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Lamentations of a Bygone Era - 93%

GuntherTheUndying, July 27th, 2014

Any death metal artisan worth his or her salt knows Sweden’s death metal sphere spewed forth some of the finest albums the genre has ever released; it should be common knowledge by this point. Among the classic legacies and triumphs of At The Gates, Grave, Entombed, Dismember, Necrophobic et al. rests a plethora of forgotten fossils lost in the deluge of time. God Macabre’s “The Winterlong,” the band’s first and only record released in 1993, though largely forgotten, maintained its status as a lost gem among the other widely-acclaimed opuses that overshadowed it. The short but sweet legacy of God Macabre tastes fresh and valid many years after its birth, even rivaling the grander outputs of several of its stylistic siblings in grades of texture and design. It is a stunning, stunning piece of death metal; complex and varied, yet unyielding and intricate.

God Macabre specifically manifests itself here in an aesthetic sphere very much similar to the works of many of the band’s aforementioned cohorts. “The Winterlong” stands out due to the integrity of the group’s primitive, explosive style that hits homerun after homerun while expanding the notional themes of this style of death metal resourcefully. Many of the riffs strike chords similar to other guitar sequences of the time; the straightforward blasts of breakneck arrangements dripping with the remnants of melodic surfaces and blitzing lashings and beats corresponding to the works of Discharge. What makes the record stand out is the sense of integrity and richness within God Macabre’s assault, as the anthems are clever and unforgettably inspiring slabs of ruthless and catchy death metal stuffed with wonderful riffs and a raw, unbeatable sense of concentration while maintaining brutality and hot-bloodedness.

Yet the record incorporates mild traits and themes that greatly enrich the consistency of God Macabre’s design. “The Winterlong” boasts slow, melancholic passages within the gloomy atmosphere that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Amorphis release and mellotron sections that add atmospheric depth to the band’s many masks. God Macabre’s style is clearly extraordinary, one that naturally sways from excellent riffs to memorable choruses and despondent harmonies—perfect examples include “Ashes of Mourning Life” and “Into Nowhere.” The growling vocals and performances are equally energetic and enticing; God Macabre sounds raw and animated, cooked in an authentic sound quality customary of the legendary work of Sunlight Studio.

“The Winterlong” itself exists as an axiomatic echo of God Macabre’s undersized existence, an affair that lasts for just under twenty-eight minutes. In 2014, Relapse Records unearthed the piece with a bonus track, “Life’s Verge,” and “Consumed by Darkness,” an EP released by a former incarnation of God Macabre in 1991. Both add-ons—the unreleased track and the three anthems from the EP—are absolutely wonderful and unique, and further augment one of Sweden’s finest forgotten gems. It’s an essential piece of death metal history for enthusiasts hunting for the great classics of a bygone era and another guaranteed snapshot of the superiority of one of the most astonishing metal scenes to ever grace the world.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Somber chills engulf the winter's death. - 91%

hells_unicorn, July 21st, 2014

The formative years of death metal were a very interesting time, largely due to the lack of an established rule set for what constituted the sub-genre. It had a pretty cut and dry identity by the early 1990s in Florida and affiliate acts cropping up outside of the USA tended to follow the lead of the original pioneers by balancing out the remnant thrash influences on the style with a heavier, slightly more brutal approach and the occasional progressive quirk. God Macabre fits into a transitional disposition regarding the style's evolution in Sweden, as their sound tends to closely resemble a number of other significant and more prolific prime-movers in the Stockholm scene, while still keeping one foot slightly in the past by taking heavy nods both from Death's early 90s output and their own Swedish fore-bearers Mefisto's mid-80s, Venom and Hellhammer inspired mishmash of black and speed metal.

The advent of 2014 and the help of Relapse Records has afforded a unique opportunity for newcomers to the Swedish death metal sound to get a fuller picture of what God Macabre was. With the re-release of their lone LP The Winterlong... it is now possible to experience the Consumed By Darkness EP that the band had previously released under the moniker of Macabre End, offering up a listening experience that feels a bit more complete, and also including an unreleased song in “Life's Verge” that further bolsters the whole. The production quality varies a bit between the original seven songs that lead off the list and the additional four, but overall the feel of things is very consistent and definitely proves to entice the ears of anyone looking for a bare-bones, traditional death metal beating.

The most striking thing about the album is it's heavy reliance on nuance and atmosphere to establish a setting of fear and dread. When only accounting for the odds and ends of the guitars, bass, drums and vocals, most of this album tends to come off as a heavily Death influenced album that takes a fair share of nods from Leprosy and arguably a few from Human. Deep end riffs and beats that jump back and forth from a doom-laden, trudging crawl to a biting thrash edge, while the guttural barks of Per Boder dig a bit deeper and nastier than Chuck Schuldiner and come closer to David Vincent during Morbid Angel's formative years at around the same time. The lead guitar work reaches back prior to the Hanneman vs. King worship that was popularized by Deicide and Cannibal Corpse, leaning a bit more closely to something along an organized, shred happy re-interpretation of a mid-80s thrash soloing style.

The use of haunting timbres and slow developing harmonies results in a series of songs that are, for all intents and purposes, fairly similar sounding and methodical. It doesn't quite rise to the level of listening like a concept album, but it gets pretty close to it at times. The occasional employment of keyboards, atmospheric sounds and occasional ballad sections steers things into a creepy story book format, and the thudding character of most of the standard songs on here is tempered with a nuanced mixture of older metal influences and melodic consonance out of the guitars. For all of the nastiness heard on “Into Nowhere”, “Spawn Of Flesh” and “In Grief”, there are occasional moments of pristine beauty, largely when things slow to a crawl and the keyboards fill the arrangement, to speak nothing for the nostalgic character of the instrumental “Lamentation” which essentially leaves the death metal style entirely for its two and a half minute duration.

While arguably one of the important bands in the development of Sweden's death metal scene, God Macabre tend to be passed over by many. This probably owes greatly to their lack of studio output beyond this single LP and the small body of work that preceded it under the Macabre End name, though one shouldn't discount the band's musical conservatism, which leans heavily towards the late 80s Florida sound and might be interpreted as too thrash inspired to qualify as true death metal compared to what currently constitutes the term. It is definitely a crime that this band has not received more attention, but since they have recently reformed, some additional studio output might serve to remedy this a bit. Hopefully there is a future for this band beyond being a touring act, because The Winterlong... is one nice chunk of Swedish goodness.

Originally submitted to (The Metal Observer) on July 21, 2014.

Oh, so damn near perfect! - 95%

Pratl1971, June 8th, 2014

When I sit back and look around my music room and think of all of the music I have adorning the walls, floor and various shelving units, I often think of how many of the titles I hold dear are criminally underrated or unknown by many of today's and even yesterday's metal fans. I also invariably think of how many titles remain hideously out of print, commanding collector's prices on eBay via shill bidding or just basic ignorance to the bidding process that drives 15-year olds with unlimited monetary resources (or more money than brains, if you will) to set new highs on some of these titles for some inane 'street cred' in the community. Thankfully, bands like Epitaph, Excruciate, Gorement, Dawn, Mordicus, Nirvana 2002, Utumno, Funebre, Wombbath and the amazing God Macabre are being reissued so the music can get into the ears of a panting and parched metal milieu.For those unfamiliar with God Macabre, the band released one full-length in the ancient days of 1993 on the small M.B.R. Label (also responsible for giving us the the Crematory - Denial EP) and made quite a ripple on the large pond, only to disappear for 17-years, where a viciously limited edition of a self-released live album made its way into the hands of 179 lucky souls in 2010. In essence, the band achieved near-perfection, then dissipated into the nether of heavy metal history, nearly lost to time and the commercial decaying of our genre. Needless to say, the fine wines never stay dusty in the cellar for long, as someone is always thirsty somewhere and requires a perfect vintage.

The Winterlong... is without, question, one of the finest examples of Swedish death metal I've ever heard, and since the Swedes started churning out this wonderfully suffocating music I've heard most of it at least once. While I can sit here and point out the small nuances that can make God Macabre a unique death metal band, the facts are simple, really: this band takes small elements of doom and the very thickness of death metal and combines them in such a way that the overall arrangements are so interesting and tight (which speaks volumes in the DM world, as we all know) that you actually feel this album in all of the right areas. The music pulls you in and helps to create the necessary pictures to be sucked into the music accordingly.

The main difference between God Macabre and a legion of other Scandinavian DM bands is the visages often created in my head as opposed to images by Unleashed, Grave, Entombed, Dismember or Seance; I can pull in varying pictures while listening to those great bands, but when I engage The Winterlong... I immediately get different feelings from every visceral avenue, from the exemplary wonders of nature (“Lamentation” is perfect for this) to foggy introspection between celebrated power chords (“Ashes of Mourning Life”), to all-out fevered neck-bouncing for an old-fashioned trip back to my youth where once I was able to bang my head without having to ask for help to then get up from the chair (I survived this time but no call button was needed).

There is a real sincerity and style in this music that goes unnoticed by today's Carnifex or Black Dahlia Murder crowd, and while I'm glad the lines in the sand are that thickly drawn, I do wish more impressionable people could hear the majesty of tracks like “Into Nowhere” or “In Grief” and truly hear how beautiful death can be when there is true vision and talent behind the chords. The musicianship within is, arguably, some of the tightest and finely-tuned of both the country's musical history and the overall genre. The thick feel of that geographical kind is very prevalent throughout, but there is no time where it's so stifling or overly 'thick' that it ruins the music's genuine feel. The vocals are your not-so-typical enunciating growl, though the tone is easily recognizable and appreciated by those of us who won't stand for diluted bellowing. You simply can't not enjoy this.

Even the bonus tracks from the EP the band issued under the early moniker of Macabre End are nicely remastered, which says a lot since I usually detest remasters and avoid them at all costs. The subtle polish here is really well done and makes picking up this fantastic album even more necessary. The EP tracks are quite a bit more volatile and indicative of that early Swedish sound, so fans of the familiar Wombbath or Grave sound will really dig these if you haven't heard them before (though those who picked up the reissue over a decade ago will be familiar). Even cooler is that addition of a never-heard track titled “Life's Verge,” which also encompasses every single thing right with the death metal medium. The quality on the lone track isn't your typical basement demo track thrown on for measure either; the tone is nearly comparable with the rest of the music, and that makes this even more essential.

I can say with total sincerity that the death metal genre is easily one of the richest, most intense heavy metal areas out there, and its past is without equal in terms of hidden gems lurking about personal collections. The fact that some of these recordings are still our of print is disheartening, to say the least, but eventually the labels like Relapse, Dark Descent and Xtreem Music are catching on and getting these recordings back out there, for which this humble writer is both grateful and excited. I implore you not to pass up this God Macabre reissue, as it's easily one of the greatest examples of Swedish death this side of the Lule.

(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)

One of the greatest albums ever!!!! - 98%

dismember_marcin, March 10th, 2012

I’m not going to lie you that I’ve been knowing God Macabre since their demo times or something. Fuck, no, I was only 11 when they’ve released it, so I had no idea about this band at that time. It wasn’t until the late 90’s, when I’ve probably heard of this Swedish band for the first time and when someone taped me their album… and well, being a huge fan of the bands from this damn country I also loved God Macabre instantly. This phenomenon called Swedish death metal seemed like never ending, with so many amazing bands and albums and “The Winterlong” quickly became one of my real favourites, even though the band have never really achieved a position and status the bands like Grave, Dismember or Desultory had. A real shame, but no one should be surprised, as the label, which released the album originally, Mangled Beyond Recognition, haven’t done anything in order to help God Macabre in their “career”. And also to get the first pressing CD of “The Winterlong” is basically impossible and would cost a fortune, luckily Repulse has re-released this album, adding “Consumed by Darkness” EP as a bonus, while Blood Harvest Records should get a Noble prize for this awesome vinyl edition, which I’ve been looking for for some time and finally managed to buy one.

The way “The Winterlong” is constructed is quite weird. First of all, it’s relatively short album, going for about 28 minutes only, which is not much. And there are only seven tracks, of which two are instrumental, so at the first look one may have a feeling of dealing with an incomplete album. Definitely it would be great to hear maybe two or three songs more, but this is also why it’s great that the re-release version has those three tracks from the EP added, so the album is longer and more complete.

The musical value of “The Winterlong” is indisputable. God Macabre has composed some of the most thrilling and killer death metal tunes within the Swedish sound. It is infectiously melodic and possessing, I can honestly say that God Macabre managed to blend this atmospheric, dark side with the aggressive and relentless playing in one of the most effective ways ever. Of course it is disputable whether there’s anything what would distinguish their music from some other Swedish bands – and I also mean the production values here – but I can tell you one thing: yes, God Macabre sounds very close to few other bands from their country, but they also share a certain quality, which putted certain high standards in this scene. For the bands, which I can compare the music from “The Winterlong” I would definitely need to mention the likes of Carnage, Gorement, Cemetery, Desultory, Excruciate, Tiamat, Epitaph, Utumno and Necrophobic. All those acts play in very similar way and for instance the thing, which God Macabre has in common with Tiamat would be those guitar melodic leads, which both bands used so often (this is also where you can really spot how similar the guitars sound!). Take the “Teardrops” instrumental for example and see yourself if it would fit „Astral Sleep” album hehe. Otherwise songs like “Ashes of Mourning Life” and “Into Nowhere” are ravaging, classic Swedish beasts, which attack with straight forward riffing and which sound closer to the likes of Carnage, Desultory, Gorement, Necrophobic (first album) and Epitaph. There’s lots of dynamics, great harmonies, the riffs are catchy and aggressive and the vocals of Per Boder are standard death metal grunts, sort of similar to what you can hear on the early Hypocrisy albums. Sometimes I have a feeling like Boder could have growled in more emotional, expressive and effective ways – like in “Lost” when he screams “Fuck Jesus Christ”, it sounds rather flat like he just asked someone for a sandwich, not like the most blasphemous sentence of the whole album, you know? But he’s done an OK job anyway, I like his voice I can tell.

Ufff, listening to this album is still an amazing experience; it just doesn’t get boring at all. It doesn’t matter how many times have I listened to it, I still get thrilled by it and those amazing riffs give me gooseskin. And it doesn’t matter if it sometimes sounds like another band, it definitely isn’t a disadvantage, because as I already said, “The Winterlong” holds a certain quality, which many other bands would envy. It surely is one of my top 5 albums of all times in the death metal scene from Sweden! The highlights of the album for me personally are “Lost”, “Teardrops”, “In Grief”, “Into Nowhere”, but to be honest none of those tracks have bad moments, there are no fillers, even this acoustic instrumental “Lamentation” has its place on the album. Also having the EP songs on this vinyl is something I am very happy about, they’re brilliant, although they sound much more rough and cruel, with some similarities to Crematory for instance, so it’s awesome. So please check this album out and see yourself, why was God Macabre one of the best Swedish bands ever.

Surviving Winter - 83%

Thamuz, November 21st, 2005

A solemn wolf, its fur covered in freezing snowflakes, painfully wanders in search of its kin. Days have passed, perhaps months – the wolf would not know as it has no concept of time - since a brutal snowstorm descended and separated this lone predator from its pack. The eternal darkness of the forest is the enemy of an animal left to fend for itself. Food is scarce, the desolation of winter making sustenance a longed for rarity. But still the wolf wanders on, heroically surviving to leave yet another paw-print to be covered under the shadows of the falling snow…

God Macabre takes lessons learned from the ferocious onslaughts and melodic sense of Entombed and Dismember, cross-pollinating these with the urgency of the punk aesthetic. As a result of this, “The Winterlong” is a spawn of evil, the clashing of energetic punk riffing, with the rock solid pummeling style of Demigod, Amorphis’ elegiac romanticism and the enchanting hymns of a snow-laden Scandinavian forest. This manifests scenes of a long, cold and arduous winter and ultimately reveals the beauty of survival, an instinct estranged from our “every day reality.”

As previously inferred “The Winterlong” is the convergence of twisted punk-orientated rhythms – a by-product of the band’s roots in the Swedish grindcore scene – and fluent, classically inspired melodic work. The former provides urgency and replicates the dominance of Nature over its beings – who are forced to survive endless ordeals – whilst the latter adds suspenseful emotion, a sense of man’s longing for the very wilds that dominate him. The rhythmic work is excellent, smoothly navigating tempo changes without drifting far from the simplicity of the predominant power-chord structure. Interlaced throughout the above is a series of tremolo riffs, breathtakingly serene soloing and slower “doomy” passages that assert the imminence of death. The eager and efficient pummelling of the drums and the traditional low growls combined with the rumbling of the bass holds the song writing in check. Synths are used selectively and appropriately to add further depth in atmosphere.

Of special note is the use of interludes, both electric and acoustic, which add immensely to the overall flow of the album. Rather than just merely being there they help contribute to the purpose of the composition as a whole. The first “Teardrops”, a eulogy that is dreary in theme reflects on the forlorn tranquillity of winter. Whilst the second “Lamentation” expresses grief over the forgotten spirit of our Scandinavian forefathers who battled fearlessly to survive many cold seasons.

This is another superb example of the strength of the earlier Swedish Death Metal scene, a fitting testament to praise that the region gets the world over.