There are plenty of adjectives in death metal these days. Progressive, technical, cavernous, blackened, atmospheric… And that’s all well and good, of course – it’s helpful to people like me trying to describe a record to people like you. But there’s also something to be said for adjective-free death metal and the bands that make it.
Bands like, for example, Morgoth.
Last year, the reformed Morgoth’s two-song God Is Evil single was a too-short tease – those twin tunes picked up where the band stood after their first album, the underrated Cursed. Those were “old school,” as you’d imagine from a band that originated from the first wave, when that particular school was new, but they were updated enough to keep them from wallowing in the past. Both “God Is Evil” and “Die As Deceiver” were extensions of the straight-ahead death metal that Morgoth brought back then, before Odium went progressive and the oft-maligned-but-undervalued Feel Sorry For The Fanatic went industrial. Like Morgoth circa Cursed, God Is Evil fell into a middle ground between Obituary and Leprosy-era Death – unexpectedly Floridian, given Morgoth’s German origin – buoyed by Marc Grewe’s seemingly ageless vomitous growl.
Now, less than a year later, Grewe is gone – the band parting ways with him over artistic concerns, leaving only guitarists Harald Busse and Sebastian Swart remaining from the debut. Considering how important Grewe’s Schuldiner-meets-Tardy tone was to Morgoth’s overall sound, his absence is concerning, certainly, but by the first verse of the first track, all worries are gone. New vocalist Karsten “Jagger” Jäger fills the role perfectly, his growl a bit more bellowing, and yet still close enough to Grewe’s to make the transition seamless.
Also from that first track, it’s obvious that all of Morgoth isn’t messing around – this is their return, both literally and figuratively to their earlier form, and they’re going to make that count. All throughout Ungod, the riffs alternate between the chunky and the melodic, the latter in the sense of an Amon Amarth or a Dismember – this is the amped-up thrash-based death metal that grooved, and also that happens to have melody entwined within the riffs, not within the leads a la Gothenburg-ish melodeath. “House Of Blood” welcomes you – expertly, as mentioned – and the point is hammered home through “Voice Of Slumber” and the absolutely crushing “Snakestate.” There’s a repeat of “God Is Evil,” with Jagger’s vocals now, equal to the Grewe-fronted version from last year, if you’re interested in juxtaposing the two. The title track and the closing number “The Dark Sleep” are both instrumental, and the former is especially stellar.
As reviewers go, I know I’m often the one looking backwards, calling attention to some leftover band or some overlooked record. And here I go again, except this one is the former, releasing a new album that I’m hoping won’t one day fall into that latter category. But these old dogs brought new music that brings new life, and here’s Morgoth with their first record that hits this hard since their first. Morgoth is a band that’s undergone changes throughout its entire existence, but here they are again, different than before, but one thing is certain: Ungod is adjective-free, straight-up death metal, and it’s damned good. What else do you need?