Monday, May 5, 2014

Morbus Chron - Sweven

You may remember Morbus Chron as the band with the coolest death metal album cover you've ever seen (their 2011 release Sleepers in the Rift). Well, a couple months ago they released their sophomore full-length, Sweven. I was less excited about the cover art this time around, but I recently decided to check it out anyway.

Typically the phrase "old-school Swedish death metal" comes with such an clear and specific collection of baggage that it's barely even worth describing the record beyond that. You basically just imagine Left Hand Path  with a different band name on the cover, and you move on with your day. Oddly, though, that's not the case here at all. The obvious question, of course, is "If this doesn't sound like Entombed then why are you calling it old-school Swedish death metal, you idiot?" Many have called it progressive death metal, which owing to the somewhat Opethian nature of a couple tracks may well be a better name for it. Honestly, I label it as I do because as soon as I heard this a very specific release came immediately to mind. It's my considered opinion that Gorement's lone full-length release, 1994's The Ending Quest, is perhaps the most criminally unknown death metal album of all time. It is also a strong contender for the best Swedish death metal album ever released. Its mystical, gorgeous, atmospheric, yet still purely heavy old-school death metal sound was unlike any other album I'd ever heard. That is, until I played Sweven.

This album is everything I've been searching for in the years since I first heard that brilliant effort by Morbus Chron's countrymen. This is a beautifully soothing release, but it's still definitely death metal. I didn't bang my head when I heard this, but I did lean back with my eyes closed and blissfully soak it in like a dry sponge. I'm not going to sit and dissect the individual instrumental and vocal performances, the writing style, or the production on this record. Suffice it to say that everything does exactly what it should. The important thing is that everything works so perfectly together that the result is a beautifully balanced and compelling effort which has left me in a state of pure ecstasy.

Not two weeks ago I listened to the new Triptykon release and thought it was going to be a virtual shoe-in come December for the best metal album of the year. Unbelievably, Morbus Chron have already managed to wrest front-runner status away from the Swiss colossus.

This record is smooth and relatively mellow with a few purely instrumental tracks and some softly atmospheric intros, so people who really like their metal to pound the shit out of them probably won't enjoy it as much as I did. Personally, though, I almost instantly fell in love with Sweven.

"Chains" is the standout track in my opinion, but I couldn't get it to work on here for some reason. Instead, here's one of the slower, more progressive songs "It Stretches in the Hollow".

Grade: A