Album Review: Molder - Engrossed In Decay
Reviewed by Sam Jones
We return once again to the United States and Illinois no less, where the band in question, Molder, come at us with their sophomore studio release titled Engrossed In Decay. The band formed back in 2017 and since then, have continuously churned out material that would make any newcomer to the death metal scene sweat: numerous Demos, Live Albums, a debut album released in 2020 titled Vanished Cadavers with multiple Splits also bloating the band’s impressive discography early into their career. Engrossed In Decay sees the band return just two years later, a clear indication that Molder are serious about putting in the necessary time and work required to keep their growing fanbase salivating for more. This was my first listen and I was rather curious to say the least.
It would appear Molder do away with a more destructive kind of guitar attack, in favour for a slower and crunchier guitar tone. The result of this is a record that requires itself to be a little steadier than some of their contemporaries; a faster record wouldn’t have given us such an uncompromising guitar tone. Therefore, by bringing the pacing of their riffs down the band have been able to really exemplify the ugly nature of their sound. It’s also likely the reason why their tracks aren’t too lengthy either; the band aren’t going for speed, and so the audience will experience the passing of time to a greater extent than if the band merely shredded their way through. I also appreciated how you can, in a way, hear the start and back end of a single note within the general riffs. It helps to boost that sense of crunching tone that isn’t looking merely to destroy, but rather to swallow you whole. It’s a surprisingly immersive listen, yet one that allows you the space to breathe.
This concept of ugliness and a dirty sound is only furthered by the bass tone that becomes impossible to turn away from once you’ve heard it on its own for the first time. Molder play death metal as it was envisioned way back in its primal days; when it was hideous and macabre and reeked of decay. While the bass may not be ultimately too audible as the riffs are plodding along, the bass is easily adding its own thick tones to the rest of the record as well as providing the slight hint of fuzz just at the edge of the record. Listen hard enough and you’ll find it quietly in the background. What this tells us is how the band certainly opted for a smudgy and more depraved form of album production, they had no wishes to render their sound for a clean aesthetic.
While the band introduce us to their album, for the first few tracks, with their more trudging and crunchier style, it’s good to acknowledge that, as the album opens up, the band definitely ensure there’s more variety in pacing, tone and aggression than what their record initially introduces us to. The band are forever unveiling more of what they have to offer as the album goes by, as opposed to just stating to the audience who they are right from the get go. In this case, the audience won’t just listen to the first track and feel like they now understand the band’s total identity. Each ensuing song is giving something a little different in places; perhaps it’s more aggressive riffs, perhaps it’s the rare demonstration of a blast beat it on record, or maybe the vocals are coming off with greater ferocity. Overall, Engrossed In Decay is always expanding its fans’ horizons for what they can expect to find during their experience here.
I need to commend the band for not going for a crushing and more brutal sonic aesthetic. Everything about this band, from their riffs to their style of songwriting to the way they conduct themselves as a band in delivering a continuously ferocious performance, points to the choice of producing this record as one that does nothing but suffocate and destroy its audience. So it’s the fact that the band chose not to undergo this decision, that endears me a little more to Molder. I appreciate how I can experience the trudging and often in-your-face riffs alongside the pounding, sometimes-blast beat level of drumming and the visceral vocals equally at the same time without the production being so thick that I can’t listen in to individual elements of their sound. By lessening their levels of brutality, the band make sure audiences can coherently follow their songwriting as well as see to it, that their audience isn’t being pressed down on all sides by an unnecessarily crushing soundscape. In this instance, a more suffocating atmosphere would not have worked for Molder’s style and I’m all the happier for their decision.
In conclusion, I found this to be a surprisingly entertaining listen. As we’ve covered previously, the big thing about this record that I took away is how the band kept unveiling something new and different with each passing track. Often you might have an album whereby the first track effectively mirrors what the rest of the album will be like, thankfully that isn’t the case here as Molder make sure there’s plenty of diversity to keep us engaged and entertained as each track comes along. There’s a decent amount of material to keep us excited for what is coming next. The band’s trudging form of riffs and their generally slower approach to songwriting results in a record that allows you to feel the weight of their sound, and the passing of time. They enable you to appreciate the strength their riffs flow with. On the whole this was a solid release and I’m glad I checked it out, death metal doesn’t always need to be fast and vicious as Molder rightly demonstrate.