October Roundup: Morbific, Thulcandra, Memoriam, Evil Might & Blood Red Throne
A lot of death metal for yous this time.
Morbific – Ominous Seep of Putridity
Headsplit Records / War Anthem – May 16th / October 15th
Everybody needs some caveman death metal in their life now and then. Though I must admit I crave it less and less, and when I want the braindead mush to beat myself with, I tend to choose harder drugs these days. Goregrind, coke, noise/PExxx and dark ambient for example, have lately been taking over a lot of my playlists and shelf space. Not exactly the same thing as to crave overtly simplistic death metal, but I find they take the craving away better.
But sometimes absolutely nothing else will do, and those times I am exceptionally glad to have Morbific‘s Ominous Seep of Putridity. I don’t know how strictly the term caveman death would apply to Morbific, since despite its simplicity so much of the record feels smart. A kind of Anti-Replicant if you will. Mostly mid-paced, but almost constantly imbued with a looming presence of doom to really bring home the Ominous part of the title. Sometimes punky and always chunky, slathered in groovy filth, switching up one headbanging riff to another and carrying that Finndeath sense of melodic phrasing in its riffs, Ominous Seep of Putridity is absolutely monstrous.
Between the punky beats, finndeath and scant blasting passages on “Cadaveric Maggot Farm” and “Deformed in Phantasmal Fog”, the Autopsyan, rotting groove adjusted to Coffins-esque weight and riffing, there’s also plenty of variations and dynamics for a 33-minute album. A favourite of its ilk for me.
Evil Might – Demo II
Independent – October 1st
As the end of Rienaus drew near, its mastermind focused on his newfound tenure as Azazel‘s chief songwriter and its remaining members founded Evil Might with former Arthemesia vocalist Alpha Valtias Mustatuuli. Even though Rienaus is apparently not ending after all, Evil Might won’t let themselves be stopped and have inflated their line-up with a new bassist, as the previous one turned into a second guitarist.
But going on does not equal going strong, and what began as an unremarkable journey continues as an immaterial trek. As straightforward and uneventful as second wave black metal has ever been, as devoid of passion, vision or interest as art has ever reached, Demo II is nothing but blocky riffs played with stiff fingers and wooden hands, lacking in any primal rage, hatred or power that might make them work.
“The Crown of Entropy” makes slightly more effort with its riffing, but ultimately it’s no better than the other two songs, not to mention pretty much the only riff the song has going on. Evil Might suffers from both lackluster ideas and lack of ideas making Demo II some of the safest and most boring black metal I’ve heard in ages. It’s like having your food chewed ready for you. [As a bird, I take umbrage with this comment >:( ~Roldy]
Thulcandra – A Dying Wish
Napalm Records – October 29th
Originally founded in 2003 by the Obscura guitarists Jügen Zintz and Stefan Kummerer, Thulcandra quickly went on hold following the recording of their demo Perishness Around Us which was never released due to Zintz’s suicide. A few years later, Kummerer found the demo lying around and decided to start the band back up again. Aided by the Ludwig brothers and Seraph, who, in true Kummerer fashion, played in the band for 6 years and all albums (but was only officially credited as a member on one of them) and released three full-lengths of Dissection-worshipping meloblack/death between 2010-2015, the last of which found a slightly more original approach in its more thrash-oriented riffing.
In another move worthy of the name Kummerer, the entire line-up of Thulcandra has exodused the fuck outta his presence and A Dying Wish features an all-new and unique lineup, as bassist Christian Kratzer tragically passed away after recording his lines. Musically it represents a step back from Ascension Lost‘s thrash-orientation, which is a welcome move as it may have presented a slightly more unique band, the past 6 years have been less kind to it than its predecessors.
While I can’t recall many altogether new bands in this style popping up, the last few years have seen a number of older bands reactivate: Unanimated, Sarcasm, Sacramentum et al. have all either recorded or are looking to record new material. Contrasted against the better of them, Thulcandra’s latest has little to offer. There’s freezing cold, melodic riffs aplenty, but numbering not many more than the songs, not counting the variations on a theme, the majority of which are very barely variations, meaning more than a few songs lose track of themselves and spin into obscurity.
The acoustic interludes divide the album into segments at very appropriate places. “Funeral Pyre” and “Scarred Grandeur” make for a decent beginning, showcasing the album’s themes and variety. The riffs hit home and find their mark, but provide hardly anything more than the most basic first-aid to a chronic dependence on cold-ass riffs. The trio between “Orchard of Grievance” and “In Bleak Misery” fares worse, spending the majority of their duration looking for a point. I don’t find the advertised doom influence from “Nocturnal Heresy” any more than I find the Entombed promised in the promo letter on the record, unless Napalm’s got their wires mixed and thought doom equaled dreadful slog taking up a sizable chunk of the composition’s mass.
Fortunately things get better for the last three songs. “A Shining Abyss” may struggle a bit, but also has some of the album’s finest riffs, “Devouring Darkness” is the only consistently memorable song on it and the closing title track builds something more dynamic and ambitious than the rest of the album put together. But a good last third can’t save an otherwise toothless album from the obscurity it would be righteously condemned to if not for its members’ other projects.
Vulvodynia – Praenuntius Infiniti
Unique Leader Records – September 17th
South Africa’s hardly known as the promised land of heavy metal, but Vulvodynia has been doing their part to bring about change since 2014. After a couple of busy years, they broke through to a bigger audience with Psychosadistic Design. Though hailed as slam, theirs was of a modern strain, indebted more to deathcore than death metal. Its follow-up, Mob Justice, stripped down the band’s sound and further moved towards deathcore, though for a second or two felt more in line with proper slam as well.
It also turned their gaze from humour to domestic national issues. That much it has in common with Praenuntius Infiniti, but not much else. Praenuntius turns Mob Justice‘s apparent minimalism into maximalism, abandons any vestige of slam and heads straight into a tech-deathcore vortex. Along with their technical wizardry they’ve brought on another of modern deathcore’s staples, the quasi-blackened influence ranging from Duncan Bentley’s underutilized vocal range to those generic, bland and faceless, supposedly cold tremolo picked riffs.
To complete the set, Praenuntius is paved with symphonic elements. And while symphonic slam actually sounds exactly like the kind of unimaginable stupid I’d eat up with a scoop (who wants to start a band, srs?), alas. What we have instead are a bunch of songs filled to the brim with pretty much everything except memorability, each as uneventful as the last.
That’s the one big issue with Praenuntius Infiniti, besides the words tech-deathcore placed in that order not eliciting squeals of joy from me. The add-ons are much more interesting than the compositions, and pretty much the only things that stick. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that in good old Vulvodynia fashion, Praenuntius is filled to the brim with different guests? You’ve got a ton of different vocalists, of whom Oliver Rae Aleron and machine gun karaoke adds the most to his song, while the former Pathology duo of Jon Huber & Matti Way do their best to drag the blunt boredom of “Praenuntius Ascends” out of the mud. You’ve got YouTube star Misstiq on keys and Inferi‘s Malcolm Pugh adding an outlandish vibe with theremin that’s more remarkable for being there than for anything it does.
Praenuntius Infiniti is dynamic, coherent, not without a distinguishing sound and utterly unremarkable. The songwriting simply isn’t there and most of the embellishments don’t seem to have been composed any further than their inclusion.
Blood Red Throne – Imperial Congregation
Nuclear Blast – October 8th
Blood Red Throne has never risen to the death metal big leagues despite being around, and consistent, for 25 years. They’re constantly on the verge of that breakthrough though, but after so many years, 10 albums and even their latest move to Nuclear Blast failing to generate more buzz than usual, I doubt Imperial Congregation heralds a change.
It’s not Blood Red Throne’s fault though, not entirely. It’s not like they’re doing anything particularly wrong. Looking at their song-titles like “Deatholation” and “Brutalitarian Regime” I’m almost certain “K.I.L.F” is a milf/kill -joke and not a pedo-anthem. They only really ever do two things, chuggy & groovy mid-tempo death metal and tremolo-riffing & headbanging mid-tempo death metal. But they do both styles pretty well and every now and then hit with a more memorable riff to boot.
Imperial Congregation‘s 45 minutes are filled with exactly those. It holds absolutely no surprises, even if you’ve never listened to the band before. The mix is evened-out and all of the few dynamics on the album are in the songwriting. The title-track and “Itika” try to impress with more varied and interesting arrangements, while the closer “Zarathustra” tries to build an epic monument for the album, and mostly succeeds.
It’s just that even besides the sterile production choices, Imperial Congregation is thoroughly safe. It’s meat-and-bones death metal with a little too little going for it, working man’s death metal and not of the more remarkable or memorable kind. There’s nothing wrong with it, but not altogether that many things right with it either. If you’ve been into Memoriam‘s work, for example, you might be into Blood Red Throne as well, it’s a different kind of riffcraft for sure, but populates the same echelon and caters to the same hunger.
Memoriam – To The End
Reaper Entertainment – March 26th
Look, I know this came out quite a while back and I wasn’t originally going to write about it, but then I mentioned Memoriam just a few lines back up and figured I should bring To The End up, because it’s, in fact, not the same workingman’s death metal that they’ve represented up until now.
Whether this change happened because they left Nuclear Blast for Reaper Entertainment, founded by a former NB European A&R, and they felt less pressure to keep to their old marks, they felt inspired by the cadre of artists on Reaper’s roster into whom the words “Finnish” and “melodic” apply aplenty or just felt like there was no particular way they could take their brand of death metal anymore, without bringing about a more significant change.
Looking at the trajectory of stripping down their sound to its core, the debut featuring a couple of punk-influenced songs, and the sophomore exploring more melodic and even doomy output, but Requiem for Mankind featured none such detours. With To The End, Memoriam’s opened their doors any which way they can.
“Onwards Into Battle” feels like a song-length intro, and of course there are a few more traditional Memoriam songs as well, “This War is Won”, “Failure to Comply” and the title track all fall into this category, but they aren’t the same kind of death metal found on the preceding records either, being permeated by a pensive mood, as if affected by the less casual songs. “No Effect” and “Vacant Stare” are melodic beyond anything the group’s tried before, while closer “As My Heart Grows Cold” and “Each Step (One Closer to the Grave)” run with it and mix it with doom, especially the former going full Swallow the Sun. For my money, the most interesting choice is the industrial-pulse of “Mass Psychosis” though, somewhere between the earlier albums of Godflesh and Ministry.
The best thing about To The End though, is that none of it feels unnatural for the band, or in the course of the album. I’m more eager to check out new material from, than to return to, their progression as a group, as they’ve become more interesting than I’d ever have thought. Can’t wait to be disappointed by what they do next.
REAPER ENTERTAINMENT HAS A BANDCAMP PAGE BUT IT’S BEEN WIPED CLEAN FROM MUSIC SO HERE’S A YOUTUBE LINK, I GUESS.