Album Review: Mortuous – Upon Desolation

Album Review: Mortuous – Upon Desolation
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Now this is an album I utterly launched myself at when it became available to review. Mortuous are a band who have been in the game for a little while now and yet, have not released too much without knowing their output is extremely high quality. Formed in 2009, from California, United States, Mortuous are one of this generation’s rising names amongst the new wave of death metal. The band released their first Demos in 2010 and 2012 respectively but then things went quiet for Mortuous for several years, likely owing to the lineup changes that resulted in the band being comprised of who we see today. 2018 finally saw the first full length album from the band, Through Wilderness, a record that instantly made a massive fan of their work. Even years down the line, Through Wilderness is a record I hold extremely dear to me should anyone despair at not finding anything new in extreme metal. At last, four years on, Mortuous return, following Splits in 2018, beginning their contract through Carbonized Records, and 2019 and a Compilation a year later, to throw another monster of an album our way. Upon Desolation deserves to be highly anticipated, so let’s delve into this record in the hopes the band have managed to provide precisely that level of hope for it.

I loved how the band started this record as if there had been zero time between the end of their debut album and right now. There isn’t anything overtly special about how this album starts up, only that the band hit you with this tremendous wave of tone and power. What’s more, the band’s performance doesn’t feel like it’s been heavily tweaked in the mix. What we get feels very organic and is pretty much the way the various elements would have blended together as the band were in the recording studio. In this respect, Mortuous offer up a particularly raw and ruthless record that isn’t vying for us to find comfort amongst their blistering assault. The album doesn’t care if we’re being forced into the earth through the overwhelming weight of its sound, it’s a show of endurance to remain standing following this battery. I’m certain other bands would have toned things down somewhat to craft a more coherent and understandable soundscape however, the fact that Mortuous decided against doing so showcases their priorities for this album. It’s not here to hold your hand and check on your well-being, it has you targeted and isn’t satisfied until it’s finished its barrage.

The riffs on this album are simply colossal. It isn’t simply down to the band possessing especially prominent guitars on this record, but down to how the bass also comes to prop up the riffs. The main riff on a track like “Nothing” hits you like a knuckle duster not merely due to the songwriting but the way the riff seems to bounce off your ears, back to the record and then returning to your senses once again. As a result, the band allow this album to get loud, REALLY loud. I had to bring down the volume for once which isn’t like me. However, the fact that this album is as massive and loud and bold as it is only serves as a dangling carrot for fans after that extreme and devastating angle that only death metal may supply. Often, the riffs aren’t immediately followed by another chord or solo so you can get a guitar chord simply ring out, enabling the guitar work to ooze its tone out which only reveals how this album is able to exert its enormous stature.

Album Review: Mortuous – Upon Desolation

The drumming complements the massive guitar work too. Extreme metal is where you’ll often find a multitude of drumming techniques and Mortuous are no different. It’s great to note however, that the band don’t just utilise blast beats from start to finish for the record’s entirety. Their sound is utterly engorged and the drums instil this sense of unrestrained chaos to the mire. The band’s pace is almost always on overdrive so we’ve forever got this rampaging, rolling adrenaline flowing through their performance and the fact that the drums haven’t been given any clean sheen or polish makes their sound all the more visceral. You can feel the energy their drummer is able to impart into his performance. So, when the blast beats are brought in for good measure, and often throughout the record’s most insane segments, the swirling vortex the band jettison you into is absolutely bewildering. You’re left alone in this storm as you attempt to make out familiar surroundings. The riffs and drums absolutely work in tandem with each other, amplifying the other’s sound to create something utterly nuclear in energy levels.

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this record, is to what extent Mortuous are ready to seriously let things loose. I haven’t heard such a maniacal record in a long time. The actual songwriting isn’t too different to what you’d expect from an extreme metal record, but the extremity to which the band are willing to let their guitar work and soloing go to is absolutely startling. It’s throughout the record’s more insane moments where the band often break out into these sporadic pieces without any prior warning or build-up. Flailing whammy bar screeches, rapid-fire soloing firing on all cylinders to produce some of the most ferocious soloing heard since Bolt Thrower and Angelcorpse etc, it’s an incredible ride because the band apply no special treatment to these segments; they just spring it on us which only makes it more satisfying when we discover such a treat.

In conclusion, it’s clear that Mortuous wanted to make up for the four years it’s been between full length releases by turning Upon Desolation into one of the most savage, atomic releases death metal has seen this year. The band, in my memory, went so much further in aggression and power with this album. Upon Desolation may be near the 40 minute mark however I could very easily play this record all over again from start to finish and not have a worry over how long it would take me to do so. Owing to the songwriting and pacing the band play at for the record’s majority, Upon Desolation is one fast album. Yet, the speed this thing runs at doesn’t negate the impact the riffs imbue us with; the wild and chaotic nature of this record also amplifies the absolute madness Mortuous were able to deliver on herein. It’s been some time since such a spontaneously insane album was brought to my attention, rendering Upon Desolation as an album absolutely worth the wait. I’m hyped for anything Mortuous bring out in the future, because these guys know how to balance insanity with deranged order.

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