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Yo dawgz, this covers the 2013 re-issue of the EP with the bonus content.
I'm sure I'm not the only person that used the internet to his advantage in the early 'oughts to comb over every obscure Swedish death metal demo and recording that was previously unavailable to him in physical form during the actual 90s...even with the occasional tape trade I was just not able to experience all the stuff in that busy, emergent scene when it was in motion. That said, Morpheus' sole, 1993 full-length Sons of Hypnos was never really high on my radar due to its pretty basic songwriting and dryer production aesthetics...oh, it wasn't all that bad, but a little too 'by the numbers' when there were infinitely better bands coming out of this very same scene. Still, the collectors have likely had some bidding wars over that title in recent times, and the great Temple of Darkness out of Spain has seen fit to reissue the group's original In the Arms of... EP (1991), with the added bonus of the 1990 Obscurity demo, when they were one of several groups known as Exhumed.
Here's the catch: this has all been remixed and remastered, and even as someone with a lukewarm reaction to their later album, I have to admit it sounds quite right. I'm not sure if it was just my copy of Sons of Hypnos that sounded so depth-less and barren, but even some of the same songs here ("Among Others", "The Third Reich 3797 A.C.") sound meatier and more disgustingly loveable. Many would be interested to know that these earlier recordings were recorded at the legendary Sunlight Studio by Thomas Skogsberg, with a ruddier and churning tone. The guitars aren't quite as prominent as they are in, say, Entombed, but they're definitely built upon that same Nihilistic/Dismember aesthetic which draws equally from Floridian death metal tremolo picking, Bolt Thrower-like grooves and a dirty, thrashing underbelly. The riffs are not unanimously inspiring or unique, even for such an early time in the medium, but balanced well enough in a tune like "No Man's Land" that they feel atmospheric and intense, especially in the bridge when they pull off this breakdown that features a nicely winding harmony and some backing synth. I had never heard this tune, nor the more blasting and ugly "Thoughts of Distrust", and I'd have to say they are definitely some of my favorites from In the Arms of..., with ghastly, throaty guttural vocals and a nice snap to the drums.
That said, the more simplistic Obscurity demo is actually the real value here, because you're experiencing some of the most primal death metal available from the Swedish scene in newly refined stereo glory. The guitars here are far more fuzzy and meaty, and the echo effect on the vocals creates this constant feeling that the guy is trapped in some sepulcher in a graveyard and his growls are resonated back and forth across the walls and ceilings. There are again some atmospheric synths in the background, never a bad thing for me with early death metal, and the robust chug of the guitar is completely overbearing to the point that the bass lines just seem like an afterthought...but fuck, I'd take this over about 80% of the retro nostalgia acts peddling the 'authentic' Swedish death metal of yesteryear, and Exhumed was quite plainly a barbaric band of bruisers whose music sounded about as pure as you're going to get, even if to some extent you might think it sounds like some abrasive younger brother to a record like Indecent & Obscene or Clandestine. The drums on this demo sound even better to me than the later EP, and it just reminds me of a time when death metal was so young, energized and important as a statement against thrash and trad metal.
Now, disclosure: I got sent a copy of this to review, but this is well worth coughing up a few bucks for, if for no other reason than to finally have a copy of that demo on CD, with In the Arms of... as a nice bonus. As primitive and perhaps unoriginal as the three songs may be (especially today), they are entirely captivating and quite substantial at around 5-7 minutes each, and you have to wonder why this didn't earn a little more respect. Unfortunately, lyrics are only provided for the In the Arms of... EP, but otherwise it's a nice little package with the original art included for historical reasons. All told, I was quite happy with this little trip down memo...mortuary lane, and look forward to any other rarity demo/reissues this label gets its hands on, if they are treated with this much respect. Obviously, since there is so wide an audience for this Swedish sound (if the promos from new bands I constantly receive are any indicator) that there are enough people to support getting all the original stuff available once more, so let's not rest until the job is done. This is another step along that path.
MORPHEUS – after the killer EXHUMED demo – returns with their first official release. “In the Arms of…” is not, to be honest, as great as the demo, but it still has some good moments, where the band just crushes my head! But first of all I have to admit something. As I haven’t got (yet) the original copy of “In the Arms of…” I had to use audio copy I’ve found somewhere in the net. And so I was shocked that MORPHEUS music sounded so damn slow and heavy on it! Even David Brink’s voice seemed to be very low, almost like the band used some effect on his vocals to make them sound heavier. And then I realised that it can’t be true. As a vinyl maniac I know that sometimes it may be difficult to guess what RPM speed you should use for the LP; sometimes both speeds sound fine! And here somebody played this LP on his turntable with slower speed, making “In the Arms of…” sound very slow and low. Haha, very nice try! Luckily I managed to get a proper copy soon after and here everything is as it should be; I even got the SUNLIGHT sound back! And finally the opening song - “No Man’s Land” - is 6, not 8 minutes long ha, ha! OK, but I have to say I’m really relieved I’ve noticed this, as now MORPHEUS sounds 666 times better. I really couldn’t listen to that slow version with honest pleasure ha, ha. And so I can give it a second chance.
The opening song I already mentioned sounds just fantastic. It was the best track on “slowed down EP” anyway, but now it is just perfect. Starts with relatively mid paced riff, but then the tempo fastens, brings the proper death metal’s rotten energy. And then that fantastic melody came in the middle of the song, which I just love. For such melodies I love Swedish death metal. “Among Others” meanwhile attacks with some furious aggression and neck-braking playing, very similar to EXCRUCIATE for instance. I guess Swedish death metal hardly could have been any faster in these early days, really! “The Third Reich 3797 A.C.” is the most epic track here (with some spoken and sang vocal parts). It has a bit thrashing riffage here and there, but generally is little monotonous, as the riffs are simple and there aren’t any catchy parts in there, so I think it’s the most mediocre track on this EP. But the lyric about an Antichrist rising and starting his Third Reich, which destroys the world surely needs an attention he, he. Finally the final song, “Thoughts of Distrust” doesn’t really allow me to take a break as it invades my head with a cacophony of stabbing riffs. This track is similar to “Among Others” as it is equally fast and intense, you can be sure it won’t disappoint the fans of aggressive music. Finally that cannonade of riffs stops suddenly, so it almost seems like the world is also about to stop to exist (this is what MORPHEUS wrote about in their pessimistic lyrics anyway)…
I have to resume this review recommending MORPHEUS and “In the Arms of…” to every fan of Swedish death metal. This band can be easily putted together with the likes of EXCRUCIATE, EPITAPH or even CARNAGE. Sure, it may not be the most brilliant and catchy of all Swedish bands, but it has much to offer anyway. I won’t hesitate if I ever get a chance to buy an original copy of this 12 inch. But it may also be an idea if somebody thinks about re-releasing this piece – I do hope THE CRYPT will release it with EXHUMED demo and “Son of Hypnos” on double LP. That would be absolutely wonderful as that label does amazing job. Fingers crossed then!