HIBERNUS MORTIS – The Monoliths of Cursed Slumber (2022)REVIEW

Though Hialeah, Florida-based death metal quartet Hibernus Mortis formed in the mid-to-late 90’s and released three very limited recordings in the space of about four years, including a debut full-length (‘The Existing Realms of Perpetual Sorrow‘, 2002) none of this has been made available digitally on an official basis since then. That documentation should exist, reissue or otherwise. This makes it somewhat more difficult to build context in examination of their discography though I am familiar with their early due to a mid-2000’s boon in online rare/out of print death metal album focused communities. Needless to say it was a fine enough underground death metal record for its time and place, hitting upon the type of sludge-heavy Incantation-esque sound of the era while featuring some moshable Grave influenced rhythms and, well, the big criticism most would carry for it over the years was a somewhat unfocused approach, it’d nonetheless been a standard riff-heavy pure death metal release. What stood out most in retrospective analysis of these folks’ first era was that they were fans of the global death metal reality and that meant developing a sound influenced by a hint of every continent touched by death metal in the 90’s.

The Monoliths of Cursed Slumber‘ reflects the hall-shaking brutal bulldoze of that original 1996-2006 era of the band but instead of kicking into moshable riffs this time around they’ve generally leaned into slower, steadier atmospheric dirges. It makes for an undeniably heavy, menacing and doomed second full-length which has been a long time coming. That said, don’t go into this latest Hibernus Mortis deal thinking they are anything but a classic death metal band, sure they’re better musicians and the art/sound design is exactly on point but you’re only just getting a best-yet version of it. Those seeking outrageous non-metal influences, trendy hardcore twerp shit, or even any sort of progressive-tech floundering won’t find it on this one but rather a band in similar spiritus to Disma or Drawn and Quartered. You will notice an Eldritch horror scene set by some keyboards on the bookends of the record and a plenty of serpentine death metal brutality otherwise. In plainest terms, this is a straightforward yet still personalized death metal release from a band few people outside of late 90’s Florida have a huge reason to remember going in.

Though not every riff on this record is a keeper (see: “Ascending the Catacombs”) if we consider the slow-wane of death metal authorship beyond 1995 a naturally rarified, non-competitive space all of the work from these guitarists lands with purpose and in phrase, developed in cavernous and downtuned slurry of brutal yet patiently pummeled rhythmic churn. The reverb on the vocals echoes downward, ducking the higher register of the guitar so that every lyric siphons toward to a mid-chest point with the drummer’s most blast-paced moments acting as their gravitational locus. This sort of cacophonic sound design lends itself well to what has long been the dynamic of Hibernus Mortis, a previously dual-vocal group that’d often emphasize interplay between slow-bruised riffs and punishing heaviness at a solid clip. We find three excellent examples of this up front on the full listen starting with “Endless Dawns Of Somnambulant Exorcisms” in natural waxing and waning movements and then “To Drink the Blood of the Black Sheep” which features their faster, heavier nodes with a bit of church bell ringing in the distance for good measure. By easing off the gas pedal in some respects while keeping the drums at subterranean anchor ‘The Monoliths of Cursed Slumber‘ achieves the atmospheric values which’d escaped the band to some degree on their now very distant previous record.

Over on Side B “Vomitous Imperium” kicks off what’d end up being my favorite section of the full listen, starting with a deformed Immolation-esque treatment of death-thrashing, oddly phrased rhythms and a simple yet memorable chorus before leading into the fleshed and violent “Enshrined In Spiritual Atrophy” which slowly ebbs into Finnish death morbidity. From that point on we hit a big doom metal riff or two (“Invocations of Never”) and the record is basically finished ripping through its running order in just under forty minutes. I wouldn’t say the full listen is uneventful so much as straightforward, readable, and no less impressive for the steadiness with which Hibernus Mortis present a smarter and more evolved version of themselves. Though I’d found a couple of undeniably great songs on here there wasn’t any one point where they’d broken character and blew my mind, or presented some eccentric insight into their craft beyond this very natural concoction. The listening experience is undeniably above-average though the full listen leaves me grasping for a reason to bump space on my shelf for it beyond solid riffs and a brilliant cover image. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:The Monoliths of Cursed Slumber
LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records
RELEASE DATE:November 25th, 2022

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