I’ve developed a habit through years of experience, much like Pavlov’s dog was trained to salivate at the sound of the bell: When I learn that Sweden’s Mordbrand have released new music, I drop what I’m doing and hungrily scamper over to the music player to listen. This happened yesterday when, without advance warning, a new Mordbrand EP popped up on Bandcamp. The name of it is In Nighted Waters.
This new EP is actually the Mordbrand half of a split LP with California’s Gravehill, which will be released in the U.S. by Doomentia and is now available in Sweden via Carnal Records. It includes four original songs and a cover of “Compost Christ” by Bluuurgh… (rearranged by Mordbrand and including guest vocals by Mike Abominator (Necronizer, ex-Gravehill).
I’ve developed that Pavlovian response because among all the current purveyors of Swedish death metal, Mordbrand have consistently been among the very best. It’s true that I have a crippling weakness for this genre of music to begin with, but I like to think that I still have enough objectivity to separate the wheat from chaff. Mordbrand stand out because they not only deliver the fundamentals of this venerable brand of death metal like the veterans they are, they also have a flair for infusing it with fresh vitality. This new EP is a great example of their talents.
The EP is mainly an up-tempo affair, with a generally cantering, rampaging pace — though the last two tracks in particular mix in some lumbering, crushing stomps. But although the pacing is generally consistent, the songs are loaded with constantly varying, attention-grabbing drum rhythms and fills. Even in just the first song, you get a flavor of the punk antecedents of Swedish death as well as an almost dancing kind of beat, and elsewhere there’s acrobatic somersaulting and tumbling as well as blasting and high-octane, piston-driven propulsion. Johan Rudberg is really very, very good.
So is vocalist Per Boder (God Macabre), but I guess every death metal addict knows that by now. He’s one of the most vibrant, impassioned, and frightful death metal vocalists around, and he really puts on a show here, with a display of dynamic growls and protracted wolfish howls that are both bestial and tyrannical.
But as very strong as those two performers are, the third member of this triumvirate, Björn Larsson, deserves perhaps the deepest bow of appreciation. In addition to contributing a lively, bounding bass performance that goes well beyond providing a deep, rhythmic pulse, his guitar work is magnetic. With significant use of buzzing tremolo chords (with that delicious sawing tone) and needling, insectile leads, he casts a morbid and sinister shadow over the music, and at the same time laces these destructive tracks with melodic hooks that make them very catchy — maybe not as prominently as in old At the Gates, for example, but close.
Some of the accents he added on top of all the killer riffs stood out to me in particular — the very cool, wraithlike guitar solo in “Cold Womb” and the high, piercing guitar motif that resembles the pealing of a bell over the very infectious measure of battering that loops through the closing part of “Where Existence Is Null”.
In a nutshell, Mordbrand have come through again, as seemingly dependable as the setting of the sun, once again putting evil grins on the faces of the death metal faithful. Thank you, sirs.
In Nighted Waters was mixed by D. Beckman and Björn Larsson, mastered by Beckman, and features cover art by the masterful Timo Ketola. It’s available now on Bandcamp:
In other Mordbrand news, the band are nearing the completion of the writing process for their second album.