In the closing months of the decade, the Olympia quartet deliver a grand equalizer for the underground after their highly acclaimed demo.
If you had told anyone heavily invested in the underground in 2009 that in ten years time tech death, brutal death metal, post metal and sludge would give way to a wave of popularity for bands playing cavernous death metal and death doom like they stepped out of 1994, they probably would've thought you were a lunatic. Hindsight is a killer ain't it? Pretty much gone are the bands worshipping Necrophagist, Origin and Spawn of Possession and now we have the new guard following in the footsteps of Incantation, Disma, Rippikoulu, Rottrevore, Swallowed, Decomposed and Mythic. The underground has really been turned around in a very positive way with many of the newer bands receiving welcome adulation and praise from fans and the press. It's brought a whole new meaning to the term crushing and people who have been waiting for these styles to finally achieve their dues are in histrionics. Much of this revolution was sparked due in part to the aforementioned Disma following their new legendary debut LP Towards the Megalith in 2011. That album ran counter to what many were playing in death metal and many kids who were just in high school at the time looked at that album along with Mortal Throne of Nazarene, Beneath the Columns of Abandoned Gods, Mortuary in Darkness, The Karelian Isthmus, Lost Paradise and As The Flower Withers and began forging the ideas for what would become the dominant force in the underground in the next few years. Without a doubt, one of the bands that would lead the charge in the next decade for this sound would be a little band from Olympia, Washington called MORTIFERUM.
Formed in 2016, MORTIFERUM began with the lineup of Max Bowman on guitar/vocals, Chase Slaker on guitar, Dan Fried of the godly Anhedonist on bass and Alex Mody on drums and vocals. A year would pass before the group put anything to tape but when June 30th, 2017 hit, all hell was let loose. Originally released in the US by Graceless Recordings and by Extremely Rotten Productions in Europe, the Altar of Decay demo hit the underground like Yoshi down "B'ing" a fire hydrant right on your character in Super Smash Bros. It was a MASSIVE success for an up and comer and soon this band was on everyone's tongue talking. Audiences raved about the impossibly heavy track Blood Chasm and how the opening dirge of the title track made their hairs on their necks stand on end. The hype reached a near fever pitch that soon word of mouth reached none other than Chris Bruni, head master of Canadian label Profound Lore. With the help of Bruni, MORTIFERUM signed to Profound Lore and the label saw to it that Altar of Decay was released on vinyl for all to hear. The group would gain even more traction after opening select West Coast dates for Denver's Spectral Voice on the West Coast Erosion Tour that summer, in addition to the return of Denmark's Killtown Deathfest. Many were ready for a debut when the group released a two song promo tape during this time while also recruiting new bassist Tony Wolfe. The anticipation was fully primed and finally ready when in mid-2019, Profound Lore announced the fall release of Disgorged From Psychotic Depths. Would the Olympians be able to release such an insanely heavy yet jaw dropping album that could eclipse their demo? The truth? Why, of course they did.
A slow and pummeling bass riff opens Archaic Vision of Despair and before you know it, growls and guitars follow proper. The pace picks up a tad near the middle while the vocals make you feel as if you are being held captive in a dark chasm somewhere. Just when you think again that you have this pegged, the 5:08 hits and one of THE MOST DISGUSTING riffs of 2019 hits you. It's pure Funebrarum and everything about it invokes a spirit of foe crushing. We are then treated to one of the most interesting aspects of MORTIFERUM in the latter portion of the track, that being the soloing. It must be some weird unspoken thing, but it seems like most cavernous death doom bands don't care to solo. That's where Bowman and Slaker break the mold and add a sickly flair to this very pounding subgenre of metal. It goes to show that these bands aren't just mindlessly riffing; they've got some chops and they aren't afraid to show off.
Following track Inhuman Effigy brings the Incantation worship with some truly meaty fills and tremolo picked guitars, adding a sense of urgency that allow you to bang your head while FEELING every pounding drum fill and bass line. It's difficult to distinguish Mody's vocals from Bowman's at times, but regardless, the growls gives one chills. It's a nasty performance and it makes the proceeds even more sinister when we get a very Demilich-esque snarl near the end of the song. It's a quick little bruiser to set you up for the true monstrosity.
Putrid Ascension is the longest MORTIFERUM song to date and boy howdy are we in for a doozy. The album begins with the simple chug before the divebomb hits. It comes out of literally nowhere and we are then treated to a solo that sounds a hell of a lot like James Murphy during his tenure in Obituary. The blastbeats carry the track into a Spectral Voice-type section that gives way to some very hypnotic riffing before we again reach the mid paced dirge that MORTIFERUM really love to hold your attention captive with. Halfway into the track, the pace gets into a rotten gallop. Mody and Bowman then cut the tension as Wolfe's thick as all hell basslines rumble the soundscape. The band manage to keep you invested in such a lengthy track.
When Funereal Hallucinations first debuted as a single, the first thought that came to my mind was very surprising. The track begins and it almost sounds like demo era Thergothon with that same despondent atmosphere. All of that forlorn reminiscing is quickly brought back to the swamp when the vocals hit and the track goes into early Paradise Lost beast mode. Mody/Bowman deliver a much grimier performance than Nick Holmes, but the energy that he brought to that band in the late 80's and early 90's is felt with each crushing riff and bass note. A semi melodic section comes in that wouldn't sound out of place on early Abhorrence demos or even the Amorphis debut LP. Fear not though, as the tar thick riffing returns to lead the track right back into the disgusting void it came from.
Anamnesis is a quick minute long interlude with some truly haunting acoustic work before the droning electronics lead you right into the twirling maelstrom that is the closing track Faceless Apparition. This track is the epitome of what a true death doom song should strive for. The plodding double bass eventually gives way to a sinister riff that brays like a fog horn to a ship lost at sea with no help in sight. The only thing that ship will find is certain death. Soon, the MORTIFERUM boys bring in the nasty vocals yet again, which bring to mind the godly Rippikoulu and their uber influential demo Musta Seremonia. That demo is a perfect representation of what this subgenre can do and it is on this track that MORTIFERUM excel. BUT WAIT! Here comes more gnarly soloing to break up the chunk. MORTIFERUM know exactly how to place their solos and it works to tremendous effect. Whereas a lesser band would merely throw a solo in for no discernable reason, this band does it with utmost grace and precision.
As a death metal fan, its pleasing to hear such nasty gutturals and double bass. As a doom metal fan, the riffs and bass create a wall so impenetrable that it seems like a far gone conclusion to not even try to surpass what has been set forth. As far as anything in the death doom field released this year, everyone should be watching out for MORTIFERUM. This release will dwarf any other when it comes to this subgenre. Not only do they bring the most important aspect of this subgenre (the riffs), they also bring a grand sense of atmospheric dread. The kind of pure dread that borders on Lovecraftian.
Now, you may be thinking that this is a mighty short review....and it is. The thing about it is that this is an album that must be heard to be understood. No amount of wordplay and use of metaphor will be able to convince you otherwise. This is by far one of the nastiest and heaviest death doom albums I've ever heard. In a year with demos from Caustic Vomit, Charnal Altar and Ossuary and full lengths from Ossuarium, Encoffination, Leather Glove, Coffins and Krypts, MORTIFERUM may have released the gnarliest of them all. They take every influence they pull from, whether it be new or old, and fuse it together with some purely delightful solo work and quite possibly the most sickening bass guitar sound of the year. In the future, this album will have a massive imprint on these who continue to follow in the grimy footsteps of the old school for it is a beacon of filth in the already disgusting world we live in. This album may be new, but it sure feels ancient and evil, much like the albums that influenced this hellish experience. The megalith is past, enter the depths and descend into madness.
Disgorged From Psychotic Depths is available now via Profound Lore. Get yours HERE.