Ah, Finland. A land known for all the finer things metal. And recently, a pretty surprising crop of young hockey stars. In 2015, the fine drinking water of Finland produced Morbid Evils, a project put together by Keijo Niinimaa of Rotten Sound. Their debut LP, In Hate With the Burning World, saw a band exploring down-tuned, down-tempo doom with melancholy forebodings of the eminent destruction to come. That album had grimy production, slick with fuzz and fully cohesive with the overarching feel of sludge. In fact, In Hate With the Burning World more than whet our appetite for the future of this gnarly little outfit.
Now it’s 2017 and Morbid Evils is about to drop their second full-length, Deceases. More thematically consistent than their prior work, Deceases follows a series of musical case studies in the relatively grim subject of death. The album hangs heavy with thick guitars, curdling screams and didactic, earth-shattering drums. It takes the drone aspect of their composition to an apex and then hurls it off a cliff into a churning abyss of lava, excrement and soiled bed linens. The idea is to suffocate the listener through compositionally complementary production. To achieve this effect, the album was actually recorded onto tape and then mixed (by Pelle Henricsson). And it works. Consider James Cameron’s Abyss where scientists are forced to breathe a pinkish, thick liquid rather than the air that we are all used to. That’s what listening to Deceases feels like. Except, the liquid is thicker. More akin to the “river of slime” that reacts to human emotion in Ghostbusters II. But enough analogies.
Release date: August 25, 2017
Label: Svart Records
Deceases plays as though it’s a live album. Tracks bleed into each other using feedback or other audio tricks to connect the dots. There’s no separation between the instruments. Each track feels rounded at the edges, corralling all the musicianship within making for a complete experience free of any distractions or inconsistencies in production. And that’s a very successful tool to have in your chest for this style of music.
Ghostface Killah might try to convince you that there are 12 Reasons to Die. Other artists like Snoop Dogg or Cutty Ranks might agree with Morbid Evils and implore you to choose one of six ways to die. Ironically, perhaps the worst method of death provides the best composition on the album. For those who are unfamiliar Abacination is a method by which the subject of torture is blinded using red-hot pokers. While that might not sound like a delightful evening, the related track, “Abacinated and Blind” is as close to perfection as Morbid Evils have flown during their career. Utilizing a pulsing, rhythmic riff overlaying sparse-but-precise drumming, it’s an enthralling listen. Effectively blending sludge and drone, it’s hypnotizing and emotional, tugging at the listener to bend closer and open those eyes wide.
Alternately, “Evaporate” (an odd method of death) reveals the drawbacks still present in the Morbid Evils composition formula. While achieving sincere heft, the blend of instruments sounds like a tsunami pragmatically approaching a garage full of running 18-wheelers, the track fails to provide an enthralling experience. The best riff of the track resides in the middle of the track, accompanied by some subtle keyboard ambiance, but is bookended by sections that feel overly generic and bereft of independence.
“Tumour,” which follows “Evaporate,” is an example of another success. When the track is at it’s finest, riffs collide with the speakers like heated sledgehammers pounding a cold anvil. Vocals tear through with the power to cut metal. It’s the general pacing is what makes the track successful (not surprisingly it is pacing that assists “Abacinated and Blind” as well). The ability to write driving compositions that repeat themselves and fold in on each other like phyllo dough, is an art. An art that Morbid Evils is successful at more than they are not. Thankfully, there are more than two solid examples of this ability on Deceases.
There is enough throughout Deceases to make it worthy. The album is sonically heavier than a submarine’s sonar system. But, like so many doomy sludge albums, it’s difficult for the bands to edit their approach to provide a consistently engaging and mesmerizing experience. Morbid Evils comes rather close on Deceases and certainly provides a step forward from In Hate With the Burning World. There’s still room for them to climb, and hopefully on their third effort the vision matches the output. Because the talent is there.
Cover art: “Tukala Pietari” by Jerker Ramberg