Bands that can adhere to a certain sound for their entire careers, as long as they make good music, are to be commended for sticking to their guns. At the same time, bands that choose to expand beyond rigid boundaries and really explore what is out there to take their music to the next level are the ones that I find the most interesting.
We’ve heard Voivod explore all over the cosmos to season their apocalyptic thrash metal, Nachtmystium step away from black metal to go into areas like psychedelic rock and industrial (admittedly to mixed results), Oranssi Pazuzu create black metal that’ll melt your mind with all of its added influences, and Tom G. Warrior has pushed the limits of extreme metal with the sadly deceased Celtic Frost and his new band Triptykon to form sounds that are downright unclassifiable because no musicians had done it before. Those bands taking risks resulted in records more interesting than what their peers were doing, and even if they hit a wall with what they created, and you at least could give them points for trying something out of their comfort.
We’re seeing all of this again with Swedish death metal band Morbus Chron, who never did things normally or by the books anyway, but who really have gone off the deep end with the excellent, ground-shattering new record “Sweven.” This is the band’s first record in three years (their debut “Sleepers in the Rift” was released by Pulverised) and their debut full-length for indie giant Century Media, the perfect place for these guys to expand their audience, which they richly deserve. The meaning of the album title is a sort of dream or vision, and sitting down and immersing yourself fully in this record certainly could have you seeing shadows on the wall. It is trippy, psychedelic, and worlds more interesting than what most modern death metal bands are doing, putting them in the category of innovator rather than follower. The songs are musically ambitious and stimulating, and no matter how many times you hear this record, you will notice something you didn’t on previous visits.
Morbus Chron are comprised of vocalist/guitarist Robert Andersson, guitarist/vocalist Edvin Aftonfalk, bassist Dag Landin, and drummer Adam Lindmark, and what they conjure together is as much spiritually spooky as it is brutal. The band maintains some of its old-time haunted house ethos (especially with the shrieky, ghoulish vocals), but they bring together so many other sounds, from 1970s-inspired prog, trippy passages that’ll cause your head to float amongst the stars, and even some jazzy moments where they really hit on something musically and find themselves exploring their muse to its fullest. This band might end up being this year’s big out-of-the-dark metal success story based on “Sweven,” and it’s a good bet to end up on a lot of year-end lists, mine included. It’s really that special of an album.
The record opens peculiarly with “Berceuse,” a word that means a form of a lullaby played in 6/8 time, and here is where they begin to lull you into a staring session, with surfy guitar work, and riveting playing that flows organically into “Chains,” making it sound like one big piece. The tempo kicks up here, with harsh vocals that cut through the murk, and the band hits into a prog-flavored death assault that they follow long into the night. The music slips into trippy territory, a place they visit often on this record, and the finish burns brightly and sounds a little jazzy. “Towards a Dark Sky” is one of the best tracks on the album, as it opens cleanly and seemingly gently before it ignites. The middle portion of the song hits on a musical sequence that, if played on acoustic instruments might sound a lot like bluegrass, and it’s at this moment where the brilliance of the band really hits home. It’s such a tasty little segment. The song starts fading at about the five-minute mark, but then the music returns, goes spacey and contemplative, then blows up in your face at the end. “Aurora in the Offing” begins with a nice doomy, trad metal guitar riff that eventually slips into speed metal territory, letting the band remind you their teeth remain sharp. The soloing reeks of classic heavy metal, and the roars from Andersson are downright monstrous. “It Stretches in the Hollow” is dark and eerie, but also one of the more brutal cuts on here, as screams turn into guttural growls, the dueling guitar work dizzies you, and the finish sounds mystical like a lost part of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.”
“Ripening Life” has a sinister thread running through it, and it has a rustic, country feel to part of the playing (the good, old-time country, not the modern pop bullshit). The latter half of the song just soars, with guitars setting fire to everything, and the vocals a deafening roar. “The Perennial Link” devastates for sure, but there also are plenty of mind-bending things going on here, with keyboard trickling, clean guitar work adding texture, and animalistic shrieks hammering home their message. “Solace” is an instrumental that has a late-hours, nightmarish feel to it, and it leads into “Beyond Life’s Sealed Abode,” that has guitar work that reminds a bit of Blue Oyster Cult, some classically-flavored, but buzzing guitar work, stunning musical interplay among the band, and Andersson imaging what it’ll be like “to take the final leap.” Closer “Terminus” is one last gasp of stardust, an instrumental that let’s you take a final adventure with the band into the universe, with strange, sci-fi-colored guitar work, spacious atmosphere, and a deep sense of exploration that might cause you to need shaken vigorously when the record ends to break from your daydream. Can’t think of a better way to end this album.
Morbus Chron always had it in them to come up with a classic, and they delivered on record two. That’s just astonishing to think how quickly they have come into their own and developed a sound that’s unique, refreshing, and mind blowing. “Sweven” is one of the best metal records I’ve heard so far this year, one that has fully captured my imagination, and an album that I’ve been listening to non-stop since the promo arrived weeks ago. This is the right way to push your boundaries and create something new, and Morbus Chron already have positioned themselves as one of death metal’s most creative bands.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/morbuschron
To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/