MORBIFIC – Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm (2022)REVIEW

Kitee, Finland slopped ‘old school’ death metal trio Morbific want to turn you away at the door, they know you’re gonna get sick eating their grub and the taste just isn’t for you. But you kept asking for it anyhow, right? They knew it is only a matter of time ’til you doubled over, with a dizzying rush of blood to the head, and puked up what you were just served by filthiest hands only to discover it didn’t just taste old and rotten but it was in fact milled from the husks of dried maggots and dead flies collected from a well-snacked on corpse of unknown basement or garage-adjacent origin. The old, crumbly meatus of their second album, ‘Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm‘, depends heavily upon this ability to concoct and execute a feeling of uncanny spiritual malaise, a spitting and spiteful sort of offal-packed revulsion which allows its lasting taste to stick in mind and continue to repulse with bodily hunger… otherwise they’d probably just be considered another classics-touched death metal band, reaping a bit of the post-‘Symphonies of Sickness‘ imbibe/expurse of the North American and Scandinavian greats of old. Well, to be fair that is more-or-less what they’re doing here but that doesn’t make the scraggly, nutso slummin’ boil and burst of this record any less of a good time.

It was clear what Morbific were after from the get-go as their first demo (‘Pestilent Hordes‘, 2020) clearly had some fascination for the style of late 80’s horror death metal most folks have long associated with Autopsy (in this case, think ‘Acts of the Unspeakable‘), certain Rottrevore releases (alternately, early Grave), and the clunking homebrew of Mortician and Impetigo. The modern equivalency of this style is probably Undergang these days who’ve several far less interesting crews festering beneath their hype bubble, slurping up crumbs and hair. Anyhow, it was a massive demo that’d been uncannily well-done for a first shot at it from young folks and this naturally pricked the ears of many including dude at Headsplit Records who put out their debut LP (‘Ominous Seep of Putridity‘, 2021) as it was quickly readied. It sounded like shit, inadvisable fucking filth, but in the best way possible as the band had honed their rhythms a bit, nailed the more doomed sections of their songwriting, and included eerie leads which arguably spoke to some semi-prime Scandinavian death metal markers (think ‘Silence of the Centuries‘) while keeping it brutal. It was a great first-ish impression and an appreciably underground release, brilliantly authentic, simply presented and void of any particularly original ideas. This sort of stubbornness typically comes from an earnest point of fandom and in this sense I cannot help but appreciate Morbific for sticking to the big guns they’d propped up for album number one and expanding upon that core idea in a steady way for album number two.

Mental horrors, surrealistic pleasures, radioactive failures. — Stepping into the opener/title track of ‘Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm‘ reveals a tempered quasi-production value applied to the drums this time, the nuclear overdrive on the bass fizzing in the ear like a parasite chittering, and plenty more distortion coming from the guitars which aren’t completely mud-tuned but intent on generating slightly more shapely muck than the previous album. It gives the album a bit more power but still a caustic garage-bound frown fest a la Anthropophagous (alternately, Dipygus‘ first record) and I’m up for it, even if we do basically experience the bass guitar as a solely fundamental tone with some Geiger counter buzzing on top. Though I can’t confirm the exact output of the guitar tone, there is a marriage of hard-clipping overdrive, distortion and well, however they’ve shaped it the result hangs low and sweaty when grooves do pull up into their stomping, typically mid-paced gallop along riffs. None of this cult underground sound design preference’d be all that forgivable if it didn’t actually accentuate their style, which definitely delivers rhythmic interest to the same high standard of the previous album, willing together scribbled-in circular rants of left-hand technique dominated wiggle and plenty of chugged at grooves by force. Some folks will appreciate the barbarity and scuzz of it all and get hung up on the muss to start but there are a few songs that stand out within the tunnel-of-gore ride Morbific are touting here.

Morbific start catching me off guard within the death/doom metal leaning midst of “Suicide Sanctum” and the horror ambient/bass instrumental which divides the album’s length in two. More and more groups are designing their running order around the two-sided formats lately and no doubt the death metal genre as a whole has really benefitted from knowing when to take a break, and to not pack the damned album with all the rippers up front. This means the kick-off to Side B, “Meth Mansion Murders” hits that much harder as it hocks a huge riff and blasts through. You’re getting a similar dynamic to the first half at that point, two big hitters outright before stuff gets proper weird again in the second half of my favorite track of the lot, “Pathogenic Injection”, a fairly straightforward set of riffs to start which showcase just how over the top Morbific are by design while also making good use of their horror-atmospheric vibe, which keeps it all from fumbling up demo-level chunder. They’ve generally overstated themselves at that point, the riff ideas have gone a bit cold and the album is about five minutes too long at ~38 minutes but I can’t fault ‘Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm‘ for being too much, that is kinda their gig thus far.

It goes without saying that Morbific are the wheel, they are craftsmen working out their own ripples within an already perfect design. In this case they’ve dressed it up with corpses and shit but they’re not reinventing a damned thing, nor are they exploring more than their own taste in gory, brutal and fucked up deep underground late 80’s/early 90’s death metal. Of course those origins are still just as potent as they were ~35 years ago for my own taste, if that era still manages to be some of your favorite stuff within the sub-genre then you’ll be on the same page with ‘Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm‘ throughout. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm
LABEL(S):Memento Mori,
Me Saco Un Ojo
RELEASE DATE:October 24th, 2022

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