MORBUS GRAVE – Lurking Into Absurdity (2022)REVIEW

First a curse and then the corpse… stirring beneath, given muscle by necromantic magick, begins cracking back to life. The wait has been long, the spellcaster dead, and the soil compacted by eons of trample but now that the skeletal fist of Morbus Grave crashes through, our doomed world grows darker yet. Within the marbled catacombs of Milan, Italy the sound of bones rattling fills the air with terror, or, a specific clattering dread achievable only within the strictured planes of ‘old school’ death metal fanaticism. These vaguest tenets of horror-and-thrashing action drives ‘Lurking Into Absurdity‘ to kill, sending a targeted spike through the minds of those happily mired in ancient, rotten late 80’s craft. A blunt and monstrous strike to the dome entirely meant for those truly obsessed with ancient tradition ensues.

Morbus Grave formed with ancient death metal intent circa 2010 between (Black Oath, Gosforth) and vocalist Erman, whom Razorback Records fans will remember as the vocalist for Sepulcral. This initial line-up would only last a few years before Erman would take over, tasking Funest frontman Maso Alastor and Necro drummer Pide Guts with the realization of those earliest ideas. The result was the 2015 recorded ‘Throne of Disgust‘ (2016), a well received demo tape very clear in its intent to tribute the early death metal ways, a nowadays perspective inclusive of both 80’s North American impetus and early 90’s Scandinavian death metal with a bit of thrashing madness still in mind. In my mind what they were doing was yet a few generations beyond the revivalist works of groups like Repugnant, a late 80’s death metal sound focused on the modest tunefulness and ex-thrasher aggression of early death metal rhythms. It is “Death metal influenced death metal” sure to please fans of Autopsy, Sadistic Intent, (early) Merciless, Death and the well-known modern analogues for their early horror death metal simplicity.

From the outside looking in it’d seemed Morbus Grave were very much a side project that’d traded hands, had its inaugural moment, and then quickly receded on the priority list until about 2018 wherein we’d get two demo tapes in the form of ‘Awakening of the Dead‘ (2019) and ‘Abomination‘ (2019) alongside a demo compilation within the same year. They’d clearly picked the material back up and went for it at that point and with mixed results from my point of view, the sound and style achieving its old yet not-so regionally bound identity without providing songs and/or riffs that’d yanked me in for a deeper listen at the time. After what’d likely been some manner of pandemic related delay, the band would eventually release a promotional demo in 2021 leading up to ‘Lurking Into Absurdity‘, reflecting what sounded like the pre-production versions of two early tracks from the album, a bit more energy than the previous tape but another consistent brick in the wall of expectations built for this full-length. When I suggest there are only a few surprises here on this debut it isn’t a slight as such, but a compliment to a band that’d choose to prime their fandom with exactly what’d been promised since the mid-2010’s, pure and cult-thrashing death metal.

But to be clear, that is all that this record is: A rhythmic revival of early death metal tunefulness focused on barbaric (read: punkish) interplay and songcraft which dynamically reaches only a few feet beyond post-‘Reign in Blood‘ death/thrash metal fare unto ‘Severed Survival‘ slow-grinds, a feat of buzzed-out four riffs per minute action. None of it will catch the ear of exaggerated sound design hounds or ex-metalcore eared folks who want a cartoon version of 80’s death metal per the usual chug-hunger today, but only because Morbus Grave write songs in the key of horror and death for effect, an ancient form of dark, doomed, and rabid music which just happens to read as death metal in its default position. The highest compliment I could give a band like this is the tag of ‘evil heavy metal’ rather than the corporate binned tag of tentative “death metal” per its commodified understanding today.

With this in mind we can stumble along the cemetery grounds, tripping on the wet moss of debut-era Master-esque album opener “The Curse/Cerebral Cremation” to start, a piece which introduces us to the fog-hidden crypt and the shambling mayhem within first by way of a slow tri-tonal approach and soon ripping through frantically finger-biting and brain-hungered thrashing death metal riffs. The pace modulation on hand isn’t perfect, almost presenting with the aggression of a too-hot rehearsal space as they fade in and out of fairly simple progressions that speed and bulge into rest as the song ends. There is a bounding, elastic quality to the rhythm guitar tone and its stabbing at the riff, a deliberately blunt instrument which side-steps brutality for the sake of a raw agility Morbus Grave‘s guitarists have always lead with. To start (as in “Morbid Darkness”) this means plenty of what I’d consider Eric Cutler inspired rhythms in terms of how they present and evolve in the space of each song and this bleeds heavier into view as we touch upon the eponymous track. By the time “Traumatic Malignity” storms in to punctuate Side A, or, the first half it we’ve essentially learned the language of these guitarists in terms of quite simple, readable riffs structured in quick succession and predictable counts.

The second half of ‘Lurking Into Absurdity‘ doesn’t necessarily stray from the general dynamic of slower movements contrasted with faster, excitable jogs out and this’d be my only real complaint overall. Though I understand keeping it simple is a stylistic choice the sandwiching of ‘South of Heaven‘-level slow-grinding riffs with a faster section in between becomes predictable, and I guess even if a song like “Profaner” is brilliantly intense it feels like another in a short line of similar pieces. That said, the full listen finishes strong and counteracts my comments by butting up a faster, energized piece in the title track and then leans out with perhaps the best song on the record “Horrors From the Unknown”, which almost appears out of step with the rest of ‘Lurking Into Absurdity‘ for the sake of its eerie, elaborately atmospheric stretch this side of Sarcasm (Sweden), at least when they touch upon doom in a similar way. There might be some precedence in older songs (“Descent Into Dark Abyss”) in their discography but this finale had really stood out, captivating my thoughts well enough to revisit this record several times.

The major difference between what Morbus Grave do on this debut album and what we find most often today in the realm of ‘old school’ death metal is deliver more than aesthetic treatment of the sub-genre, ejecting bloodied and morbid songs rather than half-hearted implications of style. ‘Lurking Into Absurdity‘ will read as pure, old and ugly death metal without needing extra qualifiers or suggestion beyond the music itself. This might land a bit plain for some, and for sure some variation on their patternation would be welcomed, but I’ve found it to be an inspired if not mild-tempered study of the core appeal of earliest death metal. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (78/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Lurking Into Absurdity
LABEL(S):Chaos Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

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