I listen to a lot of podcasts at the gym, because why not? It helps to pass the time. But usually when I finish my daily pro wrestling podcast I still have time left, and it’s onto something to get me through the rest of the grind. Oh, this isn’t going to be a macho dude gym shitfest. I hate that stuff. It’s just that now and again I need a way to power through, thus death metal being the answer.
I usually load my phone with stuff upcoming that I plan to write about, and a few weeks back, in a moment of needed push, I dug into “Blood Oracle,” the destructive new record from Texas-based death unit Morgengrau, and it didn’t take long for it to become something I listened to on repeat no matter where I was. There’s something about this thing, the follow-up to their 2013 debut “Extrinsic Pathway,” that just hits all the right buttons. It’s brutal, heavy, and creative, and each visit has been a run of demolition on my puny body and brain. The band responsible for this horror—vocalist/guitarist Erika Morgengrau (she also previously played in Autumn Tears and Ignitor), guitarist Nick Norris, and bassist Jacob Holmes (a session drummer handled the kit work)—rips your world apart with every drop of this eight-track, 36-minute album that is perfectly portioned and always relentless. There’s no official band photo, by the way, so go ahead and enjoy the stunning Nick Keller artwork above. The record is totally devastating, bringing to mind the old guard of classic death metal, but there also is plenty of future movement that it’s not stuck in any realm. It’s its own thing.
The title track gets things started, pushing open and lighting the fires immediately, with Morgengrau wailing, “All hail the darkness that burns across the sky!” The track drives harder and harder, with the vocals getting grittier along the way, and after a strong solo, the chaos ends in a pile of cinders. “Wolves of Thirteen” is a total crusher, with Morgengrau growling, “Come to thee, my wolves,” and as we travel further, the band fucking kills you with a thrashy section that could shatter bones. Throaty, droning calls disorient, while the end smashes your face. “Progression” has more strong guitars surging, bone-powdering playing, and a thick bassline that leaves a trail of oil sludge. Atmosphere enters before it’s marred in muck, while razor-sharp soloing cuts into the guts, as we approach a war-torn finish. “Poised at the Precipice of Doom” starts with spacious guitars, and everything heats up about two minutes in, as the vocals burst to life and bring malice, calling every force to action as the music splatters plasma.
“Forced Exodus” starts with a killer riff, thick bass work, and the band pounding the detonation button, with Morgengrau howling, “Drive them out into the night!” The bass keeps throbbing, while the guitars work to agitate the fight even further, with the declaration of, “The day of battle is drawing nigh.” “Invert the Marker” chugs heavily, as more wounds are opened that flow into the dirt, leaving everything stained crimson. Once again, it appears like we’re headed back into the gears of the machine, with Morgengrau’s mean, gruff vocals, and a finish that feels like the earth being torn to shreds. “Incipit Bellum” is an interlude-style instrumental that conjures plucked strings and whirring noise, leading into closer “Evocation of the Wheel.” There, the band unloads more steady riffs, as the tempo swirls dangerously, threatening to swallow you whole. The vocals are grinding, the soloing fluid, and the track wraps up having left you ugly bruises and oozing wounds.
Morgengrau’s punishing energy and deathly violence make “Blood Oracle” a smothering, satisfying listen that likely will pull you back for repeat visits. Their playing is channeled and bloody, and the songs waste no time trying to finish you off in short order. This is a hell of a record, one of the finest underground slabs of death we’ve had the pleasure to tangle with this year.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MorgengrauDeathMetal/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.unspeakableaxerecords.com/purchase/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=66&products_id=443
For more on the label, go here: http://www.unspeakableaxerecords.com/