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An Unusual Finnish Death Metal Experience - 86%

__Ziltoid__, July 5th, 2010

Released in 1993, Dances From Left is a monster of an album. Unlike, for example, Demigod’s dark and atmospheric Slumber Of Sullen Eyes, Dances From Left is much more riff-oriented. In fact, the riffs here are just flat out heavy. Of course, the guitars are played with “that tone,” which I previously discussed as being critical to the Finnish sound. But what is unusual about it this time around is that the bass is actually pretty audible on its own over the guitars. On most Finndeath albums, they sort of blend together to create a really deep sound, but such is not the case here, and Dances From Left actually benefits from that by having bass act as another interesting dimension in their music.

One thing I’ve always noticed about this album is how excellent the percussion is. The riffs here may be great, but without the appropriate percussion, their effect would be that much less significant. But the percussion here suits the riffs so well! Whether it’s the basic kick-snare pattern which is so often implemented in metal, or an intricate cymbal pattern, Mordicus gets it right every time. For example, on the first track, ‘I Bled To See’, notice from 2:54 onward how the percussion changes to suit what riff is being played. Throughout the whole album it mixes things up from simple to complex with ease, almost to the point where you don’t notice how well it’s being done unless you focus on it, since the riffs tend to take the spotlight.

Of note is that this is on the slow side for a death metal album. Since the riffs dominate so much, it makes sense not to be constantly blastbeating like crazy to distract from them. Take the song ‘Eternia’, for example. It’s definitely on the slow side, but the riffs make up for this lack of speed, constantly gripping the listener in, whether it may be due to their sheer catchy, simple-upon-first-listen nature, or due to their subtle intricacy and how they direct the songs. Of course, this lack of speed also lends to the album being on the more melodic side of things, and there are certainly moments where Mordicus take advantage of this. In fact, this album is quite melodic. Not melodic enough to be melodic death metal, but it has its share of seemingly catchy riffs with a Maiden-esque lead or two thrown over them (‘Cybernetic Summer’ and ‘A Thorn In Holy Flesh’ are probably the best examples of this).

‘Cybernetic Summer’ also happens to be my least favorite track on the album. Frankly, it just isn’t ballsy enough for death metal, or for this album. Luckily, Mordicus quickly makes up for this with the crushing ‘Unholy Wrath’. This is just excellent! The riffs are just so heavy here, and they all compliment each other so well. But the end of this song (from 4:37 on) epitomizes this whole album: heavy and catchy as hell. This is easily the best track on the album.

But when first listening to this album, I couldn’t help but wonder why it just doesn’t sound as evil or as dark as their contemporaries. One night, I finally realized that it’s because this album doesn’t rely on the ever-so common tremolo picked riffing style that most death metal bands implement. This style is often heard in conjunction with blast beats, and since those are so rare on this album, it makes sense that this would certainly sound different. Thus, when I hear something like the beginning of ‘Oceans’, I get a slight “what the fuck” thought, even though it’s one of the best songs on the album. Surely this is not the death metal that we’re all so accustomed to. It’s so riff-centric and relatively non-aggressive in terms of percussion (and by that, I mean that Mordicus rarely implement blast beats or double bass drumming techniques) that it defies the mold created by most death metal. But it’s that very characteristic that makes this album so good.

While it may be a bit melodic for some death metal purists, don’t let that steer you away from this great death metal album. It’s brings the riffs at full force, while also creating something relatively unique for its time and location.

Written for

Mordicus - Dances from left - 65%

Phuling, August 5th, 2008

This is a re-release of Mordicus’ “legendary” album from 1993. But I use the term “legendary” loosely since I’ve never heard of the band before. 1993 was before my time, I was only ten years old so I had a few years left of growing up before I discovered death metal. However the promo sheet claims it to be a legendary album, and Rock Hard apparently calls the record one of the best death metal albums ever, so I suppose the term will have to do.

I, on the other hand, will not be claiming Dances from the left to be one of the best albums ever. It’s not a bad album, but it’s too melodic for my taste. I suppose heavy metal is to blame for the overly melodic melodies and guitar solos. There’s tons of heavy metal mixed into the otherwise fairly pure old school death sound. Take a track like Cybernetic summer, which is instrumental and just reeks of melody. Ich… Oh well, I suppose it gives Mordicus a different edge than other Finnish old school acts. But there are other elements as well that’s not pure death; like for instance the intro to Oceans that at times holds sort of a jazzy feel, and sustains an electronic aura due to the weird scream sampling.

But let’s get down to business with what is death metal. The album holds quite a brutal guitar sound for its time, which carries a fairly powerful punch. The drumming is sort of what you’d expect from an old school album; not too fast but still very powerful, heavy hammering. The vocals are very guttural and gurgling, but actually lacking a lot in brutality. It sounds a bit too strained and forced. But the record definitely has its moments. Christcide is a real brutal piece, with a tad shriekier vocals that gives it a bit more schizoid feel. And I have to mention Flames beneath my sleep, which has a calm instrumental intro of acoustic guitars, flute and whatnot. A few other tracks has these brief moments of acoustic instrumentation as well, making Unanimated come to mind.

After the ten tracked Dances from the left is over the bonus tracks set in. And the bonus is made up of tunes from their old demos. Some sounding fairly the same as the previous ones. But what sets it apart is the dual vocals and a dose of brutality. Especially Exordium demorior kicks ass. There’s even a Carcass aura surrounding the later tracks, so these are even more brutal (and better). But all in all it’s not an album I’d pay for. It doesn’t matter how cool and old school gore the last three tracks are; the overly melodic main part of the album is just not worth it.

Originally written for

Completely Underrated - 97%

ArtOfWar, May 11th, 2004

Mordicus may hail from Finland, but this album is a page right out of the glory days of Swedish Death Metal. I had only seen one review of this before picking it up, and that reviewer had labeled this "Black Metal.' But believe me, this is as close to Black Metal as N'Sync. This is pure, firebreathing, explosive Death Metal of the highest magnitude. Mordicus is a band that was loaded with talent, and it shines through on the 10 tracks on this album. A few acoustic interludes here and there (especially in the instrumental track "Flames Beneath My Sleep') was enough for me to deduct a few points from this release. Make no mistake though, this album flat out smokes. Guitar solos run rampant throughout, and hook you with each catchy as hell riff. The vocals on this release are of the growl kind, but are so face melting and horrific, you will be running for cover when they kick in after certain somber moments. How this album never received a ton of recognition and praise is beyond me, as it blows away many of the copycat bands that rolled through the Death Metal scene in the early to mid 90's. Due to the fact that only 1500 copies of this album were printed, this one has become a major rarity. If you can find it from a dealer or trader, pick it up at all costs.