GOSUDAR – Morbid Despotic Ritual (2021)REVIEW

Princely tyranny from most reviled Third Rome, shadow brutality set upon the unwitting cult ensures there will never be a fourth — This Moscow, Russia based trio formed just a few years ago in 2018 but that should not indicate they’re green, having coalesced as consummate pros with similar resumes in hand. Vocalist/guitarist Vadim Ivanov and co-vocalist/guitarist Sergey Milenin are both easily recognized as members of The Occult, an impressive extreme hardcore band that eventually leaned towards an HM-2 driven death/crust sound on their second album ‘Necropolis‘, and we’ll have to swerve a bit deeper underground to find incredibly skilled former Tarpan drummer Renat Kurmakaev, who’d played a more raucous and brutal style of punk structured death metal, hopping over to this crew soon after ‘The Abyss‘ released. So, these guys assuredly have a solid foundation of groove and change-up heavy modes of death metal infused hardcore punk and grindcore in hand but they’ve aimed for a more sophisticated, or, detail heavy style of classic ‘old school’ death metal here in Gosudar. Birthed from nowhere and without quarter ‘Morbid Despotic Ritual‘ is, above all else, the hard work of proper death metal delivered without shortcuts or trend-scumming dryness.

We can consider the trio’s debut demo tape from 2018 ‘Demo ’18‘ a bout of certainty but in a different direction, a less than orthodox showing of atmospheric ideas crossed with simpler, mid-paced steamroller death. Next to nothing has been preserved from that initial demo and the difference between the the quality and style found here on ‘Morbid Despotic Ritual’ should be received as night over day. Although it does not present any ‘new’ ideas into the current bubble of classicist death metal tendency worldwide the album itself is inarguably exemplar of pure, largely mid-paced death metal be it 1993 or 2013. When I suggest purity of form I’m generally speaking to an audience who prefers the reality of ’89-’92 death metal where European expansion of late 80’s United States ideals truly exploded into original ideas that were steadfast in presentation of riff and speed. The caveat being that Gosudar are most similar to those who’d clipped away the frenetic down-stroking mania of thrash metal and instead presenting the full weight of their guitar work alongside eerie adornment. Consider it the birthed lineage of atmospheric death metal, a bit of early Finnish/British death’s “morbid austerity” married to the early sound design of Incantation and then warped three generations into the future of those upheld dynamic/stylistic ideals via Phrenelith, Cruciamentum and Hyperdontia today. Rabid yet substantive, thrashing yet doomed, and always bringing new ideas rather than slumping along with the same drag-assed riffing on each piece.

What separates Gosudar from a lot of modern groups making similar waves will be easier heard than explained but the gist of it is that they’ve put in the work and the attention to detail required to indicate early 90’s death metal feeling without borrowing too heavily from it, landing as a “modern” act of the last two decades rather than a too obvious retro act. Opener “Demented Visions of the Infinite Power” speaks to all previous points as theory in practice, their guitar work is far too smart to rely solely on tone; Angularly set slashes and lunges underfoot present themselves in alternating bouts a la ‘Abject Offerings’-era Mercyless, commanding their forward motion with mean twists in rhythmic churn but melting their creation with unique lead guitar sounds. The sort of “hook” here reads as either ominous Finndeath Eldritch lead ruins or some kind of Russian orientalism in similar placement as their pinging melodic strikes hit. If they’d jumped straight into the brutal slap of “Prophecy Embodiment” from there it’d all have blurred past, I mean this is a half hour record so placing “Awakening of the Realm” right afterwards showed the cavern-doomed reach of the album up front, allowing them to develop this verve on Side B without sounding redundant. Riffs, yeah for once I’m sitting down with a death metal band that just has riffs for days and makes sure to twist the shit out of their phrasing so that none of it lands dry. They’ve balanced this tension with slower movements throughout but everything for the sake of the arrangement rather than presenting basic dynamic variation.

“Scripture of Vile Testimony” reprises some of the major characteristics of Side A‘s opening with similarly plucked and placed ominous leads now presaging a more Disma-centric twist and an overall less complex composition. From here we see the greater dynamic of the first side informing its more elaborately set doppelganger on Side B resembling what we could consider the most direct evolution of Gosudar‘s work on their first demo without resorting to full on monastic chanting for verses. “Insurrection of Nephilim” would probably be my favorite set of riffs front to back overall despite it not being as packed to the brim as earlier pieces, the flow of the song is brilliant and shows some promised skill in the mid-to-slow and grooving side of things. Just how well all of the pieces fall together on that piece is par for the course on ‘Morbid Despotic Ritual’, Gosudar moves wherever they please and throws fresh ideas at the listener from start to finish. That said, I don’t think the full listen would have held up if they’d extended it to ~45 minutes as they’ve set just enough of an experiential progression alight here before any potential redundancy can flare in. I ended up loving this record rather than just liking it after all, it can roll over on repeat for hours upon end and still entertain by sheer dynamism alone. Although there is yet plenty of room to improve upon this sound, I’d had too much of a good time letting it rip to walk away without some high praise. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Morbid Despotic Ritual
LABEL(S):Rotted Life Records
RELEASE DATE:May 28th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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