The Plague

Authentic Swedish melo-death from honest to goddamn goodness Sweden is the exact kind of artillery that Mordenial load their cannons with on their second LP, The Plague.  It’s not necessarily a sound that you can do anything new with and to be impressive in the genre at this point you need the right balance of venom, melody and quality songwriting to make it work.  This is sturdy stuff from the more aggressive side of the tracks but also akin to the style’s uber melodic forefathers.  Hell, they pretty much live in a world where In Flames post-Colony (maybe even Whoracle) was a government conspiracy designed to fool the masses.  Think prime era In Flames, The Haunted, Soilwork and Dark Tranquility worship going on while the more vicious yet no less melodic side of the genre is explored via the influences of At the Gates, my personal favorites Callenish Circle (and Mordenial’s closest next of kin) as well as Carnal Forge, Darkane and Night in Gales’ first two.  They’ve probably got the entirety of the Dismember and Grave discographies in their collections too.  That’s not a bad place to be and Mordenial doesn’t let up across the record’s 10 snarling, nostril tearing tracks.

Opener “The Plague” has a shimmering, reflective clean guitar melody that sets the stage before a flesh burning, rhythm/harmony guitar attack lays into a punk-paced, infectious riff surgery.  Drummer/vocalist Matthias Fiebig has a sickened, slightly blackened rasp that’s absolutely a cornerstone of the genre and he hammers home economic thrash beats, hurried blasts and crunching fill/double bass stomps.  It never descends in hardcore but changes things up thanks to a worm-eaten, doombent riff midway through that merges gloriously into twin guitarists Kjetil Lynghaug and Martin’s glistening, Sunlight Studios’ slick lead/solo shred swapping.  Shrapnel torn bodies, battlefields drenched in red and explosion flaming night skies are the kind of images conjured up by the music and these guys thankfully work in the classic template of the genre.  Callenish Circle feels like their closest contemporaries.  The crunchy, mid-tempo, bayonet gut stab of “Daylight is Gone” kicks off with a chunky riff groove and taut snare fills punctuated by punkier, crustier d-beat style runs.  This throat cutter is all about the deliberate, rusty blade to the back death march; never too fast and never too slow (hell it includes an actual wartime snare march!) with some vintage Gothenburg leads and trademarked screams rounding the sound out.  A fret-wrecking solo heightens the highwire anxiety and 2nd guitarist/bassist Martin’s low end is well-centered in the mix as he provides buoyant bass lines that keep the material lunging forth.

“Burning Soil” enters in a rapid fire flurry of thrash-y rhythm guitar runs and double-dealing harmony licks.  It’s demonically down-tuned grooves churn out some sludgier metallic runs as even the vocals reach for death-ier depths in a few instances.  Hammering, lightning fast snare/tom rolls brim over the blood boiling grime and a handful of faster surges along with the solo mad climax showcasing some stellar musicianship from all parties.  Album standout “Salvation” goes for the jugular with a pointed, tonally thick thrash riff and low slung kick drum carnage; building plenty of intro tension for the vocals to enter in scratchy screams and the bass lines to adopt a distorted tremor quake (sometimes pulling out as the lead instrument).  Blink n’ you’ll miss ‘em creaky noise guitar licks rise into an ascending, doom-y thrash riff at the 1:05 mark where a seriously catchy groove is tough as nails yet memorable.  Technically sound and just plain red hot solos crash into one another while the rhythms pile-drive the foundation along with purpose.  This beast is In Flames’ Colony sounding at times but in a more aggressive, even groovier way that reaches for the angrier side of the Swedish scene.  The ending is certainly steeped in confrontational, detuned, death metal debauchery.  Dense, riff/lead oriented mid-paced plodding gives way to similarly anthem-worthy moments on “No Empathy.”  It’s a gear grinding, heavy thrasher with some of the best melodic guitar pyrotechnics I’ve heard from a newer, somewhat unknown band in the genre…damn tasty stuff for certain.

A neoclassical, exotic opening full of cleaner guitars and interwoven note sustains sends “Save you all” spiraling downward into a mean, ornery, sludgier thrash riff that duels with ragged mid-range throat shred, anvil heavy backbeats and cavernous, bass-y plunges.  As the straight no chase ferocity shepherds its way into open, arid pastures, sublime guitar melodies and tastefully hook-y yet complex solos massage the melo-death cortex receptors to a state of maximum pleasure.  Tempos go kooky on “All Has Vanished” as more than a hint of Carnal Forge and Darkane slips into the melodic swirls.  Machine gun snare fills, throbbing double bass and faster, thrash-y riffs rip into the listener like a helpless side of beef, setting the stage for hip-shot solo bits and an ending that’s a minute plus of frost-bitten, black metal tremolo picking and hyperspeed blast with dual screamed/growled vocals that showeth no mercy.  It certainly has a touch of Rusted Angel happening.  “Follow the Cross” incorporates classic American thrash ala Slayer into its framework while still retaining the intensely melodic lead/solo soul electrocution that sees Kjetil and Martin trading scorching shots before delving into doom-y, duo riffs.  The dissonant, deliciously acerbic chorus riff melodies of “Emotions” are contagious like the flu with a side of Chicken Pox as affecting leads ram into cosmic soloing.  2:44 hauls in another weird, melodically atonal groove that these guys constantly pull off throughout the entire record.  It’s a groove that soothes as much as it chips away your constitution with a chisel…hard to explain but highly effective.  They save one of the fastest, nastiest tracks “The End” for last and it’s got that Swedish, crust punk d-beat drumming style running merciless thrash and lightning fast solos off the road and into the ditch of oblivion.  Again, Callenish Circle and even some Epoch of Unlight pumps through this mean fucker’s veins.

The Plague hardly reinvents the wheel but Mordenial are tight players, solid composers and they never fall victim to modern trends.  There are zero wimpy clean vocals, no hardcore breakdowns and a focus on mid-tempo, melody intensive tunes that really knuckle down on some vitriol splattered riffs.  Hell, when they pick up the tempos into grinding thrash they make it count, sounding positively enraged and ready to beat you to death with a meat tenderizer.  This is classic, by the book Swedish melo-death that draws from both the melodic and vicious personalities of the genre; good stuff that’s already receiving repeat listens at the Snyder household.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
August 30th, 2017


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