Pale Horse tape looks to be a desirable collectible in its own right). Principally, though it was to check out the difference in overall sound - which I will say is subtle but noticeable. Though the soundstage retains a somewhat blurred and hazy background, it sounds as though there's more clarity and separation between the various instruments, as well as a deeper, richer bassiness to it all. While the CD can sound almost strident in places, there's more of a thunderously rumbling majesty to the vinyl remaster. Some of that, I suspect, is simply down to the source medium (even though both turntable and CD player are running through the same amp and speakers, they inevitably play back with different characteristics and volume), but it does sound to me as though the production rework has yielded some dividends.

NB: The title track has been trimmed down by about a minute, mostly by losing the introductory ambience. All others appear unchanged in substance.

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
1. Dysangelist
2. Sanctum
3. Monolithos
4. Phantom Cenotaphium

Duration : Approx. 74 minutes

Visit the Dictator bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-04-22 by Mike Liassides
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