[DEATH METAL] Is it possible to record an understated death-metal album? I certainly didn't think so, but Dusks Embrace has proven me wrong.

Certainly, the second full-length by this Salem quartet does have the bombastic drumming and lava-gargling vocals you would associate with death metal's dark, aggressive sound. It's surprising, though, just how even-keeled The Twilight Enigma is. The longest song on the album squeaks past the five-minute mark. And the guitar solos are impressively restrained: a few quick runs on the fretboard here, a wah-wah pedal interlude there and then back to whiplash-inducing rhythm lines.

Like most successful death-metal discs, it's the little touches that separate Twilight from the rest of the snarling, bloodthirsty pack. Moments like Carisse Brewer's sirenlike vocals and haunting synth lines appearing amid the clamor of "Desecrated Labyrinth." Or a Dark Shadows soundtrack piano line that opens up the album's brooding title track. Sometimes those lighter touches don't work as when Josh Brewer's clean male vocal takes a melody line on the otherwise sturdy "Oblivion at Hand." These are unnecessary embellishments but do help to magnify the other great stuff packed between extra sonic touches. And even without those additions, you'd be left with a lean, hungry full-length worthy of inclusion among the best local metal releases of the year.

SEE IT: Dusks Embrace plays Branx on Thursday, July 21, with Von Doom, Way of the Yeti and Southgate. 7 pm. $7 advance, $10 day of show. All ages.