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Psalms of the Moribund essentially confirms my suspicions about Defeated Sanity - their album after this, Chapters of Repugnance, was a ridiculously heavy album with some pretty entertaining riffs, rendered limp and lifeless by irritatingly massive and cloudy production. I wagered while listening to it that the formula used on that album would probably work pretty well if the band weren't trying to be the heaviest that ever existed while they played it. And what do you know, apparently on previous albums where Defeated Sanity actually use a somewhat reasonable production job, their music sort of makes sense!
Mind you, we're still not reaching genius levels of quality here, but at least Psalms of the Moribund doesn't manage to totally deflate its potency at performing the one thing it seems determined to do. Compared to the succeeding album, this one seems a bit less full of itself and has its head pulled out of its own ass just enough for the presentation of the music to make a teeny bit of sense.
This is basically brutal death metal that draws from every spectrum of the genre possible. The vocalist here embodies that ideology: DS's vocalist around this era gurgles, croaks, barks, squeals and basically covers every sound you'll find at a barnyard. Musically, you've got a pinch of straightforward, thugging Suffocation-esque stuff and superficially heavy slams, but the majority of what's here is insanely heavy blast beats zooming over churning, downtuned chugs and strangely stripped-down drums floating over grotesque, technical, frantic riffs. The band are really only above-average when it comes to the latter, sadly: the straight, old-school brutal death metal here is pretty yawn-inducing and banal, and the production job doesn't have the chunkiness that would be expected in order to give the slams a bit of weight to hurl around (the guitar tone in general is still a bit too fat and lacking in treble for my tastes, but it's not egregious like it would later be on Chapters of Repugnance). The slams in general just feel a bit too mechanical to work correctly, like the band members were desperately trying to avoid sounding "wiggery" at all costs and achieved such at the cost of the music's actual catchiness.
Really, the thing that it's most amusing to watch Psalms of the Moribund-era Defeated Sanity do is play their special breed of frantic riffs which just spasm violently like a reanimated corpse. There are a lot of these sorts of grotesque, ugly riffs lurking around the album, and it's pretty cool when the band pull one off. A lot of times they'll drop the blasts behind these kinds of riffs and just accent it with classy, precisely accented drum fills, which just makes it feel even more panicked and nerve-wracking. Sadly, aforementioned riffs are just about the only "fun" thing about the album as a whole - the rest of the album still seems pretty concerned with being as masturbatory as possible just because that's a thing which is technically possible. A lot of the album seems rhythmically technical and jerky in a way that doesn't contribute to the overall atmosphere at all, as if the band members just wanted to see if it could be done. Technically it can, but it sounds pretty stupid: Defeated Sanity basically sound like they kept tripping over shit while they were trying to record the album. I don't care if the members can play riffs in 54/16 - technical ability means next to jack-shit to me because I'm listening to an album for my own potential enjoyment, not critiquing acts at a talent show. If Defeated Sanity want to wank around with stuff that doesn't actually contribute anything to the music they play, they should do so outside of the recording studio, Christ.
In addition to that, none of the melodies really stick with you aside from the cool spasming riffs - I can basically only remember the blasting riffs and the slams as rhythms in my heads instead of melodies. That's arguably the point, but come on, even fucking Enmity have occasional melodies that stick in your head, plus those guys are better at being heavier and "complex" anyways, so Defeated Sanity are kind of rendered obsolete in this regard and need whatever edge they can get. The vocals don't really help anything, either - while this sort of thing would greatly benefit from a strong, clearly defined voice in the music, Defeated Sanity's vocalist mostly weakly croaks in a manner that can only barely separate itself from the sludginess of the guitars.
But I suppose most of these paragraphs are addressing complaints that just demonstrate my personal distaste for this style of brutal death metal and wouldn't actually indicate flaws to people who actually enjoy this sort of thing. Despite my whining, it still gets a relatively high score from me because it's pretty good for what it is, and if I was ever in the mood to listen to some sort of "intellectual" brutal death metal I would pick this over a boatload of other things, despite the fact that it's really not that great in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, I'm sure most of you guys reading this are nerds, so go out and buy it and marvel over Defeated Sanity's attempts to condescend you with riffs that miss the point of what they're supposed to be doing. Your bemusement is what they fantasize about when they're jerking off, I'm sure.
The sickest Germans have landed again in desperate hope to take the inanity of their debut and quarantine ardent Suffocation and Deeds of Flesh worship, only to replace it with their own style in these, their Psalms.
The clear shift from ultra-static technical death metal to very slam influenced brutal death metal will seem to at first leave a lot to desire. Fortunately, careful listeners will be able to actually decipher the riffs on this album and will even be treated to memorable songs and very intense song structures. Being backed up by the savage intensity of Wolfgang Teske and Christian Kühn and the virtuoso that is Lille Gruber is no matter to be scorned at and the addition of bassist Jacob Schmidt - I mean that literally, you can actually hear him here - only helps to create a full sound of depravity that the album as a whole just exudes.
Now, even with the greatest bands there are faults, and the most obvious one here is gurgler (I refuse to give him the satisfaction in the title of vocalist) Jens Staschel. I'm not one to be affronted by unintelligible burping sounds, but there is little to no variation with these vocals. Luckily he adheres to the slam stylings once more and does have the ability to carry a 'tune' with the rhythm, again adding to the pummeling nature of the album.
But, as I said, the unstoppable fury of Teske and Kühn is totally unmatched. A modern day Levasseur, these two create a dense forest of churning rhythmic suggestions of the most vile concepts imaginable and the resultant sudden stop in the foliage - the slams - is just as horrific. Every second of the oncoming palm muted onslaught is directed straight for the temple and jugular, every moment of barbarity calculated to the not-so-exact science of awesome fucking death metal. The guitar tone only helps to push this work over the edge, with just enough presence of mid and high frequencies and quite the abundance of bass frequencies and not so much blistering distortion to muddy the sound. The brief forays of the band into more experimental chord and song structures - "Butchered Identity" or "Hideously Disembodied" - are only a welcome exercise in brutal riffing rather than technical wankery. Hell, even the very short and blistering solo sections on the album are uber technical but because of the infrequency and abrupt nature of them only help to flavor this wide-reaching sound.
The rhythm section has just as much to do with the outcome of the sound on this album. Jacob Schmidt is a beast on this record, where his licks and pocket grooves are more easily audible than on the debut and bring about enough midrange and clear oomph to stop the guitar sound from being overwhelming. Then Lille Gruber steps in, cracks his knuckles, and begins the mind-bending insanity of each and every drum track on this record. Most drummers in this brand of metal suffer from over-indulgence, but for once this kind of calf-searing drumming only furthers the maniacal aspect of the bands music. I could go on for ages about every part of the subtle cymbal work going on in "Engorged With Humiliation" or the overall sense for accents hi-hat tapping and sizzling in fucking death metal, but I will not. All I will say is that this is the perfect drum tone all around - powerfully cracking snare, thick but not muddy bass drums, and clear as all hell cymbals.
But to simply waltz around the production is madness, for these crazy Germans have taken their original tracks and created about them an atmosphere that has been lost to most death metal, not to mention the brutal variety, for so long. That is to stay, there actually is an atmosphere, and a very oppressive one it is. I can't take my ears off of it sometimes and leaving the 29 minutes of aggression behind is like leaving your friends and family, it's actually quite touching. Then you remember that you were just listening to one of the most brutal albums ever conceived and just spin it again.
+ Riffs exist in the Defeated Sanity concept, something missing from modern BDM
+ Varied song structures with unique motifs and development
+ The varied nature leaves every slam, solo, and tremolo riff as a memorable moment
+ Bass work that does follow the leader when necessary, but is very out in the open
+ Flo Mounier Mk. II is sitting on the drumkit; in equal parts skill, style, and sound
+ Dark, tremendous atmosphere reminds of Immolation's Here In After
- Jens Staschel not doing anything but a squeal or gurgle for 30 minutes
If there was an album to buy, this would be it. Call it a desert island death metal album or just really fucking cool, I don't care just buy the thing.
Now, I don't know what the hell I am doing here, reviewing a brutal death metal album, but the desire is burning inside me heavier than a Merzbow album recorded with whales amped at 18. Maybe because this is an album belonging to an otherwise crappy genre, but it's nonetheless a wild child impossible to top by any other band of its kind at this moment, and it puts to shame a lot of extreme metal bands with its shiny knuckles. Forget about Noktorn's temples raised to crappy grind/death goofs, forget about Unique Leader and its troops of boredom (except Mortal Decay, oh yeah), forget about "brutal death" as it is known these days and cherish to the appearance of this colossus of terror!
Let's state it from the beginning: this band tears its competitors to tiny particles. It's simply that unbeatable. First, you have some of the mightiest guitar riffs in the history of death metal: at first, they just sound indecipherable as in the case of most of their peers, but a closer listen will reveal incredibly fast, precise guitar riffs and wild slides over the fretboard that might not be your Decrepit Birth's Diminishing Between Worlds (considering that you actually give a shit on that album), but pay off flawlessly and thrust an iron head in the mouth of standard mosh riffs lovers. And the slim tone guarantees timeless satisfaction.
Second, the drummer would be enough to crush the pillars of the ol' brutal death metal faith, and drop his godly throne straight on the smoking ruins. This man is unlike anything I've ever heard in brutal death, beating even Flo Mounier or Cephalic Carnage's drummer. He has a terrific ear for asymetric beats and screwy time signatures, he keeps up with the rest of the band gracefully, and he is inequalably corrosive in his torrents of innovative drum patterns, dropping ridiculously fast and difficult rhythms after more mid-paced or slowed-down mayhem. This guy's love for the unexpected gives him an A++ in my agenda; you don't need that Brodequin, Severed Savior or Lust Of Decay bullshit or that quasi-technical asshonaut from that Meshuggah band, you just need to hear this in order to form an impression on what a drummer very close to perfection would sound like.
When talking about bass and vocals, the ubiquitous growls of death metal take their share, and the bass is almost inaudible except a brief introduction, but who am I to blame them for these minor flaws, especially when the rest of the band kicks out the jams this hard. I just hope that they do improve in the future and bring this act to heights where nobody has ever dared before!
There's no use talking about individual songs, since all the songs have some strong riffs and even more stronger jaw-dropping pace shifts, but I'd be curious to see what would happen if the band tried its collective hand at longer track durations and maybe some more solo parts (without delving into Necrophagist pretense). Defeated Sanity, along with Gory Blister, are the true masters of technicality without any pompousness. Just sheer goodness. Tschus!
About halfway through ‘Psalms Of The Moribund’, you suddenly come to a realisation of sorts – that Defeated Sanity, one of the strongest brutal German death metal bands around today, have come extraordinarily close to producing music that upsets the human vitals, with unpleasant-smelling results.
Sure, the brown note is a myth in music, but the sound on ‘Psalms...’ is certainly a disturbingly close approximation of what that myth might really sound like in reality. This is modern brutal death metal that achieves what many aim for but only a select amount attain – this is a record that sounds like it’s trying to rip itself free of the speakers and tear out the innards of every person in the room.
The songs found here are relatively short blasts of brutal noise, with the album’s total run time clocking in at barely 30 minutes, but they are a 30 minutes of the kind of delight only a relentless bludgeoning can deliver. Defeated Sanity are students of the kind of death that cares only for said bludgeoning (a somewhat ironic description considering one of their superb guitarists Wolfgang Teske is over 50 years old), and all the requisite elements of brutal death metal are present and correct; growling vocals with such a low rumble about them they upset the Richter scale, detuned, mercilessly crunching riffs, and crashing breakdowns are everywhere like a malign, malevolent presence.
But where such musical leanings would incite an infectious strain of boredom due to the simple fact that such things have all been done before, Defeated Sanity have the good wisdom to inject their material with many varied strains of fresh blood. ‘Psalms...’ is saved from becoming one relentlessly dull breakdown-a-thon by the band’s willingness to experiment with a greater scope of elements, such as their repeated delves into more technically minded musical wizardry. Each and every song negotiates sublimely between unremittingly brutal blast beats, through ultra slow, crushingly powerful breakdowns, right up to contorting, writhing technical passages that twist and turn around the eardrums like a serpent coiling itself in complicated patterns around the neck at light speed.
What really impresses here is the fact that every collision between the technical and the brutal is handled with such expert skill and poise – a crunching deathly riff will merge seamlessly into a bout of fretboard dancing, even the occasional, frenetic, atonal solo, and the elements never once jar up against each other. ‘Engorged With Humiliation’ is a prime example, featuring a crawling beatdown part that suddenly erupts into a pounding hyperspeed riff without missing a beat and never leaving the listener behind.
The album is not entirely free from downsides, though these in the end are entirely dependent on the individual listener. Key among them is Jens Staschel’s absolute insistence on spending the album’s 30 minute run time pushing his voice into a stupendously low gurgle, and he exhibits the least variety in his performance out of all the band members – no growls, no screams, just this relentless gurgling throughout. That said, this is perhaps the key factor that gives ‘Psalms...’ it’s discomforting effect – Staschel’s vocals, seemingly devoid a pitch shifter (rejoice!), lend the material that quality that upsets the internals in a very real way.
The production on display is suitably meaty and engorged with bodily juices, though it lacks the polish of much modern death metal which may be refreshing for those looking for a more gritty kind of bloodbath. However, drummer Lille Gruber unfortunately has to work hard against the mix, which doesn’t lend his kit the greatest deal of clout, though his powerfully consistent performance sees him more than achieve this feat on the likes of ‘Butchered Identity’ and ‘Stoned Then Defiled’. While bassist Jacob Schmidt doesn’t exactly lay down the most memorable work on the album (barring the jazzy bass intro on ‘Arousal Through Punishment’), it’s a joy simply to be able to hear his bass, a rarity on brutal death metal records today. Meanwhile, twin guitarists Teske and Christian Kuehn provide the instrumental highlights, their beefy guitar sounds virtually made for the material at hand – the main riff to titular track ‘Psalms Of The Moribund’ is something akin to being struck about the face with an axe.
Defeated Sanity hear lay down some of the most consistent and musically proficient brutal death metal you’ll have heard in quite some time. A triumphant blending of many of the elements that make two very diverse metal genres so great, this album will appease fans all across the death metal board - ‘Psalms Of The Moribund’ will not disappoint in the slightest.
It would appear that Defeated Sanity have upped the brutality of their previous efforts and crafted a work that is hailed almost universally amongst brutal death metal aficionados of the modern day as a work of genius. I, for one, am certainly among those advocates. This album is less geared towards sounding "Technical" (As in, far less of those "noodly" guitar riffs) and more towards sounding as chaotic, percussive and destructive as possible. On the subject, said “noodly” riffs have a "progressive-era" Death-ish quality to them, however, they’re played twice as quick and have a deranged jeer that the late Schuldiner never seemed to succeed at, or have interest in, making. The production is extremely bass heavy here, there being more emphasis upon drum sound that had previously been, and the guitars have a sound similar to an extremely powerful snare at times. Lille Gruber is a wonderful drummer and it shows with each song. Another rapturous thing: We finally get to hear the bass! And it fills out the sound well, even getting a few solo sections scattered throughout the album. They've stripped away the pretensions of many tech bands, instead of choosing an eclectic array of sounds and guitar patterns that will impress, the technicality here is meant only as a means to absolutely decimate the listener; to leave the listener breathless, taken aback, and maybe unaware of what the hell just happened.
Is this, then, a single-minded album? Yes, but in the best way possible. Are there still breakdowns done in traditional slam death fashion, but with an original flair? Why, yes! And they have to be the most compelling ones I've ever heard on a slam death record recently. Just have a look at around 1:20 on "Engorged With Humiliation". At about 80 BPM, they're as heavy as when they go 250. The chord sustain there seems to have no intent but to draw one into the demented little world this work has created in which sonic expression is truly unbounded by common perceptions of right and wrong both musically and moralistically. The only real qualms I have with this would be that unusual, at times monotone vocal style employed and how mundane of a read the lyrics make for. Though, a question I might pose is: Does anyone listen to this music for either lyrics or vocals? Regardless, Staschel is good at doing what this genre calls for vocally, and his performance is thankfully bereft of the much hated pig squeals, with his vocals more resembling the “toilet bowl” styling of some pitch shifted goregrind. However, I cannot discern whether or not a pitch shifter was made use of. The lyrics, well, they come off as meandering text simply put there to fit with the music. He possesses quite a vocabulary, but I don't see the lyricist surpassing Daniel Greening (Of Cryptopsy) anytime soon.
This is probably one of the most, if not the most, crushing album released in 2007, and anyone that claims to like brutal death metal has been living without an essential piece of listening until they've heard this. And, as "Artifacts of Desolation" ends in a relatively soft manner with a humming amplifier sound and some snare hits, I sit and wonder at what is to come next of these German musicians.
Psalms of the Moribund is one of the best brutal death metal albums ever and ranks up there with Decrepit Birth's "...And Time Begins" and Disgorge's (US) "Consume the Forsaken". If you like you death metal extra extra heavy, brutal, guttural, rage inducing, twisted etc., then look no further than this devastating beast of an album. This album is not for the faint of heart, and only for those who like their death metal as insane and violent as possible. The production is super heavy and really adds power to the expertly crafted songs. Each song is strong enough to stand on it’s own. I’ve yet to skip a track and I have owned it for months. The guitars are extremely technical, the guttural vocals are brutal, and Psalms has some of the heaviest death metal breakdowns ever. How could someone not want to beat everything in the immediate vicinity when a breakdown like the one at the end of the title track occurs? This album is chock full of brutally heavy death metal gems. In each song one can find plenty of blasting and double bass, brutal breakdowns, sick guttural vocals, and insane guitars that do everything from power chord chugging to crazy technical lines. Every musician here is a true master of their instrument as Psalms is musically flawless; everything is clearly heard and Defeated Sanity play with the precision of a surgeon, but with the rage and fury of a serial killer with a machete.
In a time when real death metal is overlooked for more melodic and trendy deathcore bands, one German band defiantly flips the bird at all trends and their followers, and Psalms is a true testament to the apocalyptic fury that is death metal.