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Miasma > Changes > Reviews
Miasma - Changes

Obscure, occult death metal with delusions of grandeur... - 82%

robotniq, January 4th, 2020

Miasma were a little-known death metal band from Austria who released one album ("Changes"). This record is difficult to describe because it is unlike anything else in the death metal genre. The nearest parallel is probably the dense, spooky sound of the Therion and Tiamat debut albums. From there, add the rough approach of a band like Blasphemy, a few Slayer riffs, ungodly vocals and some pretensions to 19th Century European romanticism. "Changes" is an enigma.

The only place to begin is with "Baphomet", the opening track. In my opinion this is one of the greatest (and foulest) death metal songs ever made. Imagine the heaviness of Incantation with the hooks of early Deicide and you're getting there, almost. The verses sound like a seance of wild supernatural energy, and the chorus is the manifestation of the summoning. The tempo slows to a crawl, the chaos is drawn into a moment of perfect focus... "BAPHOMMETTTT!!....." This is one of the few genuinely frightening examples of death metal. The chorus continues with wild soloing over a slow riff “I... SHOW YOU...THE CRUCIFIX AND...TELL YOU…”. The vocalist is evil incarnate, his growl is one of the most powerful and well enunciated that I've ever heard. This is a top ten death metal song of all time for me (maybe even a top five).

"Baphomet" overshadows the rest of the album but there are other good songs here. "Morbid Knocking" is the best of the rest, seven minutes of chaotic twists and turns, tempo changes and slithering Possessed-ish evil. "The Prayer" is crushing and has this weird break around 2:50 with a four-note pattern repeated for about a minute. "Drowning in Blood" has interesting acoustic interludes which accentuate the album's 'folk horror' feel. In some ways, this feeling pushes the album closer to black metal, specifically Master's Hammer and the first Satryricon album.

Elsewhere, things work less well. One of Miasma's problems is that their (usually excellent) riffs can be ruined by bad musical decisions and inane riff transitions. The ten minute "Schizophrenia?" is the worst offender. It begins with the crappiest keyboard intro you'll ever hear, then it builds into a promising death/doom epic before the momentum is killed by a clumsy transition (3:37). "Ancient Rhymes" is another example, where the fantastic riffs and ideas are weakened by poor execution (i.e., the transition at 2:14). There are other examples of this sort of thing throughout, but these two are the most annoying.

"Changes" is as rickety and ramshackle as other Austrian death metal bands of the time (e.g., Pungent Stench, Disastrous Murmur, early Disharmonic Orchestra). Unlike those bands, Miasma show very little interest in punk. Perhaps they align more with the 'high art' influences that Vienna is famous for (notable in the album artwork, cryptic lyrics, over-zealous song structures and bizarre use of keyboards). At their best, Miasma nail their brand of theatrical, occult death metal (some passages on "Changes" get closer to Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" than any other death metal record has done). At their worst, Miasma are reaching beyond their ability and they lack the d-beat influences that would have helped them ride out their mistakes.

Overall, this album is a fucking mess. Sometimes 'mess' can be a blessing in death metal, and the album succeeds in conjuring a malevolent dread where most death metal bands fail. Most of "Changes" works well, but it is not cohesive enough to be considered a classic. I have experimented with removing "Schizophrenia?" from the track listing, I prefer it that way and it shortens the album considerably. Anyone interested in obscure death metal from the early 90's should seek this album out and make their own mind up.

Hellish and enormous - 81%

Sacraphobic, November 16th, 2004

A huge beast lurks among the shadows of an ancient temple, yearning for blood and destruction. Its minions stand in a circle, surrounding a flame of pestilence. One by one, they sacrifice themselves, sacrifice their blood for their master. The monstrosity emerges, and its true, gargantuan size is made known, yet it is still only shadow. All cower in fear. It will devastate all in its path. It won't stop until the last spot of life is bloodily slaughtered upon its horns. This is "Changes" by Miasma.

It's very rare that the drum-production on a brutal death metal album is, well, thin, and not at all powerful. Then again, I suppose it defeats the genre's usual aims; be as heavy, unsubtle and meaningless as an elephant headbutting a tree. This is the first of many indications that Miasma have bags more sophistication than that though; indeed, I imagine they hate stuttery belching bands almost as much as I do. What we have here is drums that are rather tinny. Sure, they're perhaps a little bit too tinny at times, I empathise with those who think so, but this simply isn't the kind of album that wants or needs powerful drum production. This is all about atmosphere, this is all about mightyness in composition, not in aesthetic.

One slow, chugging, doomy passage after another is laid down between bursts of frantic drumming and riffs that lick fire across the mind, all accompanied by low and demonic vocals. Want to be a death metal vocalist? Listen to this guy. The blood of occult ritual oozes from the unstable-sounding Swedish-styled melodies; balefulness incarnate. The ideas "collapse upon one another seemlessly", like the previous reviewer stated, inside narrative frameworks that tend to start off ominous and then build into malevolence, providing me with a strong portrayal of the concept I wrote in the first paragraph. Ever wondered what Therion would've been like in their early days if they'd conjured up their music with Slayer in hell itself? So have Miasma.

There's the odd nasty bit of organ work (wtf is the intro to Schizophrenia supposed to be? Please Miasma, don't ever try to Gospelise Beethoven's 5th again, particularly not as an intro to the best song on your album), though its generally tastefully integrated into the music. There's the odd bit of acoustic guitar to be found as well, but there's certainly no problems with that. The tinny drum-production I mentioned seems to annoy some people. These are the only faults.

Disregarding these imperfections which, frankly, are hardly worth mentioning, this is complex and dark death metal that's conceptually excellent and that possesses atmosphere in abundance. It can stand among most first tier death metal albums you could care to name, without feeling out of place. If you like "Beyond Sanctorum" and you like early Slayer, you'll like this, so go get it.