I’ve been waiting eagerly for the time when Sweden’s Mordbrand would release a full album’s worth of songs, and that day is finally approaching. After a string of well-regarded splits and EPs (most of which we’ve praised in reviews on this site), their debut album Imago is projected for release in late April by Deathgasm Records and Doomentia Records. One song from Imago has already premiered, and today we’re sharing with you a second one: “That Which Crawls”.
But first, a review of Imago.
If you’re a Swedish death metal addict, Imago is your fix. It is both steeped in the familiar musical traditions of the genre and enlivened by Mordbrand’s own creative twists and turns. If you think you’ve heard it all before, think again. Listening to Imago is like spending time with an old friend you thought you knew inside and out, and then being surprised by something you hadn’t noticed before.
Björn Larsson’s guitar and bass tone doesn’t sound as distorted and tuned down as many slavish adherents to the Left Hand Path or the Ever Flowing Stream, but it’s still capable of running over you and leaving tread marks on your spine. And in addition to crafting a wide assortment of riffs that chug like an out-of-control right train, gallop like a cavalry charge, or crawl like a reanimated rotted corpse, he has concocted a wondrous array of morbid melodies.
Even the fleeting appearances of the dark melody in the opener “Revelate” make the song a standout. The bleak guitar work in the slow doom crawler “Bastion of Blood” lends the song an air of something that is both bestial and majestic, an anthem infused with occult power. And “The Spawning (Born of Rot)” is just downright immense, with grinding riffs and a squalling solo that ultimately collapse into a grisly stagger.
Drummer Johan Rudberg must eat, sleep, and breathe this kind of music. He is equally adept at the d-beat, the rock beat, the double-bass roll, the martial snare pattern, and the galloping avalanche, not to mention a plethora of acrobatic fills. He doesn’t need to show off in order to add an extra element of noticeable vitality to each song. Along with the variety in Larsson’s riffs, he’s a big reason why each of the songs on this album has its own identity.
As for the vocals, they are simply outstanding. Some harsh, guttural vocalists manage to achieve the right level of horrifying bestiality, but over the course of a full album they become monotonous. Per Boder, whose pedigree goes back to God Macabre in the early 90s, is nothing like that. His tone and range are in constant motion, and constantly filled with extreme passion. It sounds like a demon host is inside him, each of whom must be heard.
What do you make of a Swedish death album whose title track is nothing like anything else on the record, something that begins with a shroud of static and a demented, meandering little melody, followed by a slow, crusty, sludgy riff? With distorted vocal samples, clean vocals, and guttural croaking? And a pulsating melody at the end that won’t come unstuck?
What do you make of an album that follows that with with an album closer (“Sever the Limbs That Grace”) which is both the most viciously attacking song and the most eerily atmospheric one yet? With clean choral vocals and a piano solo at the end?
As I said before, this is music made by people who are both steeped in the traditions and creative enough to put their own spin on things and keep you rooted in place from beginning to end. As good as everything else Mordbrand have done to date, it really did take an album-length collection of songs to achieve the effect of Imago. It is their triumph, and it really shouldn’t be missed by any true fan of Swedish death metal.
As noted at the outset, Imago is projected for release in late April, on CD via Deathgasm and on LP through Deathgasm/Doomentia. The stellar cover art is by the great Juanjo Castellano. The album features guest solo appearances by Eric Cutler (Autopsy) and CC Dekill (Gravehill) on the song “Their Name Are Myriads”, and members of Sweden’s Rite contribute guest vocals to “Bastion of Blood”.
And now, here’s “That Which Crawls”, followed by the previously released track, “Hoarding the Grotesque: