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Are you Morbid? - 95%

Thatshowkidsdie, November 27th, 2011

I hate the term “meat and potatoes death metal”. I’m not sure who originally coined it (keep an eye out for this person, as they need to be tarred and feathered, stat) , but I hereby move to have this ridiculous piece of jargon forever expurgated from the metal reviewers’ lexicon. Not only does it exemplify lazy journalism and a lack of capacity for real critical thought, it states the blatantly obvious. All death metal should have meat on its bones (I’m not sure where the potatoes come in). It should be raw and bloody and hanging from stainless steel hooks and chains. It is the music of carnivores and cannibals.

Poland’s Vader are one of the bands that gets wrongfully saddled with this obnoxious term on a regular basis. One would think that being genre pioneers and nearly thirty year veterans of the scene would garner a bit more respect, especially when they’re still capable of unleashing some of the most potent death metal around. Indeed, the quartet’s ninth studio album, Welcome to the Morbid Reich, is a prime cut of death metal beef. There isn’t an ounce of fat or gristle to be found anywhere amidst its thirty-seven minute running time, and the music is appetizingly rare and juicy. It’s one of the most satisfying slabs of DM to show up on the chopping block in 2011, the type of album you can really sink your teeth into.

Alright, I’ll dispense with the silly meat analogies, as I’m sure you’ve all gotten the point by now. What’s really interesting about Vader is their consistency and unwavering dedication to death metal, traits which are abundantly apparent on Welcome to the Morbid Reich. According to Metal Archives, the band formed in 1983, and even though guitarist/vocalist Piotr Wiwczarek is the only remaining original member, the fact that the band has stuck to their guns and has released stellar material on a regular basis across nearly three decades in spite of ever-changing musical climates, about a million lineup changes and personal hardships (not to mention the fact that Poland was a part of the Eastern Bloc during their formative years) is beyond impressive. In this respect, Welcome to the Morbid Reich (whose title references one of the band’s early demos) can be seen as celebration of everything that makes Vader great.

What makes Vader so great, you ask? First and foremost has to be intensity. By surrounding himself with a lineup of younger musicians, Wiwczarek has kept Vader lean and hungry, which undoubtedly plays a key role in maintaining the relentless assault of Welcome to the Morbid Reich. Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that Wiwczarek clearly hasn’t lost any of his own personal intensity and youthful exuberance for death metal; listening to the album makes it seem quite possible that he had no choice but to hire youthful musicians, as it’s hard to imagine his fellow forty-somethings being able to keep up with him on tracks like “Only Hell Knows” and “Don’t Rip the Beast’s Heart Out”.

Intensity is nothing without craftsmanship. I’ve espoused the virtues of craftsmanship many times in previous reviews, but it is particularly important to address in the case of Vader. I think we can all agree that Vader’s approach to death metal has evolved little over the years, and while some might equate this with stagnation, I beg to differ. The fact of the matter is, Vader perfected their sound roughly a decade ago (see 2000′s mighty Litany) and everything they’ve done since has arguably been an attempt to hone and maintain that high level of craftsmanship. Welcome to the Morbid Reich doesn’t push any boundaries because it doesn’t have to; there’s no need to evolve when you’re already an apex predator. Vader have wisely chosen to continue to follow their hearts and write great songs in the process, from the smoldering skull-crush of “Black Velvet and Skulls of Steel” to the blistering high-speed bloodbath of “Decapitated Saints”. Indeed, the band’s knack for penning sharp, concise and headbangable death metal is truly unparalleled.

Welcome of the Morbid Reich is also quite stellar from a production and playing perspective. The album sounds dark, dense and crunchy as hell without falling victim to the over compression and poor mastering jobs that plague modern metal. New guitarist Spider brings some serious shred to the table and Paweł Jaroszewicz’s drums have never sounded so full and organic. Piotr’s rhythm guitar-work is as tight as ever and his vocals are still the heavily accented hell-furnace bellow that Vader fans have come to know and love, if anything it’s gotten even more gnarly with age. The recording bristles with a calculated precision, yet retains a high degree of warmth and emotion that’s sorely lacking in much of today’s cold ‘n’ clinical death metal.

At this point it’s safe to say that Vader are more than just a band, they’re a death metal institution. Defiant longevity, quality songwriting and an unwillingness to bend or break in the face of multitudes of obstacles and naysayers has secured them a throne amongst the unhallowed halls of the death metal elite, sitting atop the broken bones and shredded carcasses of a zillion lesser bands. Welcome to the Morbid Reich is yet another jewel in their collective crown, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that their sound is anything but mere “meat and potatoes”.

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