The Morgue #2

BelphegorBelphegor “Conjuring the Dead” (2014)

“Gasmask Terror” comes across as old school death metal. Sure, the riffs sound good, but did Belphegor really need to adopt the vomit vocals? “Conjuring the Dead,” with its stuttering intro and “br00tal” half-time verse sounds like it would be more at home on a 1990s Morbid Angel release. It’s not necessarily a bad song, but those sound samples at the beginning border on the stupid. The busy, low tuned riffing of “In Death” continues the death metal parade, but holds a faster tempo throughout, yielding a somewhat more interesting song than the preceding title track. Next up is the longest cut (“Rex Tremendae Majestatis”), you know what that means: cue the out of place acoustic guitars. Thankfully, they keep the acoustic noodling to a minimum. The middle section is the closest thing to black metal that has appeared up to this point. “Black Winged Torment” is 3:27 of fast, tightly executed black metal, but the cookie monster vocals are a bit of a distraction. “The Eyes” is 1:19 of noise. Well, not so much noise as some instrumental noodling. “Legions of Destruction” is New York style Death Metal. “Flesh, Bones, and Blood” has an interesting stop-start shifting intro, but loses some momentum around the thirty-second mark. Too many pinch harmonics hamper the verse. The arrangements during the latter parts of the song are a bit more interesting, but the drums can cause it to drag a bit. “Lucifer Take Her” has some interesting and intricate bits to it, but some of the power chord riffing in the beginning sounds reused from the previous song. “Pactum in Aeternum” segues poorly between arpeggiated acoustic bits and harsh, distorted power chords. Much of the later half of the track seems concerned with being atmospheric, but just comes across as (in my mind) boring. I know it sounds like I’ve been harsh here, but I can’t help but believe this would have been a little bit more enjoyable if it didn’t say Belphegor on the cover. It’s a fairly strong death metal album by a black metal band.

Score: 3/5
Key song: Black Winged Torment

Woods of DesolationWoods of Desolation “As the Stars” (2014)

Australia’s Woods of Desolation peddle a form of black metal that is heavily reliant on slow to mid-paced tempos and reverb drenched guitars. From a structural standpoint, their songs are fairly simple. Many of them will maintain a single underlying musical motif throughout the entire runtime. Thankfully, the band stack enough on top of this foundation that it prevents things from becoming boring, as is the case with a lot of bands currently playing what has come to be labeled “post-black metal.” What also helps keep things moving nicely, despite the slowness of the tempo and the simplicity of the structures, is the band’s retention of tired and true techniques like tremolo picking and rudimentary counterpoint as well as the occasion burst of busy drumming. These techniques are especially prevalent on the album’s opener (“Like Falling Leaves”) and on “And If All the Stars Faded Away.” On the whole, it is a strong effort in a genre that is often times tedious and downright unlistenable. It is not without its weak points though, these being the instrumental (“Anamnesis”) and the album’s closing track: “Ad Infinitum.” The latter being a mess of musical noodling that veers between weepy post-rock and dated synth-pop. Future output could also stand to have the vocals pushed a little higher in the mix as they are practically inaudible without headphones.

Score: 3/5
Key song: And If All The Stars Faded Away

BustumBustum “Demonolosophy” (2012)

“Intro” is, predictably, mostly ambient noise, though, it is topped by a small drum solo. Next up is “Arrival of the Serpent God.” The melody of the opening riff lands somewhere between circus and organ grinder music while the rest of the song is built upon high speed riffing that sounds like a funeral dirge played at double speed. A simple, effective guitar solo comes in around 3:55, and leads into the songs dragging and disappointing closing section. “Nightrealm” opens with a guitar solo that sounds reminiscent of early Slayer. The fast, open riffing of the “verse” sections lends the song something of a punk feel. The thrashy section around 2:15 is particularly memorable and a welcome change from the usual 12/8 waltz that is typically inserted into the middle of black metal songs. The tremolo picked sections are cleanly executed with excellent articulation, but the clicking snare drum is too high in the mix and often proves to be a distraction.

“Inquisitor Deum” opens with a short acoustic interlude before segueing smoothly into uptempo black metal fury. On the whole, the song features a nicely varied structure for its short run time, shifting between multiple musical themes. The snare tone, once again, is something of a distraction during the faster sections when the guitars seem to drop a bit in volume. Up next is “Marauders Call,” the intro of which makes use of some rudimentary counterpoint and has some decent drum work. The meat of the song is made up of two or three key riffs that shift between the typical fast tremolo picking and more mid-paced, triplet based riffs. These mid-paced sections are where the song really shines. “Mists of Solitude” is a solid, well put together track that features a varied structure and a dense arrangement that makes use of prominent lead guitar as well as a smattering of acoustic guitar.

“Piljesan Gori Vijekovima,” to my ears, seems to drag on and ends up feeling much longer than its 3:15 run time. “Zaplakalo nebo suzama od krvi” has an intro that is strikingly similar to the previous song. On this, the album’s longest cut, the band fall victim to one of black metal’s classic blunders… being over-repetitious. While the band can pack plenty of varied musical ideas into a 3:00 run time, on a 5 minute track, their creative well seems to dry up and they end up leaning too much on a single riff. In this case, a mid-paced riff that lasts for almost the entire first half of the song. By the time they fixed this, I was too bored to care. The intro of “Hladam Kamen” has some good, if not necessarily mind blowing bass drum work. The fast tremolo picked section of the opening is, once again, almost drowned out by the snare drum. This is another track that features fairly prominent lead guitar melodies and it would have been an excellent way to close off the album. Unfortunately, the band opt to include another short track of noise, this one called (you guessed it) “Outro.” It sounds as if it is the same drum pattern and ambient noises from “Intro,” but with the drums run through a phase shifter this time. Demonolosophy is, for the most part, a fairly strong effort, but the production job is incredibly detrimental to the overall sound. While it’s not loaded down with static and artificial echo, as is often the case with black metal, the drums have no body and are often too loud in the mix.

Score: 3.5/5
Key songs: Mists of Solitude, Inquisitor Deum, Hladam Kamen

GravecrusherGravecrusher “Morbid Black Oath” (2014)

Kicking things off is “Triumph of the Undead.” This track starts off as a duet between the bass and drums before kicking into a loose mid-tempo section that gives way to a loose, chaotic uptempo feel. Frankly, the introductory sections feel tacked on, like they could have just been dropped and the song picked up from the drum fill that serves as a segue into the uptempo section. The same criticism can be levied at the closing section of the song, which segues awkwardly giving it, also, a bit of a tacked on feel. “Necromantic Perversion” contains a couple of really good musical themes (specifically from 0:01 to 0:45 and from 1:51 to 2:17). What makes the song suffer, however, are the overabundance of dead stops contained during its short running time. “Morbid Black Oath” suffers a bit during the intro which contains a somewhat boring tremolo picked riff. This riff is repeated a couple of times throughout the song. There is, however, a lot to like about the middle section of the song. During which, the band frequently (and fluidly) shift musical themes. In the ears of this reviewer, the highlight is the thrashy section from about 2:45 to the end. “Worship the Impaler” starts off fairly strong, but stumbles around the :34 mark. Things pick up a little with the mid-tempo section around 1:20 and the guitar solo at about 1:53 to 2:12. The triplet based closing section offers some solid drumming. “Mutilation Ritual” is the best of the faster tracks on the disc. Perhaps it’s a production thing, but the tremolo picking on this short track sounds tighter and less, for lack of a better term, squawky than it does on the others. “Deranged Massacre” starts off with an uptempo tremolo picked riff. The production, unfortunately, renders it much lower in the mix than the drums. The second half of the song is a highlight in terms of double bass drumming and lead guitar. There’s even a bit of counterpoint thrown into the arrangement for good measure. Closing things out is “Cryptic Butchery.” This song begins with both feet planted firmly in hardcore punk territory before a segue into a more traditional death metal feel around 1:36. While this bipolar shift does work, the opening section is definitely a standout moment in the song and on the album as a whole. A strong closing track on the whole, but it suffers from one of my pet peeves in music as a whole: fadeouts.

Score: 3/5
Key songs: Cryptic Butchery, Morbid Black Oath, Mutilation Ritual

QuestionQuestion “Doomed Passages” (2014)

The riffing on “Mournful Stench” contains the occasional decent cadence and the drumming performance is respectable, but on the whole there is really nothing that is particularly memorable. On the whole, a rather weak opening track, especially for one of such great length. After a forgettable, dragging introduction, “Nefarious Conclusion” picks up momentum around the :41 mark with a verse that sounds (at least to this reviewer) strikingly similar to Death during their transitional period. 2:55 to 3:12 is another weak point, where the band seem to be working some sort of odd time feel that just never pans out right. “Grey Sorrow” starts off in roughly black metal territory and with some rudimentary counterpoint. This intro and the 12/8 bits in the middle as well as their guitar solo are the strongest points of the song. I found myself all too often tuning it out. “Through the Vacuous River” is a short instrumental track with a mild psychedelic air to it. “Universal Path of Disgrace” shows a bit of promise with some mildly technical riffing during the beginning and around the 4:30 to 5:07 mark, but much of the songs lengthy 6:34 runtime is occupied by boring, stock tremolo picking. “Devoured From Within” follows much this same format with things not really picking up until around the 2:33 mark, but quickly falling off a mere 30 seconds later. The remaining two songs are nothing particularly noteworthy either, with one following the same format as the previous and boring a couple seconds of descent, if not necessarily memorable, riffing underneath a substrate of mediocrity. The last song is just some throw away acoustic meandering. The problem with Question is that they insist upon themselves. They seem to think that they are in the same league as Death or Quo Vadis and can carry songs that are six minutes or more in length, but a quick listen to Doomed Passages reveals this to not be the case.

Score: 1/5
Key song: Nefarious Conclusion

DesecresyDesecresy “Chasmic Transcendence” (2014)

I’m going to keep this short, as the last album I reviewed was an ordeal, to say the very least of it. Despite the tongue twister of an album title and the rather ridiculous song titles, Desecresy’s Chasmic Transcendence is refreshingly lacking on pretension. In terms of the number of tracks, this is quite a hefty album (there are fourteen of them), but each song is very short. Most of them don’t even exceed the four minute mark. Each song focused and to the point, with no tacked on mess. As is usually the case, the production does the music a bit of a disservice. Everything sounds muffled and buried under a layer of static. There’s also an unpleasant reverb that permeates much of the record.

Score: 2.5/5
Key songs: Shattered Monuments, The Eye of Death

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