Groundbreakers: Molested – Blod-Draum
History is not always most kind to the best among us. Quality is not what determines popularity, though of course it’s often (not always) a factor; being there first, being there when the style of music you play is popular, being from a country that has a supportive scene, being on the right label, touring, having good distribution, and any number of other factors are what really decide who makes it. The band that this review concerns is, to me, among the highest levels of proof of this.
Molested were a relatively short-lived group from Bergen, Norway, which has never been a country known for its death metal, and they came just a little too late to even hope to catch onto the fans who might have most appreciated them. Their singular album and the topic we’re here to discuss, Blod-Draum, was released on a friend’s label who did not have the time, money, or connections to properly handle the album. A couple of years later, the band released a final EP and broke up. The album did not do well, and remained largely unknown until the internet revived it somewhat, but even in spite of that, Blod-Draum is just not a popular album.
In spite of all of these issues, to a certain crowd, Molested are one of the greats. I am included in this group. Blod-Draum, for all the production quirks given to it by the circumstances of its birth, is an absolute behemoth of death and annihilation. It sings of despair and wrath, the forces of darkness, and, surprisingly for the genre, even sometimes provides a hymn to the cold beauty of nature.
The core sound of the album is a bit difficult to describe, as there are no direct comparisons or peers that can be used to draw similarities to. There exists some of the suffocating murk of Incantation, the deep bellowed growls that could be compared to Finnish or even Greek vocalists, and a heavy tinge of Norwegian folk melody that complements the strong melodic approach of the entire album. The core of the album are heavy tremolo riffs that spiral through complex song structures tending more towards the frenetic than towards the more atmospheric, repetition-heavy approach that so many black metal bands in the country were taking at the time, and the guitars are backed by loud bass and extraordinarily fast drumming that drives along the music.
There aren’t really “brutal” or heavy death metal riffs on here, which is another degree of separation from the average death metal album; the riffs are by and large arpeggiated tremolo lines and thick chords following relatively short but quick phrases, and riff changes are nearly as rapidfire as the drums. Sometimes these rhythms are replaced by longer haunting melodies, but even the rhythms tend to follow fairly melodic progressions; if not for the aggression of the drums, the general suffocating atmosphere of the songs, and the insanity of the quick tempo changes one could even suggest that this would appeal to melodic death metal fans.
An absolutely bewildering amount is going on in each song, requiring quite a few relistens to really absorb the material, but the result is entirely worth it, as the songwriting quality is miles ahead of anything most death metal bands even thought of attempting. Between and sometimes during songs are instrumental sections of folk instruments, and these serve to both break up the insanity a bit and to transition between certain songs; though the efficacy of these folk bits is largely up to the ears of the beholder, I really like them, and think they add to the charm of the album. None of this is to suggest that it’s impossible on first listen to latch onto the album, as each song possesses incredibly memorable hooks that will immediately catch those inclined towards the more bizarre and melodic side of death metal.
Flaws that I can find with Blod-Draum outside of the band’s stupid name are entirely limited to the production, which on the original mix of the album conceals some of the music. I would highly suggest tracking down the 2017 remix of it in addition to the original mix, not because the original mix isn’t worth owning (I listen to it as much or more as the remix), but because it’s worth hearing both so that you can listen to the album the way the band intended it when it was first recorded twenty five years ago.
Some will say that nothing in life can be said to be truly perfect; however, within the realm of death metal, this album is for me about as close as it gets. Blod-Draum stands together proudly in my favorites with Slumber of Sullen Eyes, Altars of Madness, Diabolical Conquest, and Mental Funeral, and hopefully, if you give it a shot, it can be so esteemed for you, too.