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Ruins that welcome blood. - 95%

GrizzlyButts, June 12th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, Independent (Reissue)

The early work of Morpheus Descends chronicles a legendarily promising addition to the callous New York death metal scene that never got the break their material deserved. Initially known as Morpheus from 1990-1992 and even in their formative years their material stood out next to Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse and Immolation around them. The ‘Adipocere’ EP and ‘Corpse Under Glass’ demo showcased a brutal take on old school death metal composition that was almost strong enough to be ‘full-length ready’. In choosing JL America for their first record label Morpheus Descends took the first of a series of blows to the head that would lead to their long struggle towards disbanding.

‘Ritual of Infinity’ is a long-damned relic, a degraded mummy set under glass and viewed through watery eyes. Few brutal death metal albums were so dynamic before and after, relying on spectacle where Morpheus Descends were always substantive in their extremity. The horror lies within the production and recording quality and as such the band’s history is forever clutched and worshiped within the candlelight of the underground. I am one of those odd ghouls who find it’s compression of ideas and sound powerful and still foully rotten. Unfortunately JL America didn’t pimp the record, people didn’t eat it up like they would Incantation and their ilk and Morpheus Descends struck out on their own with some small changes to their line-up.

The failing spirit of the band in the early 90’s worked entirely to my personal benefit because I consider their follow-up EP ‘Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones’ a personal favorite among death metal records that incorporate doom metal riffs and pacing into their sound. The angular grinding blast of ‘Ritual of Infinity’ is slowed to a cathartic mid-pace and instead hints of Bolt Thrower and Incantation dominate the experience. The clangorous drum sound provides almost exactly the sound of a NYDM band of the era playing live but without all of the blasting; this performance actually helps elevate the sound of the EP above death/doom of the period that typically buried the snare and lost a great deal of noisome heaviness of old school death metal in the process. “The Cruciform Hills” isn’t as immediately taut as even the slowest riffing from ‘Rituals of Infinity’ but the feeling of the composition is exceptional for this style. Morpheus Descends could have easily just banged-out a rote brutal death metal album at this point but instead created a self-released visionary work that few would access or appreciate.

It might be hard to see ‘Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones’ as forward-thinking rather than mildly influential without the bigger picture of death/doom metal. In terms of performance, writing, and delivery this was highly original material even in the soulless clusterfuck of death metal’s after-burning circa 1994. The thoughtfully atmospheric tremolo-thunderous guitar playing on “Cairn of Dumitru” and “Autumn Bleed” remains unrivaled to this day with some hints of it’s approach coming from bands like Desecresy, Ataraxy and Disma yet the drum performances have no modern equal. The dark ambient piece at the end of the EP is something I certainly didn’t appreciate until much later. In it’s sonic depiction of hell “Moupho Alde Ferenc Yaborov” provides a fitting outro that was largely unheard of at the time, or at least in the scene, outside of maybe some brief interludes from Acheron. The experience certainly feels like a full-length of today and the re-issue from Dark Horizon Records (founded by bassist Andy Newton of Typhus and Fog) provides the cleanest transfer of the EP I’ve heard, though I’m not sure if it was remastered at all or if my copy was just disintegrating.

As I said previous, I consider ‘Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones’ one of the best examples of a death metal band incorporating mid-paced work and doom metal influences, as such highly recommend listening to it. Morpheus Descends have gotten some greater love in hindsight and with reissue, plus they did soldier on for a while longer but this release particularly deserves to be remembered alongside the brutal death metal leaning releases that surround it. With the band’s continued activity beyond 2015 it will be interesting to see whether their inevitable full-length materializes with any hints of this mid-paced style or their more brutal tendencies.

Attribution: https://grizzlybutts.com/2018/05/22/retro-tuesdays-morpheus-descends-chronicles-of-the-shadowed-ones-1994/

Masterful testimony of thunderous negative art - 95%

Stein, April 22nd, 2007

This could have been the all-time greatest masterpiece of New York Death Metal if it featured more original material performed the band, but even in this brief incarnation it surpasses the classic predecessor Ritual Of Infinity. It is evident that not many resources were spent on the recording of this short album, privately print and distributed and still remaining relatively obscure as of today. However, you will not see here the crippling production treatment that drowned the spirit of other old school NYDM records such as Suffocation's Breeding The Spawn or Organic Infest's Penitent, disallowing these and other artists to fully express their artistic potential. Rather, Chronicles Of Shadowed Ones is presented in it's purest essence; muffled and brute, with archaic evanescent tones that never stop reverberating. Crystal-clear polishing would have been an unnatural diversion.

Chronicles Of Shadowed Ones is a concept album based on the modern horror fiction of Brim Lumley, specifically the Necroscope series. Its motifs of paranormal powers and the occult, featuring a mythology of deranged vampire-like creatures out of parallel worlds are disturbingly captured by the abrasive atmosphere of the music.

Stylistically, unlike the album that preceds it, there's less of the crushing, excessively rhythmic precision archetypical of the North American tradition, pioneered and perfected by peers Suffocation; Morpheus Descends lies in a vein closer to Incantation, more interested in subtle, evolving melodic development and alternating tempos between the frenzied very fast and the somber death/doom when it best suits the narrative. In fact, at parts sinister tremolo-picked melodies nearly borders Swedish Death Metal.

The most intimate contact with the listener is through the extremely dexterous and dynamic drumming. In all its conventional North American primacy, the blasting is clear, frenetic at times, and approaches a more ritualistic and warlike rhythm during the epic apex of the album. Closely behind it, and lacking completely this discrete execution stands the true instrumental grandeur of the album, the distant landscapes carved by the strings, echoing on each song distinctive, expansive melodic themes such as the heroic introduction of The Cruciform Hills and the desolate, pessimistic mood of Autumn Bleed. A layer farther in this atmosphere of evilness, rough guttural narratives emanate pernicious messages. Undecipherable are the words of this complex tale of hunting and death.

For the last track Moupho Alde Ferenc Yaborov we are surprised with the recapitulation of the inhuman howls from the begining of the first track and are stripped away from the metal realm, and perhaps even from the musical realm altogether. Cinematic dark ambient brings forth images of barren caverns with unknown dangers, tainted by fiendish creatures hungry for blood. Frightening monstrous growls infest the audible content of this long track alongside what seems to be very distant feral, tribal rhythms. Thus, with an ambiguous but arguably injurious resolution is finished one of the finest works of the Golden Era of Death Metal.

Underground Death Metal From The NYDM Axis - 90%

brocashelm, April 28th, 2006

The Northeastern US death metal scene took a shade longer to assert itself than it’s more highly hyped cousin down in Florida, but ultimately more bands of substance and meaning came from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other snow-covered states than those choked by humidity. Morpheus Descends were actually one of the first to appear, although some bad luck and worse record label choices hindered their progress quite a bit. After a good but cheaply made debut album in 1992’s Ritual Of Infinity, the band went independent and pressed this mini-CD on their own terms.


Remarkably containing a much better sound job and far more formed and well composed songs, this is simply one of the era’s best death metal releases, period. Writing quite in their own style, the band’s sound recalls the highly structured tunes of fellow scene mates Vital Remains, although with considerably less reliance on blast beat tempos. “The Cruciform Hills” melds doom and death with equal ease, as does “Autumn Bleed,” and the entire affair is blessed with an appropriately dark and spacious production. As the record label feeding frenzy had come to pass by the middle nineties, it’s a lesson in determination and a true love of ones chosen music that bands like Morpheus Descends survived (if not exactly thrived) in an environment where death metal had already been gnawed upon and spat out by the majors.