Post Mortem were the perennial underdogs of the 1980s underground metal scene. They recorded one bona fide classic – Coroner’s Office – yet never received credit for being years ahead of most bands now regarded as the godfathers of death metal. Their follow-up albums Festival of Fun and Destined For Failure were wildly experimental. Instead of praise they alienated their record label and pissed off most of the fans who expected another version of Coroner’s Office. In the mid-1990s the band decided to hang it up but left open the possibility of a reunion. Until recently, it was hard to get a copy of Coroner’s Office that wasn’t an original pressing or a shitty bootleg. Nonetheless, those who had heard and owned the album were fiercely loyal to it and passed it along like a sacred totem.
Cue forward to the 21st century. Post Mortem is scattered but somehow together. Guitarist John Alexander is working in the computer industry on the West Coast and John McCarthy is still living outside of his beloved Boston. McCarthy is two days away from beginning to track vocals of a comeback album earlier this year when he dies at 40 from a heart attack. Alexander, who recorded the album with original bassist Mark Kelley and drummer Rick McIver – is left with a wealth of material and without Post Mortem’s strongest point – its iconoclastic, deep-throated prankster of a frontman.
Fortunately, Alexander decided to soldier on and record the album as a tribute to the man most knew as “Macca.” He recruited Sigh vocalist Mirai Kawashima- a singer accustomed to symphonic black metal – to handle all of McCarthy’s vocals. While grieving the loss of one of the closest friends he finished an album with the appropriate title Message From The Dead.
Tribute albums are difficult to judge, especially when they lack the most integral part of the band. But Message From The Dead is a success both as a tribute to McCarthy and as a stand-alone album. Fans of Coroner’s Office who disliked Post Mortem’s later output will be thrilled as this is an unrepentant return to the death/thrash style of their most famous work.
The album rips right into “Message From The Dead,” which has a catchy chorus and a deep, resonant riff. Kawashima’s vocals work surprisingly well here as he screams “I hear the voices calling…I have to do my part to kill and destroy!” “Crispy Monsters” is a thrash-riff bonanza with Kawashima’s vocals seething above Alexander’s muffled guitar. There are also slow tracks like “Humana Pinata” which are reminiscent of the band’s sludgy early songs like “I Want To Die.”
Alexander turns in a polished and powerful performance despite a long absence from metal. This is a solemn album despite some of the tongue-in-cheek song titles; the content is rendered even darker knowing that someone else was supposed to be singing these songs. There are also numerous extra versions of songs featuring guest vocalists paying their last respects. Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt, who was briefly a member of Post Mortem, offers a notable performance as does Alex Bijazic of Croatian thrashers Devastation.
Shortly after he died McCarthy was the subject of lengthy obituaries in both The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald. While he would have been honored he would also have been a bit mystified at the attention. Message From The Dead however, is the ultimate tribute to McCarthy. Not only does it pay respects to the band’s creative powerhouse, it stands alone as poignant and powerful statement of creativity and willpower.[Visit the band's website]