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I bought this album earlier today, from a thrift store where the CD section is filled from the dustbin of throwaway pop acts of the past 20 years. The name stuck out from the rest, and the cover artwork suggested that it was some sort of extreme metal. One hell of an impulse buy for a $3 CD from a band I had never heard of.
Mortification play an older style of death metal, and the power trio puts together a really impressive sound. The production leaves enough space for everything to be heard, with some room to breathe - the guitar has an excellent crunchy sound with a vicious buzz from the high gain, but the recording is not clipped, so it comes through with all of its edge, but without pummeling percussion. The bass tone is clean and punchy and is certainly audible, in a great balance with the guitar. The drums sound great, nothing is too loud, and they balance well overall. The vocals are the only thing that is double tracked, simply the same part recorded twice to give them a thicker sound, which really brings them out in all their ferocity.
On to the actual music, the riffing is a mix of tremolo picking and power chords that usually carries the melody. Occasionally, there are guitar-only breaks where the guitar absolutely roars when it is allowed the entire mix, and the riffs are solid, but it is usually a low, chainsaw-like sound with an edge of tearing sheet metal.
The bass work is excellent - it matches up to the guitar when needed for the percussive parts, and it almost always rhythmically pairs with it, but it melodically separates itself strategically to contrast and supplement the guitar melodies, all within the thrashy style of the music. The bass also leads quite a few times, either alone or with the drums - on "Raise the Chalice" it dominates the song with a lot of ultra-fast, very clear playing and plays without the guitar after every chorus in a great melodic lead rarely heard from death metal bassists.
The drums work quite well with the pace of the music - never excessive, always very much in tune with what the guitar and bass are doing - but very much capable of high speeds, just not abusive of these during the sections where the song is not, and does not need to be very fast. I really enjoy the tastefulness of the drumming, as it lacks neither speed nor technicality, but it does not overuse either and regulates the music as well as adding some rhythmic creativity.
The music as a whole comes together very well - the band has a great sense in keeping their performance interesting, not afraid to break down to just the bass of guitar, or to rest either for a moment. The bass has much more of a purpose than following the guitar, and having only one guitar keeps them away from the common strategy of guitar overload. The percussive, melodic, and speed approaches weave throughout the music, neither being dominant or excessive. The vocals mostly add an extra percussive element, as well as being atmospheric in a somewhat spacey recording. There are some more atmospheric moments and qualities as well - the middle of "Lymphosarcoma" allows a lower gain guitar part to shine, while a lot of the other breaks allow a single solo performer to fill the sound, either the guitar tone, the power of the bass playing, or the tact of the drums.
The composition and structure of songs is neither standard verse-chorus or the formless mess of many earlier death metal bands, there is a fair balance between some A-B-A-B parts and non-standard forms around and between them. There are also some samples and parts outside of the band's performance - some annoying "night noises" for the first 100 seconds of "Nocturnal" (I skipped over these), and a well-recorded organ intro to "Scrolls of the Megilloth". "Necromanicide" begins with some wind sounds and breaking glass. The closer, "Ancient Prophecy" features the vocals, slowed down for artificial distortion in addition to the harshness of the growls, in the middle of the song, which helps move the song through its length of nearly 12 minutes.
I am impressed by this album. It sounds different than a lot of the death metal of the time due to both the musicianship which is utilized, but not abused, and the production for the power trio format of the band, leaving each instrument clearly audible and not blending them together in layering or mastering. Scrolls of the Megilloth is different than most death metal largely because it allows a bass to work with a single guitar as both a rhythmic and melodic feature without sacrificing the aggression of the music, avoiding the frequent excesses of instrumentation, songwriting, and performance that plague many death metal bands. This album is worth listening to because it carves its own sound rather than reminding me of other bands and other sounds.