Eternal Dirge – Morbus Ascendit / Demos 1989-1990 (2017) REVIEW

Neo-Pagan psycho metal. Wait, neo-pagan psycho metal? Where German symphonic progressive death/thrash band Eternal Dirge ended up after ten years was a far cry from their humble crossover thrash beginnings. The earliest demos from 1988 were formative, fuzzy and ultimately showed a young-ass band too green for a full-length deal. Anthem of Anxiety sounds inspired equally by hardcore and the more adventurous thrash metal of the late 80’s and it was more or less a peek into their rehearsals. Those earliest releases shouldn’t interest anyone, not only for their poor sound but lack of fundamentals. Their third and fourth demos, featured on this compilation, are heaps better. The sound is still somewhat stripped down and very much thrash metal but the quality is amazingly restored, or at least superior than any tape rips circulating online over the last several decades.

Recorded in 1989, ‘Right to the Core’ is sloppy and hardcore-ish but already began pushing the bands thrash influenced sound that would appear on their full-length. “Paralyzed” might as well have been a B-side from ‘Join the Army’ while “Contaminated Void” would have fit in on a demo from Rigor Mortis or Blood Feast.  To say Eternal Dirge formed from generic thrash metal is far too reductive, what influences they pulled from were excellent ones. The second demo included on this reissue ‘Pressurize Dehumanize’ (aka ‘We Are The Dead’) is a truly interesting thrash companion to their debut full-length. The same way Pestilence‘s ‘The Penance‘ demo gave hints of the coming ‘Malleus Maleficarium’, so does ‘We are the Dead’ act as a document of the band’s shift from technical thrash metal to death metal. Every song on the second demo is over five minutes long and the focus is on intense strings of death/thrash riffs that often give melodic voice to the songs beyond the growled, blustery vocals. The voicing is reminiscent of Kreator and the uprising burst of death metal from Florida in the late 80’s. In listening to these two demos, with pristine sound quality, you are truly a witness to progress towards excellence.

Booklet
Back cover from the original release’s booklet. The YouTube account that posted the live videos from ’96, which I’ve linked is EvilPete aka Pethe, I believe.

Don’t get me wrong, Eternal Dirge’s debut album isn’t such a wild departure from anything before it. Not like Cynic’s shift from ‘Demo 1991’ to the oddball ‘Focus’. Most of the tracks from the previous demo have been re-used and refined on the album. But I would submit ‘Morbus Ascendit’ as  a progressive death/thrash album that is intensely heavy, melodically brilliant, and delivers itself with bold-faced confidence. This emboldened take on death/thrash goes anywhere it wants. Keyboards? Shredding? Yeah, they bust it all out and the Nocturnus influences show themselves quickly. The jagged, sometimes unpredictable technicality and bursting energy reminds me of fellow forgotten Germans Jumpin’ Jesus’ off the wall riffing, or the clattering thrash intensity of Massacra or Insanity.

‘Morbus Ascendit’ is a without a doubt one of the finest combinations of late 80’s thrash neo-progressive metal excess coupled with a saucy up-skirt glimpse of Florida’s earliest death metal uprising. If that didn’t make sense try Kreator or Deathrow jumping between Insanity riffs and the first Nocturnus album’s style. Very entertaining stuff and the demos are given a truly respectful release on the compilation. I love that the release is split into two CDs. A real gem that deserved reissue and easily one of the best creepers from Germany’s moldy death metal coffers. If all that piques your interest, don’t skip out on their second full-length ‘Khaos Magick’ where the lyrical content went true ‘neo-pagan psycho metal’ similar to later Dissection, the keyboards are cranked to 11, and they go full-blast with their death metal sound.

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Artist Eternal Dirge
Type Album
Released September 29, 2017 (Originally 1989-1992)
BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp Eternal Dirge on Metal-Archives
Track from ‘Anthems of Anxiety’ Demo ’88 Preview the album on YouTube
Preview ‘Khaos Magick’ on YouTube Live ‘Hymn to Pan-My Sweet Satan’ circa ’96
Genres

Moldy greatness. 4.25/5.0