“ Label: Hammerheart „
"Dahmer" is the 4th studio album by American death metal band, Macabre. It was released in 2000 on Decomposed Records and produced by Neil Kernon. The line-up for the album was Corporate Death (vocals/guitar), Nefarious (bass) and Dennis the Menace (drums).
The album was released 7 years after the band's 1993 "Sinister Slaughter" offering, which was the album that defined the band. "Dahmer" is a concept album about American serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer who was found guilty of murdering 15 men in 1992. The band is famed for writing songs about serial killer and mass murderers, and decided to do something different and focus on just one of those. During this review I am also going to give a brief history about each song and what it represented in the life of Dahmer. Some of it may be disturbing but please carry on reading. Is it any good? Let's find out!
We begin with "Dog Guts", a song which begins Dahmer's murderous career. At the age of around 10, young Jeffrey was playing around with dead animals, and had already killed a dog, nailed it to a tree, and cut its head off to put on a stake while playing with its intestines. The song is one that rotates on a Macabre live set and I love the intro to it which is dark and moody before picking up the pace with some fast riffs alongside Dennis the Menace's furious drumming. This is one of the most technical songs on the album and one I like a lot.
"Hitchhiker" carries on with the story of Jeffrey aged 18 in 1978 where he picked up Stephen Hicks, a young man out hiking who agreed to go to the house where Jeff lived with his father. After drinking a few, Hicks decided to leave and that's when Dahmer killed his first human as he picked up a dumbbell and smashed him in the back of the head with it because he didn't want him to go. It would be another 9 years before Dahmer would kill again. I like the sound of the guitars on this song which are a lot like early Anthrax and Corporate Death's growls compliment the track really well.
Just a year later is where "In the Army Now" is at and Dahmer has been forced to enlist by his father. He gained the rank of Private First Class but was discharged because of his heavy drinking in 1981. During his two years in Germany, there were five unsolved murders but they have never been accredited to Jeffrey. It's an up-beat song with a fun melody that you would have humming in your head after just one listen.
"Grandmother's House" sees Dahmer's move to West Allis, Wisconsin where he is sent to live with his grandmother in 1982 where he stayed for 6 years and killed 3 males during this time period, Steven Tuomi, aged 25, 14-year old James Toxador and Richard Guerrero, who was 25. The song is a pure rush that is a sped-up version of the 1844 Thanksgiving poem and song by Lydia Maria Child, "Over the River and Through the Wood". The lyrics, though serious in content, are actually rather funny and I think Corporate Death's solo is some of speed metal's finest.
The subject of our next song, "Blood Bank", comes about when Dahmer got a job at the Milwaukee Blood Plasma Center in 1983. He stole a vial of blood in one instance and drank it on the roof of the building but didn't like the taste. It's a song that reminds me of early 1980s thrash but with heavier notes, especially from the guitars. Although it sounds good, it's not one of my favourite songs on the album, but I can't put my finger on why.
"Exposure" firstly goes back a year to 1982 when Dahmer was arrested for disorderly conduct as he exposed himself in front of a crowd of people. Four years later, he was arrested again for lewd and lascivious behaviour, witnessed by two 12-year old boys. It's not a brilliant song, to be perfectly honest. The intro is a simple up and down the fret board with 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 chords, but what it lacks in guitars it absolutely makes up in drums. Dennis the Menace is ferocious on the quad bass pedals and I've always loved his sound.
"Ambassador Hotel" goes more into detail about Dahmer's second victim, Steven Toumi. He had picked him up at a gay bar and went to the hotel where they both got drunk. Upon waking, Dahmer realised Toumi was dead so he bought a suitcase and put his corpse in it. He then took it back to his grandmother's house where he had sex with it and then dismembered the remains, throwing them away. The song begins with a nice little solo riff that's stretched out to become the main riff. It has some of Corporate Death's trademark high-pitched vocals on it, as well as some well-timed growls.
"How 'Bout Some Coffee" tells the tale of how Dahmer drugged the coffee of one potential victim and when his grandmother saw what he was doing to the man in the basement, he dumped him out of his car onto someone's lawn. I like the hook at the end of the main riff on this track and the guitar playing is standard death metal throughout. What I like the most is the frantic and heavy bass riff that comes in the bridge. It's almost as if it's a bass solo but it isn't quite that.
"Bath House" is a song about how in 1987, Dahmer was kicked out of the Club Baths for allegedly drugging people in his private room. I think this is the least favourite of songs on the album for me. It sounds good music-wise, but there's not a lot of thought gone into the creativity process and it's too generic. There is some stellar drumming from Jazz trained Dennis the Menace, but that's about all it has.
"Jeffrey Dahmer and the Chocolate Factory" is a parody of a song from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", but instead of the Oompa Loompa's, it's Jeffrey Dahmer in the starring role. This is a song about when Jeffrey got a job at the Ambrosia Chocolate Company in 1985 and I love how the band have taken what could be perceived as a child's song and turned it into something monstrous. I especially like the chorus which goes:
"What would you bet Jeffrey guzzled down meat
Eating a bunch of the fellas he'd meet."
Even though it's only a minute in length, it's my favourite song on the album for sheer comedy value alone, and Macabre puts on a great show as the Oompa Loompa's.
"Apartment 213" is about the now infamous apartment that Dahmer moved into in May of 1990, and it is where he did the majority of his killing, dismemberment and cannibalism. Dahmer told neighbours his fridge was broken, but it was really the smell of his rotting victims. The song is a laid-back number that is heavy on the bass with the guitar and drums backing it up. I think Nefarious is a very competent bass player and it's nice to hear some songs, like this, which heavily feature his work. My favourite part of the song is the last 40 seconds or so which feature a really good guitar solo.
"Drill Bit Lobotomy" is a song about how Dahmer experimented with some of his victims in order to make them stay with him forever. This was unsuccessful, however, but some of the men lived for at least 48 hours after lobotomisation. He would pour Muriatic acid into their frontal lobes to see if they'd survive in a catatonic state. The song starts off with a frantic mini drum solo and the main part of the track has Dennis the Menace blast beating like his life depended on it. This is one of the heaviest songs on the album with some strong riffs that always make my ears smile.
"Jeffrey Dahmer Blues" is a song about how a victim of Dahmer would feel after being drugged and lobotomised by the serial killer. The lyrics talk about wanting to die instead of being a zombie in Jeffrey's bed, unable to do anything to protect himself. The song has Corporate Death singing in a blues style, as told by the victim. The vocals are distorted but I think that's to add effect to how you would feel if you'd been lobotomised by Dahmer. It's a surprisingly good song and one I'd like to hear live because of the solos that have been put in there.
"McDahmers" is a tongue-in-cheek look at the sort of food you would be served if you went to Jeff's apartment. It talks about the nuggets being testicles and the burgers are biceps and all sorts of other not-so-nice things. The song begins with some crazy drumming that brings in the bass guitar to jam along with it. The song reminds me of aggressive punk and that's always a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
"Into the Toilet With You" is a song about what Dahmer did to his victims after he'd finished with them. He bought a 57-gallon drum that he filled with hydrochloric acid and put the bodies in there to strip the flesh from the bones. He would leave them for two weeks and then pour the sludge down the toilet. I like the hook on the chorus of this song, but there's not much else I can say that I enjoy apart from the post-chorus riff which is bouncy. There is a pretty standard bridge with frantic drumming, but it's basically filler.
"Coming to Chicago" deals with Dahmer travelling to Chicago's gay bars to pick up men and take them back home where they would meet their demise. He would take them back to his apartment on the greyhound bus, and the song is done in the style of the traditional folk song, "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain". This is a funny song and although it's filler it's still one that would likely get the crowd going if played live. Unfortunately, I've never seen Macabre live as yet so I don't know if it is (or has been) part of their set list.
"Scrub a Dub Dub" is about Dahmer taking showers with his victims still in his bath. He was too tired to dismember them after working at the chocolate factory so he would leave them there in disinfectant because of the smell. This is very close to being my favourite song off the album because I love the way Macabre has changed the lyrics of a popular nursery rhyme:
"Scrub a dub dub three men in a tub
Jeffrey Dahmer took showers with dead men in his tub
He was too exhausted to cut them up
So he stored them in his bathtub"
People might see it as morbid but it works for Macabre and it works for me. I obviously don't condone the killings but I do see the funny side to lyrics that were written about them.
"Konerak" is all about a 14-year old boy, Konerak Sinthasomphone, that Dahmer had offered money to pose for pictures in his apartment. Once there he drugged the boy and went out to buy some beer. Konerak escaped and was found in the street by two women who called the police. Dahmer happened by and somehow convinced the two officers that Konerak was his 19-year old lover and they'd had an argument. The officers escorted them both back to Jeffrey's apartment, and, despite the smell of a rotting victim in the bedroom, failed to investigate and left the two alone where Konerak's fate was sealed. This is a song with plenty of death metal growls from Corporate Death and a simple, yet very effective, guitar riff which has some of speed metal's finest sounds. It's one of the better tracks of the album and that's down to the tightness of the band in playing. All three musicians are very talented and prove that death metal can be shouty but melodic at the same time.
"Media Circus" deals with the aftermath of when Dahmer's would-be next victim escaped and was found wandering the streets in handcuffs. The situation nearly became another Konerak but when police took Edwards back to Dahmer's apartment they spotted polaroids of dismembered victims and arrested him. It's a very quick 21 seconds long and has that classic circus big top theme with Corporate Death softly singing the lyrics.
"Temple of Bones" is all about the grand plan Dahmer had for a shrine to his victims. He wanted to have a grand table with six skulls on it which were flanked by two skeletons. In his own words, he had "saved something of their essence, that it wasn't a total waste in killing them. The skeletons I was going to use for a temple." I love the main riff of this track and the song is in the style of 70s hard rock but with a fierce metal twist. It's very much in the mould of doom metal, showing that Macabre is a band that likes to mix things up a bit.
"Trial" is about Macabre's singer/guitarist, Corporate Death, who witnessed some of Dahmer's trial in the courtroom. It mentions how he saw Dahmer drinking from a fountain and walking into the courtroom to take his place behind a bulletproof screen. Extreme death metal is the genre for this song and it has some wonderfully insane drumming from Dennis the Menace at the forefront, backed up by Corporate Death's growling vocal style and quite heavy guitar riffs. If you like your metal intensely heavy, this is the track for you.
"Do the Dahmer" is a song about how Jeffrey was the class clown in school who would do things as fake seizures for a laugh, but it is also documented that he was pretty much a loner and had very few friends during those years. It's a fun song that puts Dennis the Menace's drumming to the test with a range of playing. Unfortunately, that's all there is to the song. The lyrics are standard and it's likely just filler at 95 seconds long. I often wondered if the band should have merged this with the previous track, as the story which goes with the song only emerged during the trial.
"Baptized" comes after Dahmer had been sentenced, and he found himself born again. A preacher baptized him and in 1994 he was attacked while returning from the prison chapel when an inmate attempted to cut his throat with a makeshift razor blade. Corporate Death sounds a lot like Fear Factory's Burton C Bell on this song, singing clean vocals for the only time on the album. Unfortunately, the track is somewhat mismatched and confusing. There's some amazing drumming going on but the guitar work is all over the place. I think Corporate Death is trying too hard to make something but he doesn't realise that he's overdoing it.
On 28th November, 1994, Dahmer was attacked by Christopher Scarver who had removed a metal bar from exercise equipment in the prison gym. He suffered severe head trauma and died on the way to hospital. "Christopher Scarver" is a blues-infused song with death metal roots. It's one of the best songs on the record and the production of the song is of a higher quality than most - you can hear the drums almost as though you're there yourself. I like the solo near the end of the song which shows Corporate Death has more tricks up his sleeve than just singing and playing riffs.
"Dahmer's Dead" is a song based on the song which appeared in the 1939 film, "The Wizard of Oz". The song was called "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead" but Macabre's version has one verse of lyrics which is repeated three times:
"Ding dong Dahmer's dead
Massive injuries to his head
Ding dong Dahmer's dead
Smashed in his head"
It's a song that is 32 seconds long and has a bit of everything that is Macabre, ranging from heavy guitars to crushing drums to Corporate Death's high-pitched singing.
"The Brain" is about how there was a tug-of-war between Dahmer's parents to either use his brain for medical studies, which his mother wanted, or to destroy it like his father wished. Dahmer himself had requested that he was cremated upon his death, and the judge ruling the case decided to comply with his wishes. This song ends the album with some heavy metal licks that work in the style of the song but others don't work in the bridge especially. It's another track which is important to the concept but it doesn't sound too good, to be honest.
In summary, what we have here is a good concept album done with some brilliant lyrics. Yes, it's morbid to write about a serial killer but Macabre's style of 'Murder Metal' as they call it can only be described as unique. This isn't a brilliant album by any means but it's certainly not a bad one either with some great playing from Corporate Death, Nefarious and Dennis the Menace. I enjoyed it and I hope you will too. If you dare to venture into Murder Metal.
1. Dog Guts
3. In the Army Now
4. Grandmother's House
5. Blood Bank
7. Ambassador Hotel
8. How 'Bout Some Coffee
9. Bath House
10. Jeffrey Dahmer and the Chocolate Factory
11. Apartment 213
12. Drill Bit Lobotomy
13. Jeffrey Dahmer Blues
15. Into the Toilet with You
16. Coming to Chicago
17. Scrub a Dub Dub
19. Media Circus
20. Temple of Bones
22. Do the Dahmer
24. Christopher Scarver
25. Dahmer's Dead
26. The Brain
My rating: 7/10