MEPHITIC GRAVE – Into the Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity (2021)REVIEW

…despite a natural loathing he followed the creature into a capacious burrow and crawled after him for hours in the blackness of rank mould. They emerged on a dim plain strown with singular relics of earth—old gravestones, broken urns, and grotesque fragments of monuments—and Carter realised with some emotion that he was probably nearer the waking world than at any other time since he had gone down the seven hundred steps from the cavern of flame to the Gate of Deeper Slumber.” H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

The universe itself requires nothing of human sentience, the species can recognize vast worlds of imagined thought yet cannot accept their own freak of nature status as worms of no consequence beyond an ornately convoluted sense of importance. The only true horror of the cosmos (and of the unknown in general) isn’t that evil is lurking from beyond with juicing fangs for our meaty gem-like flesh but, rather its vastness indicates an undeniable indifference towards mankind. Nihilism itself is flawed in this sense, setting the importance of man as the key subject as if our blubbering adaptive meat-sacks have any real gravitas or, significant orbit to prove or disprove. H.P. Lovecraft‘s somewhat inadvertent contributions to the absurdist-akin realm of cosmicism is ultimately nihilism from the perspective of the void, the nothing and its afterbirth of which we are flecks of scattered and congealed hydrocarbon paste. There may be a higher purpose for our meagerly fought-for station as detritus but in the mind of the author religious spirituality is a bung for those possibilities, a stop upon collective transcendentally vital parameters for human beings that gives false answers to idiotic questions of worth and purpose without sense for what is stark-raving reality. Even the most futile creature is capable of heart-stopping awe, in fact if we’ve erased this egotistical vision of the universe for the sake of humanity a sense of awe and sustained wonder for the unknown means a life no longer ruled by fear and calculation, instead gifting our ape minds with the purpose of knowledge and exploration. For Hungarian death metal quartet Mephitic Grave only the eldest, most putrid garage-storming sound could successfully conjure this perspective away from human self-importance and into the darkest realms of Lovecraftian mysticism, their debut full-length ‘Into the Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity‘ is self-surrender to the unknown and defiance of human arrogance at once. As morbid and apathetic as viably ‘old school’ death metal gets in nowadays terms, this unassuming half hour experience is a fine example of ethos and praxis resounding in brutal, empowered harmony.

Mephitic Grave initially formed as a duo in 2018 under the name Mothrot which’d changed to their current ideal shortly after they’d expanded into a quartet circa 2019. As far as I’ve been able to research they’ve no direct connections with well-known groups from Hungarian death metal spheres though their work suggests some years of study aimed at classic death metal demos, Finnish death metal and the greater reach of Autopsy influenced doomcraft beyond the late 80’s. ‘Into the Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity’ reads very much like a 1990 release, right on the fence of cruel late 80’s doomed death advent and the emerging atmospheric possibilities as the boon of the 90’s approached fast and the underground became more intensely brutal and weirding. The most apt suggestions for a general ideal here are already given in Funebre‘s ‘Children of the Scorn’ and Abhorrence‘s legendary demo but I’d throw in some less obvious choices such as Cartilage (Finland) and their ‘In Godly Flesh’ demo were it less technical, likewise some death/doom similar to what Cryptic Brood are doing these days and a sound that reminds me of Derkéta‘s first demo ‘The Unholy Ground‘, especially if recommending this album to folks who’ve ears on pure old school and modern interpretations at once. There are clearly other influences at play here, such as the Deicide-esque ram of “Anatomy of Madness” but for a brief ~half hour traditional death metal record things never get so out of control that the mold is broken. Although this sound and style is novel today as a grand showcase for death metal idealism one must acknowledge that ‘Into the Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity’ wouldn’t have been seen as more than an inspired stepping stone, or legendary demo oversight, for a band like this back in the early 90’s who’d hope to get picked up by a label like Wild Rags or Grind Core International.

The circumstances are fitting for music crafted during a bleakest yet entirely honest reality today — A self-engineered, produced, mastered and sorted debut full-length created during the heinous crux of uncaring plague death anno MMXX ends up a triumph for Mephitic Grave and a stylized death metal album that strikes right for the temple of the elite underground, likely grazing some of the caveman dünderkind along the way via some glancing blows. “Entering the Atrium of the Gatekeeper” cannot wait to get to its broader-sprawling riffs and as such the storm and creaking gate they’ve set out upon is met with a salvo of ominous leads and a verse that trundles and gasps its initial depiction of scene and setting. The ~2:37 minute mark cuts to the marrow of what makes ‘Into the Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity’ a special record, this arcane and almost amateurish charm that yanks the mind back in time, willing or otherwise; This devolution doesn’t ride as far back as, say, Sempiternal Deathreign into thrash and doom metal influenced teenaged lunacy but likewise doesn’t push beyond ‘World Without God’ in terms of attack or dynamic.

This is the exact right place to start for my own taste and the great strength of Mephitic Grave builds as they work through a variety of song types and structures, my favorite being the undulating brutality of “The Vaults of Strangling Fear” where they build ominous atmospheric tension, bash it to a bloody pulp about a minute later, and then ride out from that point with a mid-paced crawl. These strokes of thunderous brutality, imperfectly timed but incredibly surreal in affect, are the major draw for my own taste as they provide bursts of density that feels far more valuable than a 30 minute runtime for a ‘new old school’ death metal band might suggest. With their greater oeuvre nearly exhausted as “The Other Side Of Midnight” approaches this particular piece helps to up the ante for the established dynamic of mid-to-slow paced ‘Mental Funeral’-isms and a more brutal slap I’d compare to Scorched when Mephitic Grave are going their hardest. “Anatomy of Madness” is the breakthrough beyond that point and a major reason I favor Side B in general but the whole of the album is consistent for the sake of its traditional yet savagely raw undertaking. Folks seeking adventurous and ambitious death metal need not apply yet the ‘old school’ death metal elitist won’t likely find their cadre of riff earth shattering or particularly referential by any means. In terms of delivering a debut full-length that is distinctly their own beast out the gates the morbid atmosphere, modest production values, strong choice of cover art (via Raúl González) and simple-yet-labyrinthine compositional style lend Mephitic Grave a successfully chthonic character. From my point of view this definition of character is already a success and it is a huge bonus that the album itself is a surreal pleasure to listen to as a strong traditional death metal album. Because I’d enjoyed my time with ‘Into the Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity’ so much I couldn’t give it anything less than a high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Into the Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity
LABEL(S):Carbonized Records
RELEASE DATE:May 7th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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