The primordial inbreeding of fabled gods is fitting depravity found in most all creation mythos as scum begat scum. The most compelling horrors, typically created from opportunistic rapist seed and demure entrapment, involve creation of great formidable serpentine beasts, what would be recognizable today as dragons. The most obvious creation of ‘evil’ through the gods known to western civilization begins with Tartarus’ joining with Gaia’s wide-splayed sex (post-seduction of her son) in creation of the serpent-legged horror Typhon. Though I will spare the reader a recital of Theogony, Typhon and Echidna’s third gestation of demon spawn in producing the nine-headed Lernaean hydra may not have been their most impressive moment; The hydra was a beast simply fabled for its pregnable immortality, its weakness. Nearby, and still within the 7th century B.C.E., one could look to the ‘Enûma Eliš’ and its description of three horned serpents Bašmu, Ušumgallu, and Mušmaḫḫū each representing a different serpentine combination of horns, wings and claw. These are, again, best known as conquest for a fabled warrior with the poet trading Heracles’ myth for Ninĝirsu’s seven warrior massacre. The defeat of these noble dragons is fodder for myths created to inspire and cultivate heroic men to become followers, warriors, and breed vanquishers of perceived ‘evil’ under rule of cult. At the very least Sumerian creation myth offers melodrama instead of depravity. Tiāmat, the great mother of chaotic creation, spawned eleven offspring in the throes of grief for the death of Abzû who represented a vital part of her presence as a font of creation. Of the twelve horrors produced the four serpents are most imposing and creative as conglomeration of dangerous animal forms used to symbolize evil and revenge. Mušmaḫḫū lives on as a vaguely remembered symbol of exalted evil, a spawn of revenge from the true chaotic void of creation herself. It makes great sense then that prolific extreme metal musician Swartadauþuz chose this name for his most serious foray into death metal to date, Musmahhu.
The ‘Formulas of Rotten Death’ (2017) EP was unarguably crystalline in its statement as a brief representation of both putrefaction and the escaping essence, the stench of death, through cavern-borne atmospherics and almost playfully Swedish use of subtle melody. Where the B-side of that 7″ left is where ‘Reign of the Odious’ begins with “Apocalyptic Brigade of Forbidden Realms” reproduced with greater violence and an enormity of atmosphere. Knowing Swartadauþuz only through his wealth of Ancient Records / Mysticism Productions releases (see: Azelisassath, Bekëth Nexëhmü, Demonomantic, Digerdöden, Summum) a few key generalizations can be made; The first is that his talents are immediately evident in the creation of atmospheric values whether his project is entirely solo or in concert with other musicians. Musmahhu stands out immediately for that same reason with his signature flair for brutality and melodramatic stoicism beneath a true blizzard of guitar imposition. The actual sound expressed on ‘Reign of the Odious’ is as ancient and rotten as Abruptum‘s ‘Hextum Galaem Zeloq’ demo, as fluid as Sacramentum’s ‘Thy Black Destiny’ in terms of style but if looking for cumulative comparisons this record as more in common with Behemoth‘s transition between ‘Pandemonic Incantations’ and ‘Satanica’ particularly in terms of drum work, keyboard integration, and sweeping ‘grand’ compositions. A decent ‘modern’ analog could be Sulphur Aeon, later Vanhelgd, or even Sarpanitum but from a distinctly Scandinavian perspective.
Though I am describing a middle ground between old school death metal and Swedish black metal this project is distinctly more focused on death metal than any of Swartadauþuz‘ other undertakings. The first impression provided by ‘Formulas of Rotten Death’ suggested a less melodic approach but I think the drum performances in particular offer a bigger surprise as their almost triggered (or artificial) sound provides a deeper brutality than expected. With so many layers of groaning atmosphere and a hefty rhythm guitar tone the drum sound is almost necessary for cutting through the soaring morass of ‘Reign of the Odious’. It is less rotten and putrid than it is cold and savage, an expression of the ‘desert’ of starvation and frozen death that winter provides. Fans of classic Swedish melodic black/death metal should feel at least a few chilling hints of bands like Vargavinter or ‘Nachthymnen (From The Twilight Kingdom)’-era Abigor here and there (see: “Burning Winds of Purgatory (Mellanspel)”) but nothing so overt that would shift this sound too far outside of the realm of classic Swedish death metal (see: “Reign of the Odious”). These breaks into Swartadauþuz‘ comfort zone provide personality and variety to the record and ultimately the age-old question of sub-genre appropriate style is meaningless when faced with impressive and highly repeatable listening experience.
‘Reign of the Odious’ offers a great cavern of frozen corpses and obsidian pillars to curse the self with. As such Musmahhu arrives as an ignominious force of ruin on his debut, so immaculately realized that it outclasses the wealth of fully staffed similar projects the world over in many aspects. You may find treasure in its atmospherics initially, as did I, but the wandering guitar work that drives and sustains the experience is strong enough to keep me listening beyond immersion within (and appreciation of) the production. I am highly recommending this debut as a full listen rather than a record previewed in pieces as it needs summation and some smaller repetition to reach potential. It will be curio to the passerby and covetous worship of the dark for the obscurantist. Highly recommended and if you must preview, start with the incredible attack of “Slaughter of the Seraphim” and the melodic deification that is “Thirsting For Life’s Terminus”.
Exalted in vengeance. 4.0/5.0
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