Musmahhu – Reign Of The Odious Review

So-called prolific artists, at least within the scope of heavy metal, tend to fall into the dime-a-dozen category, often releasing large bodies of work but with very little actual quality to be found within. This requires a lot of legwork and listening to mediocre-to-outright boring music just to find something worth it’s time. As with any rule, however, there are exceptions. And Sweden’s black metal savant Swartadauþuz (Bekëth Nexëhmü, Azelisassath, Svartrit) is a shining example of such an exception, having composed, recorded, and released countless demos, EPs, and albums in the last decade, usually under the banner of his own Ancient Records/Mysticism Productions. There is a certain level of quality consistent throughout the catalogue that makes exploring it an engaging experience and not a chore in the slightest.

Release date: Jan 18, 2018. Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Late last year, Swartadauþuz debuted a new project named after the seven-mouthed serpent from Sumerian mythology, Musmahhu, with the Formulas Of Rotten Death EP. This marked a few unusualities in his typical approach. Firstly, the EP (and album in which you probably wish I would just jump ahead to) was released on Iron Bonehead instead of a part of the Ancient Records catalogue, and secondly it is the first we’ve heard of Swartadauþuz doing pure death metal. While some of his projects have dabbled into the realms of black/death with bands like Demonomantic or Summum, it turns out the black metal wunderkind brings equal levels of veracity and quality when playing in the fires of death, and the EP serves as a teaser to the full fruition of Musmahhu on debut album Reign Of The Odious.

An ominous reverse sample creeps its way through the speakers. Then, without warning, “Apocalyptic Brigade” flings it’s serrated hooks from the darkness and drags its victim deep into its twisted world of terror. Instantly noticeable on this journey through hells unknown is the almost ridiculously modern production, which, to be fair, is a signature trait of Swartadauþuz. Rather than relying on haphazard production to add character to the music, the production is domineered with sadomasochistic control. Sterility is often a negative term, but in this case it’s the sterility of a surgical scalpel, gleaming in the florescent lights of the morgue as the first cut glides through cold flesh, opening the abyss that pulls its prey into the guts. The tremolo riffs swirl around the churning, steady pacing of the drums in a doom-laden groove before opening up into all-out death metal fury. The leads aren’t so much leads as they are controlled noise, screeching and wailing their way over the seemingly bottomless maw of low end. Swartadauþuz’s obsession with control is apparent here as well, as on repeat listens it becomes quite evident that there is method to the racket; the cries of feedback are crafted into subtle yet memorable hooks.

The leads aren’t always as noisey, but they do play a large part in creating the atmosphere that is so key to Reign Of The Odious. On “Musmahhu, Rise” there are moments of haunting, spaced out arpeggios that lie beneath the thunderous riffing like shadows in the dark. There’s an almost epic feel at play here as Musmahhu does indeed feel like it’s rising above the weak, feeble masses in a display of the complete and total power of an unearthly monstrosity. The rhythm section bulges with might, locking into the groove like the inescapable constraint of an anaconda the size of an oil pipeline.

The onslaught doesn’t relent until a relatively shorter, atmospheric passage on “Burning Winds Of Purgatory (Mellanspel)” that ends with an unexpected, almost melodeath riff at the end, making for a refreshing take on what would have otherwise been written off as an interlude. The first, rare sense of disappointment hits; as spectacular as the riffing is, it feels odd for it to drop off the way it does. It does, however, serve its master’s will in opening the second half of the album.

The title track lurks its way in, building and pulsing before dropping into a lurking bit of doom as it coils before striking out with sinister precision. Taking advantage of its existence as a studio project, Musmahhu layer on plenty of effects and production tricks (the blood-curdling shrieks that pan over the midsection of this track being a particularly enjoyable surprise) that drip like virulent venom over the body of the beast, continuing its merciless assault of riffing. Another nod to the melodic death of Swartadauþuz’s home country develops in the final track, and the slightly awkward interlude from the middle of the album begins to make sense. “Thirsting For Life’s Vengeance” fully harnesses control of the melodic riffs, this time striking straight for the kill like a cunning predator who will not make the same mistake twice.

Needless to say, Musmahhu’s Reign Of The Odious only strengthens the confidence to be had in Swartadauþuz’s ability to deliver. The man simply understands extreme metal, and has a way of adapting the core of a style and distinctly making it his own. Not only this, but to do so in a way that also always, always sounds distinctly like Swartadauþuz is no easy feat. Not only does Reign Of The Odious shine as an instant highlight among his work, but among the neverending slew of death metal at large as well, demanding submission before the almighty Musmahhu.

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

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