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Dimension Zero 

This Is Hell (Century Media)

Heavy metal's historical moment continues to expand, generating increasing fun in the process. Take Dimension Zero, a band from Sweden with a heavy pedigree (In Flames, Marduk) and a John Wayne-like commitment to holding down the fort. Neither wildly excessive nor ready for radio, This Is Hell flails merrily through its 10 thrashing numbers like the guy at the party who's not afraid to start breaking stuff when the moment feels right.

Dimension Zero's roots are in the sort of heavy metal that Congress used to hold hearings about. They've got the speed of early Slayer, the guitar heroics of Mercyful Fate, and plenty of lyrics about impending violent death. But while such stuff had -- perhaps out of necessity -- a bone-chilling gravity when it was new, This Is Hell is almost festive in its celebration of blood, guts, and damnation. Twin-guitar leads yowl with the adolescent thrill of having discovered the minor third, and signs are abundant that there's an inner good-time Hessian beneath the growling death-metal shell.

That sort of juxtaposition is what makes This Is Hell such a replayable, enjoyable ride. Death metal's predictable "extreme" tropes are all evident, but as decoration, not the whole point. For extreme-metal purists, of course, it's a disaster; can mainstream acceptance and subsequent genre death be far behind? Maybe, maybe not. For everybody else, though, it's party time.

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