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Miasma > Changes > Reviews > robotniq
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.