Melodic death metal is such a difficult genre for me. On paper, it sounds like a great combination. A little bit of Iron Maiden-style leads with some hard hitting death metal? Wow, sign me up! The problem, however, is that the combination of melody and death metal is very hard to do nowadays without sounding stale. Of course, every older genre has this problem to some extent, but I think it's fair to say that melodeath is more guilty of "sameness" and "generic ripoffs" than most styles. Thankfully, Regnum Caelorum Et Gehenna is totally different.
Regnum Caelorum Et Gehenna (must be a TYPE-MOON fan) is one of those doujin bands. I still find it perplexing how those M3 events can have kawaii electronic stuff as well as some of the most unique melodeath I've ever heard, but it's just one of those Japanese things. The band has been around since 2012, and Dimersity 03 : Verum cur non Audimus is their third offering to the doujin world. Mr. Sweden is the songwriter as well as main guitarist, and the other guys in the band also have silly pseudonyms (e.g. the vocalist is named "Albert of Joy Toy"). Dimersity 03 was my introduction to their work, and I can pretty confidently say it's my favorite Regnum album. Now to be fair, I don't actually own Dimersity 02 (yet), but judging from some samples as well as the descriptions from other people who have listened to it, Dimersity 03 is just on another level.
I have, thus far, described Regnum Caleorum Et Gehenna as a melodic death metal band, but that isn't actually wholly accurate. They are very progressive as well and have been so since the beginning. Dimersity 01 is essentially a progressive melodeath/metalcore album, but Dimersity 03 drops all of the core stuff and significantly ups the progressive/technical factor to become a progressive melodic death metal album. It's not just your run-of-the-mill prog though. Dimersity 03 is a dizzyingly complex affair that I still haven't really fully comprehended. As a disclaimer, the drums are actually programmed (it's just the fate of being a fairly unknown band in an obscure niche), so it's not fair to award points based on the drum performance. On the plus side, they sound like real drums anyway, and you wouldn't guess they were programmed from just a blind listen. Regardless, everything about the music is absolutely ace.
So let me just be blunt, I think Dimersity 03 is nothing short of stunningly amazing. This is easily the most technical and complex melodic death metal album I own. Even some other bands whom I think are very skilled (such as the two Mysterious Priestess albums) do not come close to this. Now of course, I realize that being extremely complex and technical doesn't automatically make something good. However, this particular Regnum Caelorum Et Gehenna album is an absolute blast to listen to and is highly addicting.
In a nutshell, the reason why I love this album so much is the 3 pronged assault of highly technical instrument performances (especially the guitars), extremely dense, intricate songwriting, and the abundance of weird, experimental ideas. Any band that pulls off those three things is almost always guaranteed to be loved by me, and Regnum certainly nails them all on this album. The total runtime clocks in at about 1 hour and 8 minutes, but it's never a chore to listen to. I would say there is a very, very slight dip in quality in the middle (tracks 5-8), but other than that this album is essentially flawless to me and is everything I could ask for from a melodeath act.
One thing about Dimersity 03 that took some time for me to realize is that it's actually a pretty weird album. It's not weird in the obvious sense of bizarre vocals or pseudo-random songwriting. No, it's more subtle than that. I would say there's essentially two main factors that contribute to the weirdness: the complex songwriting and the use of keyboards. Of course as I've said before, this album is very technical so right off the bat you end up with something a little unusual. However, the most singular cause of the weirdness to me is the use of keyboards.
A lot of Japanese melodeath bands use keyboards, but they generally use it to add some slight electronic flavor or core-esque elements. And believe me, I generally don't like that approach very much. However, Regnum is completely different. Mr. Sweden uses the keyboards in a very unique, prog-like way. I honestly didn't realize this on my first few months of listening to the album, but later it occurred to me that the keyboards are completely integral to every composition. In a way it is subtle since you can easily get lost in the guitar work or the drumming, but after enough time you'll start to notice how the keyboards often work with and accentuate some guitar leads. You'll also begin to realize that they actually often atmospheric.
This is a huge reason why this album is so incredibly unique. It's not only compositionally dense and technically proficient. It's also very atmospheric thanks to the keyboards. Despite being a melodic death metal album, you will find the utilization of many minor key and other melancholic chords. This sort of sombre mood is conveyed in multiple songs throughout the album. This serves as an interesting contrast to the vocals/grunts which are generally very vicious and violent. Additionally, the keyboards also often have a more traditional "prog-like" timbre and actively play large roles in time signature changes and the more progressive moments of the album.
Dimersity 03 kicks off in an incredibly ballsy way with a 16-minute progressive melodeath epic. It's an odd choice to place your big epic right at the beginning, but it works here. Verum cur non Audimus has some awkward spoken word Engrish intro for about a couple of minutes at the beginning (with some very cool backing guitar/keyboards). After that, the song is an absolute masterpiece. There are all kinds of unpredictable twists and turns in this song. The rhythm constantly shifts all over the place. There's plenty of time signature changes to be found here. There are even some more laid-back/calmer moments sprinkled in the 16-minute behemoth. Verum cur non Audimus essentially has a structure of a normal, verse-chorus song, but with a ludicrously long bridge (~8 minutes or so) and it's amazing. What a great way to open your album.
Thankfully, the opener isn't just a fluke. While I would certainly say that the opening song is one of the best ones on the album, everything else is nearly as good. The next track, Sign in the Days, comes out with a relentless, highly-technical assault from the guitars. And that assault from the guitars continues for the entire album. Every individual element is executed well (in particular, the drum parts are extremely well written despite being programmed), but the real shinning star is definitely the guitar work. The guitar work is ludicrously complex and nothing short of incredible. The leads just never seem to end. The riffs are aggressive and highly varied. And the solos are brilliant and show absolute technical mastery. There's really never a dull moment.
One song, in particular, that I think is worth going into detail about would be the third track, Awakening from the Abyss. In 4 minutes and 32 seconds, this genius track demonstrates everything I love about the album. Right when the song begins, you're greeted with a moody, minor key keyboard motif. The backing riffs and drums shift rhythms multiple times during this brief intro period as an ingenious way of building tension just before the verse. As soon as the verse takes off, some guitars ramp it up to full gear and execute an excellent, extended guitar lead with a million different notes. While the verse chugs along, the keyboards subtly continue some chord progressions in the background while the drumming keeps shifting rhythms and even performs a polyrhythm at one point. And of course, there is a brief transitional section to the chorus that involves a couple of more time signature changes to further complicate things. All of this ordered, technical chaos has the effect of building tons and tons of tension right before the chorus hits.
In general, melodeath bands tend towards more triumphant and uplifting choruses, but Mr. Sweden does something completely different here. He recalls those downcast, melancholic chords and suddenly makes that the centerpiece of the chorus. All of that technical chaos and insanity disappears in a flash and the chorus is actually rather laid-back and calming. Of course, Albert is still screaming his head off and there's still those double bass kicks. But oddly enough, I find the chorus section to be soothing and even pleasant. The way it contrasts with the spastic verse and the way the keyboards are used as foreshadowing is honestly genius. You're not going to find many songwriters that can pull off something as technically intricate and emotionally resonating as this and certainly not in melodeath of all things.
You can quite easily do similar breakdowns for the other songs on the album. The entire album (although the opening track is a little different) is basically verse-chorus, but the way it is crafted is excellent. The above analysis of Awakening from the Abyss is a specific example of unique songwriting choices, and you can find many, many more of them on the rest of the album. As a whole, the album is especially dynamic. There's no shortage of twists and turns. Often you run into a strange chord, bizarre melodies and unpredictable rhythms. Despite being a melodic death metal album, the band isn't afraid of dissonance and often employs them during the duration of the album.
All in all, it's a unique, complicated beast. The music itself is certainly within the melodeath category. There's plenty of violence and aggression to go around. But at the same time, it's so dense and technical. I constantly find myself going back to this album time and time again. That can only be a good thing. Dimersity 03's one hour and 8 minute duration features some of the most original progressive melodic death metal that I have ever heard. This is one of those albums that's just so different and is guaranteed to constantly be in my listening rotation for many, many years to come.Rating: 98/100