My top 10 of 2014 albums

Making lists has never been my cup of tea but let’s try. (Including EPs)

1. Morbus Chron – Sweven
At first the Swedish Morbus Chron’s second album didn’t convince me but I can’t describe how much the record grew on me a few months after the first listening – I got to the point where I consider it to be no doubt one of the most unique death metal stuff existing out there. Completely dissimilar to their first one yet just as excellent in a different way.
Morbus Chron – Towards a Dark Sky
.

bölz-s2. Bölzer – Soma
The black/death Bölzer set the standards high with their first EP ‘Aura’ [read my review of the record here] and even though ‘Soma’ needed more listenings to reach up to its level, the two-piece Swiss band did not disappoint. Very much looking forward to the album!
Bölzer – Labyrinthian Graves
.

midnn3. Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem
Similarly to Bölzer, if Midnight’s Athenar wants to reach up to the level of his early works and first album Satanic Royalty, he probably has to put plenty of effort in it. ‘No Mercy for Mayhem’ is a little bit slower as a whole than any of his earlier works but is still really intense and among the very best of 2014.
Midnight – Woman of Flame
.

vampp4. Vampire – Vampire
The evergreen Swedish death metal scene shows once again what the Swedes are capable of. One of nowadays’ best old school-styled death metal album for sure!
Vampire – The Fen
.
.

rangg5. Ranger – Shock Skull
Finnish old school speed metallers with crushing live performances. If you don’t understand the hype around them, listen to Shock Skull and afterwards you most likely will.
Ranger – Shock Skull
 .
.

acc6. Accept – Blind Rage
Nice to see the German heavy metal veterans being still as strong and enthusiastic as ever. It really is a delight listening to Blind Rage!
Accept – Final Journey
.
.
.

nocwi7. Nocturnal Witch – Summoning Hell
Bestial German black/thrashers rising with their first album. I’d say it is worth buying.
Nocturnal Witch – Black Star
.
.
.

riot-unl8. Riot – Unleash the Fire
Awesome to hear the old guys still in such a good condition. Aand… Johnny the seal is back in one of his funniest forms ever.
Riot – Metal Warrior
.
.
.

port-cross9. Portrait – Crossroads
With their third album in 2014, the Swedish heavy group well-known among quite a few Mercyful Fate-follower bands in the country came up with a record fulfilling every expectation and beating out many other competitors.
Portrait – In Time
.
.

noct-storm10. Nocturnal – Storming Evil
Even though I personally liked both of Nocturnal’s earlier albums better, ‘Storming Evil’ was still a great album worth mentioning amongst the top ones from 2014. One of my favorite female vocalists, all hail Hell Tyrannizer!
Nocturnal – Rising Demons

Advertisements

“We let it become whatever it becomes”

Interview with vocalist Robert Andersson and bassist Dag Landin from Morbus Chron

Interview by Estelle on the 18th of October 2014 on Live Evil festival in London

Photo: Joakim Andersson

The Swedish death metallers Morbus Chron – whose name comes from a kind of illness also known as Crohn’s disease – have proven to be one outstanding, unique band of their genre. Their debut, the mainly Autopsy-inspired, old school sounding Sleepers in the Rift [read my review of the album here] got them into and determined their place in the scene; followed by the exceptional, more mature Sweven (title is an old English word for ‘dream’ or ‘vision’) that took them to a next level.
As frontman Robert Andersson stated, the reason of the drastical change was the fact that they stopped caring about sticking to a certain formula or writing a specific kind of riff, ignored other bands and let their own voices speak the loudest.

I had the chance to ask a few questions from vocalist Robert Andersson (Robba) and bassist Dag Landin while leisurely sitting on the street at some doorway after Antichrist’s show on Live Evil festival in London.

Hello guys, first of all thank you very much for doing the interview with me! Firstly I would like to ask, do you think there is a point where you can find the style that fits and defines Morbus Chron and that you can stay with, or will you always have the desire to change or vary all the time?

Robert: For the next album, I don’t think it will be the same sort of transformation as between Sleepers and Sweven, I don’t think the change will be as drastic. But still, we’re doing this because we want to stay inspired, we want to change. If we just kept doing the same thing it wouldn’t be inspiring and the music would sound awful. But we have sort of reached the point where we feel really comfortable with the sound of Sweven and where we are right now.

Dag: Each of our releases are different, but all of the changes have come very spontaenously yet organically. There have never been decisions to say we’re going to change our style, it’s just the stuff that we come up with. It’s kind of hard to tell where we are going. We don’t really like to decide on a path to go on, so far it has just happened.

Do you think you can have constant or permanent fans even with the changing style?

Robba – Photo: Erik Stenbacka

Robert: We talked about that when we played here (Live Evil, London) in 2011, and compared to this time the crowd is reacting in a totally different way. In 2011 we just played songs from Sleepers and people were going crazy – we sound different now, and the people’s reactions are really different as well. I think we might have angered some fans that liked us before but I don’t think that’s the case with most people, I think they kind of appreciate this side of us too. 

Dag: Yeah, we’ve probably lost some fans but also gained a bunch of new ones.

Are you trying to meet the expectations of anyone (let it be a particular audience or a label) or do you plan to continue doing everything in your own way?

We certainly do everything on our own way.

Do you think it was essential to record and release Sleepers in the Rift in 2011 to reach the stage where you are now with the completely different Sweven?

Robert: Yeah, we all have to start from somewhere. Sleepers was the album that we wanted to write back then, and two years later we were going to write Sweven. We would have never written Sweven if we didn’t write Sleepers in the Rift, but they don’t connect.

That’s right, with Sweven you went from one extreme to another not just in case of the music, but also the appearance and the lyrics. Sweven has 3 instrumental songs already and I remember you (Robba) saying that you’re starting to find yourself not needing to express anything in words anymore. Would you consider making a completely instrumental Morbus Chron album?

Robert: I hope one day I’ll reach some point where I can express everything in the music, but I don’t see it coming, I don’t see the vocals disappearing completely any time soon. The screams are still a big part of the band, especially live. I wouldn’t mind writing instrumental music, I’d do that – but in case of Morbus Chron there will always be some vocals.

(To Dag:) How big role do you guys usually have in the band besides Robert? With how many ideas do you contribute to the making of an album?

Dag – Photo: Erik Stenbacka

Dag – Photo: Erik Stenbacka

Dag: In our case Robert is pretty much the mastermind of the band, he wrote both of our full-lenghts all by himself except for one song on each album that Adam wrote. And he writes very extensively, he comes up with drum patterns and stuff. He has got a very clear idea of what he wants but that idea always changes a little bit when we start rehearsing. For example Adam is a drummer, the drum patterns that Robba is thinking of don’t always add up, so we always change a bit. There’s some input from us, like the arrangement of songs or the bass lines. So usually Robba writes the blueprints and we add our own dimensions to it, just by the way we like it.

Robert: If you could compare the early recorded demos of the songs to the final versions, it goes from sounding like something that I did to sounding like Morbus Chron.

Dag: The riffs and arrangement changed a bit along the way, the rehearsal project is pretty long lasting so there’s always time for changes within the songs. It’s based on more ideas, every guy has his part in it.

Both of your albums has a really definite sound and atmosphere since you knew exactly what you wanted to achieve with the band in both cases. Can you imagine the making of an album where you don’t have a certain idea about how the final product should sound like or take form?

Robert: Actually that’s what we did on both albums I think. After a while when we had a couple of songs we started to see what it becomes but we didn’t set off that we have to go this way, this is how it’s going to sound etc., it’s the opposite. We let it become whatever it becomes, we didn’t have a clue about it.

Okay guys, thank you very much again for the awesome show and for doing this short interview, it really was a special experience! Wish you all the best.

Robert: Thank you for the support!

Festival report of Live Evil 2014

liveThis year I visited Live Evil in London from the 17th to the 19th of October, the festival noted of its incredible atmosphere, company and all-night-long-lasting party. These three (for us four) days for me were exactly as expected: the best few days of the year.
I’d take the chance to write a few words about my impressions of the bands I’ve seen.

The festival started with the pre-show on Friday 17th in the Boston Music Room with 4 intense bands. The rising German thrash band Division Speed started at around 6 pm with their energetic performance and with already fairly a lot of people in the crowd; followed by the also intense UK heavy-metallers Amulet whose music is quite impressive, yet the voice of vocalist Jamie was less to my liking. The thirdly performing currently popular Finnish speed band Ranger was among the highlights with their overwhelming energy and crazy-going audience until the very end – full moshpit and headbanging people everywhere. The last band of the pre-show, the cruel Norwegian blackened thrash group Deathhammer also did their job perfectly: they got the people moving and partying with their fast and furious death/black/thrash tracks.

Right at the beginning of the second – for me probably the best – day of Live Evil, as I don’t exactly understand the hype around the Spanish all-female heavy metal band Lizzies, I left their show out along with the secondly performing hard rock/heavy metal group Wytch Hazel and had an also cool time drinking. What I firstly got to see in The Dome was the Swedish Mercyful Fate-followers Portrait with so much energy that I felt blown away by the end – since this was my first time seeing the band, they were surely one of the biggest surprises for me. The sounding was also a lot better in The Dome’s hall than in the smaller one of Boston Music Room, so that every band (except for Nocturnal) could manage to sound almost perfectly.

Nocturnal – Photo: David Edward Lloyd-Jones

After Portrait I got to see a few songs from the killer German black/thrash Nocturnal Witch in the smaller hall, unfortunately no more than 3 since they started before Portrait ended and they finished after Nocturnal started. Still, what I saw was convincing – these guys know how to play some old school black/thrash, as I could already hear on their record from 2014, ‘Summoning Hell’.
I believe the German (blackened) thrashers Nocturnal‘s show was a bit a of a disappointment for everybody this time: Tyrannizer’s voice couldn’t be heard properly and the sounding as a whole turned into some kind of a mess at some parts. Personally, I could say I’m a great fan of the band and I also know most of the lyrics, yet this time some of the songs weren’t even recognizable at first. (– Hopefully they are going to be better at Raging Death Date 2015, though.)

Luckily after this little low point we got to probably the most effective performance of the festival: Morbus Chron. I did think this pretty popular Swedish death band would give a great show just as usual, but what these guys did this time left me speechless. They played both the furious, brutal and the obscure, magical parts of their songs extremely passionately, once letting the listener to go crazy and then putting them in absolute trance. I knew they were going to concentrate on their second album from 2014, ‘Sweven’, but it still surprised me that they only played 1 song off their flawless old school-sounding first album – and in the end I still say I didn’t mind it, as the ending of Morbus Chron’s show was something I’ve never experienced before. At the slowing, finishing part of the last song when drummer Adam didn’t have any more work to do, he stood up, saluted the crowd and walked off stage, slowly followed by every other member except guitarist Edvin who stood on stage and played the last slow, passionate guitar riff by himself. After he finished, there was silence for two seconds and then they got probably the most sudden and loudest cheers through the 3 days of the festival.
Morbus Chron’s music is not for everyone, but I think those who wanted to understand what they were doing certainly had an awesome time there.

Morbus Chron’s last song:

 

I didn’t think for a moment that this could not get any better as we still had Antichrist and Manilla Road left on Saturday, and happily I was right: with Antichrist‘s show the day did get even better.

For me it was the first time seeing these Swedish old school-style thrashers but I’ve heard a lot about the intensity of Antichrist in live – I can’t do anything but approve, it was sick. Right away when the first song started my mind literally got flooded with adrenaline, I fought and couldn’t get out from the pit for the whole time, surrounded by crazy people with exactly the same feeling. Neither did the band nor the crowd lose from their energy, the show was a 40 minutes long complete devastation, just by the way we like it. There probably aren’t many thrash metal bands nowadays who can create this old school kind of atmosphere both on their albums and in live, I actually think the experience of Antichrist in live can be close to how the early shows of the band’s biggest influence, Slayer could have been in the 80s.

As you can already guess, for me the Swedes were the absolute winners on Saturday.

Mark “The Shark” Shelton – Photo: David Edward Lloyd-Jones

After Antichrist I did an interview with Robert and Dag from Morbus Chron [read it here] so I had to miss the first 2-3 songs of the mighty old heavy/power band Manilla Road. When I got back, vocalist Brian “Hellroadie” Patrick was encouraging the audience and singing the beautiful old classics with high energy, while the mighty Mark “The Shark” Shelton tore the place up with his guitar – then the pretty lengthy yet not for a moment boring show reached its top immediately as Shelton himself took the microphone and started delivering the old classics on his unmistakable voice. Most likely the only disadvantage I could mention was that Patrick was just talking and talking and thanking everyone for almost like one minute between every song which turned into being a little annoying as we reached the end – but well, at least it seems like he still has more energy at 48 than the whole crowd together! The ending with two or three of the biggest classics from ‘Crystal Logic’ and the huge musical experience throughout the entire show didn’t leave anyone with one bad word about these four heavy metal lords.

Sunday was given an absolutely energetic start by the young Swedish heavy metal/punk band Nightmare City: I can’t be sure how many people knew their material in the crowd but they surely got a bunch of maniacs moving. Had to miss (had to drink) the Italian blackened thrashers Bunker 66 and the hard rock guys Lecherous Gaze although as I read they were both truly powerful. What I really didn’t want to miss was the old Brazilian Vulcano that got everyone going crazy again by playing their black/death/thrash songs from the past in a very surprisingly enthusiastic and impressive way. They were loud, they were cheerful and Louzada’s vocals sounded absolutely evil. Roughly at the end of their performance they got Nifelheim joining them on stage for 1-2 songs which gave another incredible boost to their show, my face was almost covered with blood as we reached the end (since I got my nose bleeding at the beginning) and still couldn’t stop ‘partying’ and feeling awesome.
After this carnage (for me literally :D) the old NWOBHM band, Quartz (with keyboard player Geoff Nichols mostly known of playing in Black Sabbath for 23 years) took the stage to play some classics, deliver a few ancient riffs of theirs and perform a nice tribute to Dio-era ‘Heaven and Hell’ by Black Sabbath. The ‘oldies’ started dynamically yet lost some of their energy afterwards – I’d say it still was a performance worth to see, though.

Nifelheim – Photo: David Edward Lloyd-Jones

And then eventually we got to the show everyone was waiting for: Nifelheim. People were waiting for the Iron Maiden fanatic Swedish black-thrashers not just throughout these 3 days but also a lot more than planned between Quartz and them – at least Maiden’s album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son already span almost 2 times as the gods finally started. But of course it was worth the wait, one of the tops of the festival (again, as usual): fast, loud and unbelievably powerful gig with a perfect setlist and with fighting and crazy-going crowd right away, without a single person isn’t moving.

Sick shows, sick people, an unexplainable atmosphere and a fitting end for such a musical massacre of 3 days. Definitely going next year too unless I lose my leg etc, so expect another review in roughly one year!

MORBUS CHRON. Crawling like a dreadful creature in the dark

morbus1

MORBUS CHRON – Sleepers in the Rift (2011)

Review by Estelle on the 7th of May 2014

TRACKLIST

  1. Through the Gaping Gate / Coughing in a Coffin
  2. Creepy Creeping Creep
  3. Hymns to a Stiff
  4. Red Hook Horror
  5. The Hallucinating Dead
  6. Ways of Torture
  7. Dead Body Pile Necrophile
  8. Lidless Coffin
  9. Deformation of the Dark Matter

RELEASE DETAILS
Genre: Death Metal
Label: Pulverised Records
Country: Sweden
Date: August 29, 2011

LINEUP
Robert Andersson – Vocals, Guitars, Lyrics

Edvin Aftonfalk – Guitars (lead), Vocals, Lyrics
Adam Lindmark – Drums
Dag Landin – Bass


morbus_chron-sleepers_in_the_rfitThe four-piece death metal band Morbus Chron was founded in 2007 and released their first album ‘Sleepers in the Rift’ in 2011. Three years later in February 2014 they came up with a completely different and apparently more evolved and more mature concept with their second record, Sweven – but that is a horse of another color (and possibly another review).
The Swedish death metallers’ debut is most likely my personal favorite death metal album of our recent years, along with Asphyx’s Deathhammer from 2012. Why?

Incredibly wicked overall sound, incredibly heavy classic riffs, incredibly well-worked-out sections – and all these in the spirit of pure old school death metal. They still don’t make a mistake with going to the extremes of this old school-mania or dealing too much with being flawless: even though each beat, each cut is reasoned, thought-out and well-worked-out, we can still clearly feel their ‘easy-goingness’ and passion towards the music they play. They don’t want or try to be perfect, they are simply excellent songwriters and musicians who do their thing naturally.

As the first song starts with the little piece of fitting scary music borrowed from the good old horror movies we immediately get the beloved frightening, dark atmoshpere which saturates the entire music, creeps into the darkest depths of our souls and awakes our love for the evil in us. ‘Through the Gaping Gate / Coughing in a Coffin’ is a nasty, raw and complex beast which simply stinks of dirt – similarly to all the other segments of the album.
Each song has a beginning, a main part and an end, filled up with varied, twisted, mesmerizing yet classic riffs, disgusting raspy, agonizing vocals and a filthy atmosphere. The riffs are quite thrashy at some parts (especially in the fast sections of the tracks ‘Creepy Creeping Creep’, ‘Red Hook Horror’ or ‘Dead Body Pile Necrophile’), however, Morbus Chron seem to reshape the thrashy riffs by playing them a little slower and uglier than a thrash band would have. Along with the thrashy speed and riffs we can also hear some stunning doomy parts similarly to Autopsy’s way of building them into their songs; and on top of everything there is a little rock n’ roll feel in the solo of ‘Red Hook Horror’, bringing in a slight element of fun in the band’s gore-based music.

Morbus+ChronThe unpolished production is a strong point of the album – it’s just as clear as it should be to make the music enjoyable and to keep the retro-feeling at the same time. The obscure, evil yet colorful and lively artwork is also highlightable: it catches our attention right at the moment we look at it, leading us to a mysterious and still cruelly realistic world.

With their dirty old school sound Morbus Chron present a tribute to legends like Autopsy, Nihilist, Entombed, Dismember, Grave or Carnage. Still, in spite of what you might expect, the album isn’t full of cliches. It is old school without ripping from its influences too directly – one thing is to take influences from classic bands and another is to use them properly and compose them into some ass kicking death metal tunes, completed with a labyrinthe of tempos and techniques plus a little hint of humour. They show they don’t take themselves as seriously as we might thought with song titles like ‘Creepy Creeping Creep’ or ‘Dead Body Pile Necrophile’, or by overdoing the hysterical coughing or gasping at times.

‘Sleepers in the Rift’ is one perfectly satisfying album for those who love the old school, and even though they know this is not something that will bring back the glory days, they crave for hearing those catchy, rotten and twisted riffs and classic gory, evil lyrics without photocopying the old legends’ way of playing.

Outstanding tracks: Through the Gaping Gate / Coughing in a Coffin, Creepy Creeping Creep, The Hallucinating Dead

10/9