Considered by many the bloody peak of urban warfare, if only for the sheer body count involved, the battle for Stalingrad (today’s Volgograd, Russia) is widely viewed as a strategic military triumph from most every angle if only for the sake of the ‘heroic’ tactical comeback of communist general Vasily Chuikov in the face of a critically captured city. Hyperbolic as propaganda infused history remains between proud and/or embarrassed nations after the fact there is little to dispute the vital desperation involved with this battle that would eventually turn the tide against the Wehrmacht and provide an air of dominance to Stalin’s Red Army. Sour in hindsight that they’d been defeated in a very bloody game of chess by way of close-quarters combat and basic pincer attacks, the Germans would describe these tactics as a ‘rat’s war’, which can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Neither the bloodiness of this five month war nor the newly minted advanced military tactics involved are necessarily the important takeaway from any study of World War II conflict, though; It is key to see this event as an unforgettable breach of safety among civilizations the world over. Not the first but, the most frightening reminder that all cities may crumble if both sides are convinced it is to the death, to the very last man standing, and that those who choose not to fight may not ever get the chance to flee. Thrillingly action-hero as it may be to imagine the wintry guerrilla warfare between starving soldiers surrounded by heaps of rotten dead bodies and shattered buildings, today there are far more modern breaches on the horizon of civilizations that’ve grown dependent upon technology. We see every day the potential an engaged follower culture has to sink to new and impressive lows when a person of great influence invades the falsely secure reality of the internet and reprograms the gullible hordes. The ‘Rattenkrieg!’ of today is a game of propaganda that’ll inevitably blind nations of fools from their own invasion, not as violated citizens but as easily acquired low-value commodities. Cattle that’d never see beyond the safety of their electric fences. Davis, California based death metal youths Mofsed begin their career as war criminals (and adjunct historical poets) with ‘Rattenkrieg!’, a full-length wisened by the repetitive blunders in the history of mankind, we interminably scurrying fools.
Don’t think you’ve stumbled upon a Bolt Thrower clone or some secretly ultra-Nazi youth brigade but rather enthusiastic fans of heavy metal riffs when they are translated into the muscular rip of classic death metal. In fact if you’re looking for theme there are direct references to World War II, ancient Egypt, and political manipulation throughout history so… It is more Indiana Jones than anything else. The connections one can make with the advancing ambitions of Chuck Schuldiner‘s Death, Daniel Corchado‘s love of classic heavy metal bleeding through at certain points of The Chasm‘s discography, and similar moments for bands like Arghoslent and Vader all serve to inform the general modus of Mofsed. Complex mid-to-fast paced rhythms often rely on glorious speed metal tropes for structure, such as chorus or verse changes and some ambitious lead guitar work already shines through on this earliest official release. Snarling and often layered vocals provide an almost post-melodeath thrash affect which will be reminiscent of classic Deathwitch (see: ‘The Ultimate Death’) and if you’re familiar with ‘Restless and Dead’ era Witchery there is that same kind of rockish ‘thrash’ metal drumming all over ‘Rattenkrieg!’. The tendency will be to want to compare their debut to groups like Sacriphyx or Bolt Thrower influenced projects but Mofsed are in a different stylistic plane closer to bands like Satan’s Host or (early) Sacral Night where classic heavy metal meets death metal without any pure focus in any one decade.
“Dawn Patrol” is where I was first impressed by the full-listen of ‘Rattenkrieg!’ and not only because of the catchy nigh early Swedish melodeath theatrics of the piece but, with some admiration for how their ambition and ability were more or less making up for not having perfected their capture of the process. The recording and production are fine and serviceable but self-finessed; I felt like they’d wanted a death metal tone closer to ‘Deathcult For Eternity’ but wanted their heavy metal side to take precedence and overcompensated for the sake of clarity. How this translates to the actual sound of the record is appropriately loud drumming, vocals, and lead guitars but a missing ‘middle’ presence in terms of the rhythm guitars. No doubt it’d be a more caustic and abrupt record were those rhythm guitars either re-amped for presence or if the bass was given a bit more ‘bite’ and leverage in the mix. As is, it is a fine and violent sounding death metal record I’d just say the riffs would benefit from a punch up into the middle of the mix. The trade off is that ‘Rattenkrieg!’ sounds a bit more intentional and impressive on the heavy metal-assed songs (“Silent as the Grave”) and the more technically flourished compositions (“Scroll of Ani”) than it does on the most direct death/thrash moments (“Chivalry”). The best moments on the album work somewhere in the middle stylistically with “Dawn Patrol”, “Tokkōtai” and “Critical Bondage” trading off between classic metal wailing and more rhythmically complex death metal sections.
For a first strike at an ambitious sound and a lot of interesting influences the whole of ‘Rattenkrieg!’ is somewhat tentative as a representation of Mofsed‘s impending signature sound. Although it does appear as a formative release still finding connections between various stylistic ideas to my ears, that feeling didn’t negate any enjoyment of it. For my own taste I think they’ll have to either go over the top with the heavy metal theatrics as a vehicle for memorable moments or really dig into their riffcraft and build a voice within a more stylized/bolder rhythm sound. I am comfortable giving moderate recommendation of Mofsed‘s debut as it communicates core concept, impresses with skill and some catchy songwriting with an admirable level of quality for a largely DIY project. For preview I’d suggest going straight to “Dawn Patrol” and “Silent as the Grave” then if you’re inspired check out their solid cover of King Diamond‘s “The Family Ghost”.
Deep in the fog of war. 3.5/5.0
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