REVIEW: Mortiferum - Altar of Decay (Demo CD)

MORTIFERUM
ALTAR OF DECAY
BLOOD HARVEST RECORDS

It's Demo time again, whereas a band is actually brave enough to put out something of theirs without running it through the wringer. This time Mortiferum is up, 'cause they think they got the chops to drop a Demo as a CD with a label and everything. Brave, I tell you. Maybe cocky or, maybe, confident. Then again, it's death metal, a genre constantly fighting to regain it's purity. Maybe we need releases like this, something a little rawer. Something unrefined and gritty as hell.

At a point in time, I was often met with a few individuals that told me of a thing called 'pure death metal'. I didn't really understand, I didn't really care to understand. They ran down the list of what makes it what it is: heavy, dark, raw, invasive, but simple. I didn't wholly understand, in my mind death metal was often a very technical thing. Over time, I experienced a few bands that skirted on the definition, but today I believe I've come to experience it. Never before has four tracks made me question what I knew about a subgenre of metal; that made me consider the possibility that there was possibly something else out there. Mortiferum's demo does that and more. Their sound is utterly monolithic, impassible waves pounding against your ears; simple and to the point, but not lacking complexity where it is needed; methodical at times, but capable of providing a bevy of break through moments.

But really, if you didn't understand that adjective-happy poetic outburst – the demo is good. It's the closest thing I can imagine when it comes to pure death metal. Not a whole lot of alternate tuning here, Mortiferum doesn't switch things up between songs, not a lot of filler. Granted, you got your spooky intro and a interlude, and, yes, there are bells tolling. However, I think they work as well as one could hope they would. The lack of over-production also lends to a more gritty sound, songs genuinely feel creepy; the atmosphere is fantastic. Notes rumble, bass thuds, and damn, the drums – I don't even understand why they work. In any other instance, these drums would be crap. But the tinny, cheap sound seems to add to the eeriness of this group. My only true gripe is the vocals, which never falter but never quite excel either – they remain that tried and true guttural sound. It's pure, yeah, but it also makes me aware of why exactly bands like this are so rare: the pure way presents a lack of variety and experimentation.

Mortiferum, holy hell, what pit did this band crawl from? What it contained within these four tracks, this raw churning mass of unbridled horror – it makes me think: what is next for this group?