(DGR reviews the new fifth album by Finland’s Gloria Morti.)
There’s something to be said for setting extremely high expectations for a disc based off of the opening minute of your new album. Opening your new disc with a minute of Col. Kurtz’s (portrayed by Marlon Brando) monologue on the word “horror” from the film Apocalypse Now is certainly one way to do so. Gloria Morti’s mid-March new-album release Kuebiko does exactly that. I have to give it to the band, because in one aspect I actually haven’t heard that monologue used much in music before — though the band later use a sample in one song that I absolutely have heard before — and Kurtz’s ruminations on “what is….necessary” is one hell of a way to set a high bar for yourself when beginning a new album.
If you’ve been following NCS in the past few months, Gloria Morti’s name and cover art should actually be ringing a bit of a familiar bell with you, as we covered their release of the song “Foul Stench Of Vomiting Blood” and the video for the song “Execution” — as well as resident NCS guest bitter-person KevinP placing Kuebiko as one of his albums of the month for March. This review had been in the works before that, and there was a brief moment where I wondered if I should can it, as Kuebiko was by then well-represented on the site — but this is the sort of album that needs to be discussed, and what text we have dedicated to the disc doesn’t quite cut it. Because Kuebiko is one of few albums released this year that is relentlessly straightforward in its approach to death metal, the type that is so relentlessly singular in its gaze on its goal that you can’t help but enjoy it.
It has become a tradition in these past few years that I’ll find one album that is best described as a riff-based apocalypse. The sort of disc that is just built on piles upon piles of guitar sections — head-on buzzing guitar riffs that propel the music forward at a speed nearing annihilation. The sort of album for which white-knuckle adrenaline becomes the metric by which it is measured and that quickly becomes the baseline.
For a while, groups like Hate and their ilk were the providers of such sweet nourishment, as that brand of death metal was near thrash in its guitar playing, with quick-tempos galore, and the blast-beat battery behind it, whilst not the most creative thing in the world drumming-wise, fit perfectly for the music performed. More recently, it’s shockingly been two Unique Leader releases that took that flag, with 2014 going to The Kennedy Veil and 2015 going to Kronos.
These albums are the sorts that quickly become what I refer to as my “default disc”, ones that I put on because I know they move quick, are snappy and surgical enough to get in, land a few punches, and get out. They loan themselves to multiple repeats, and I’d be lying if I said you don’t just feel good after a couple runs with them.
Finland-based Gloria Morti’s brand is different, with the Finnish death metal influence obviously playing into their sound, but they’ve also been mixing it up in this fight for years — since the early 2000s, but certainly since the release of 2008’s Eryx. 2016’s Kuebiko comes in three and a half (nearly four) years after the group’s last release, 2012’s Lateral Constraint.
The time between Lateral Constraint and Kuebiko has done nothing to temper Gloria Morti’s sound. If anything, the group have gotten a bit darker and more intense since Lateral hit. Kuebiko seethes and ruminates on itself, more ominous than its predecessor was. There hasn’t been a massive shift in sound for the band — in fact, Eryx, Anthems Of Annihilation, Lateral Constraint, and Kuebiko all feel like exercises in pushing boundaries slightly in different directions, permutations on the same overall theme.
Gloria Morti still build their music out of a multitude of hefty guitar segments and atmospheric keyboard work, but it takes a bit longer for Kuebiko to even attempt to pretty it up a bit with a guitar melody/lead this time around. That doesn’t happen until track four, the monolithic entity known as “Chimeral Form”. Of course, the presence of multiple tracks dealing with death, opening the disc with Brando’s Apocalypse Now speech in the song “Syntyma”, and using that to then kick into a heavy-as-hell intro track, and the presence of a song named “Josef Fritzl” (named for a case in Austria that can best be described as “humanity can’t extinguish itself fast enough”) should’ve tipped you off that Gloria Morti are drawing from a very dark place for much of Kuebiko.
“Syntyma”, “Foul Stench”, and “Josef Fritzl” all make up what feels like an unintentional ordering of acts across Kuebiko. Gloria Morti develop a system on this disc that consists of three all-out assaults, a quick breather, and then the commencement of the assault again. In this case, there’s a bit of a breather — also the first time when some ambient keywork makes itself really prevalent — in the haunting chant that opens “Chimeral Form”. Those first three songs, though, are all flame and fury and (as I mentioned, one of my reasons for enjoying this music) just a world-ending battery on drums, like rail guns pockmarking the surface, one after the other.
The fact that there are nine songs loans itself to the idea that you could split Kuebiko into three groups, with the mid-section having moodier, slower intros and the last three being the most “death metal” songs on the disc from the get-go. I focus on the intros of these songs so much because most of the album finds its groove fairly early on, and that is a foundation for stacks and stacks of quick-moving guitar riffs, often catchier than hell, with vocalist Psycho’s mid-low rumble just barking out lyrics as quickly as the drummer is moving.
“Death By A Thousand Cuts (Lingchi)” is actually a great example of this, as the guitar moves through a catchy-as-hell riff, and the band is just rifling off quick start/stop segments behind it — especially the vocals, as they yell one word (“Lingchi!”), pause, and then quickly splatter out more gore in the listener’s face. “Case No. 1102162” probably features the most prominent and quick-moving keyboard work in the background, continuing the theme of many of the songs on Kuebiko as slight alterations on an overall similar structure.
However, this is also part of the reason why I enjoy Kuebiko so much: Gloria Morti have found a heavy-as-hell take on their sound in the time between Lateral Constraint and now, and although that too is similar — very much an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach — it is one that the band makes work. Kuebiko moves so goddamned quick, both in terms of tempo and overall run-time, that you can often just leave the band’s soundtrack to warfare on constant repeat and it is still like a functional shot of adrenaline with each song that comes on, movie sample and all.
Case in point: “Executioner” starts with a movie sample, but the moment that song kicks in, you want to destroy everything in sight, even if the build-up is something that as a long-time music listener you start to recognize from miles off. That guitar melody is just so goddamned crushing that you can’t help but have a neck-snapping headbang response to it.
That said, we owe a minor shoutout to the song “Termination of All Bonds”, which is the official standard bearer for buzzing, chainsaw guitars as the DEATH METAL song on the disc, and also a hell of a closer. They even go for a classic rock ending of everyone railing on their instruments to close things out. It is also the longest track on Kuebiko, coming in at an epic twelve minutes that manages to make the time fly.
You even get a somewhat familiar sample, “In a world gone mad, a man could kill from sun-up to sunset, and still his work would never be done”, which should bring a quick smirk of recognition to anyone who has crossed paths with The Breathing Process and their disc Odyssey (un)Dead, because they used that same monologue to open up the whole album. The fact that “Termination” then moves into a slow grinder of a riff, part breakdown, part chug-heavy death metal groove, is a huge bonus.
“Termination” is an event at the end of a pretty hefty battering of music on this album. It’s like the band somehow managed to have a bunch of stuff left — which is insane to say, considering how much is in each song — and they decided to pack it all into “Termination”, making it have multiple movements in its own right, multiple catchy-as-hell melodies, grooves, and tempo changes that are quick as neck breaks.
Kuebiko is a dark and moody affair of a quick-moving death metal disc. A strange thing to say now that you see it in writing, but Gloria Morti’s particular obsession with murder and death draw from a particularly gruesome well for inspiration, producing an album that is a swirling vortex of music but at the same time grimly focused on the wrong that humanity can do to itself. The nine songs here are heavy as can be, not just from a musical standpoint but also in terms of subject matter — yet the fast-moving rush of music can win a listener over time and time again.
As I mentioned way back in ye olden days of the beginning of this review, Kuebiko is the sort of album that can quickly become a default listen. The “I need something and I need something NOW” sort of disc that can fill a music listener’s indecision gap like nothing else can, perfect for a massive wall of music that is surgical in its approach, gets in quick, and gets out just as fast, pulling off difficult stunts like making twelve minutes fly by in their last song like the snap of a finger — and then looping back into the apocalypse just as quickly as the disc comes back around for another pass.