Review: Morbid Death – Oxygen

This year the Portuguese band Morbid Death already exists for 30 years. However, until a month ago Morbid Death’s latest release was an EP titled Methamorphic Reaction dating back to 2010 with their until then latest full-length album, titled Unlocked, even dating back to 2004. That was a month ago though, now that has changed. That’s because they released a new full-length album on February the 28th. That new album is titled Oxygen and is released via Art Gates Records. Morbid Death’s current line-up consists of vocalist/bass player Ricardo Santos, guitarist Luís H. Bettencourt and drummer Rafael Bullhoes.

Opening track Away immediately starts with a somewhat unusual intro, in which we also get to hear some electronic influences. A few moments later Morbid Death kicks in heavily, this is going to be an album stuffed with stimuli, that can hardly be otherwise.

It indeed is. Due to that the first time listening to Oxygen can be pretty overwhelming. Due to the heavy music itself, but even more due to the huge amount of variation and the different layers in their music. Due to that Oxygen can sound a bit chaotic while listening to it for the first time and that’s what makes Oxygen an album that you should listen to a few times before appreciating it at its fullest. One thing about those many different layers still annoys me a bit though, even after quite some listening sessions, more specifically about those different layers of the vocals. This gives the album even more variation, which is pretty cool, but at a few moments, such as in Deep Down, To Escape and Cry Me Out, panning seems to be used more, which in my opinion is only distracting. At some other moments, such as in Parasites with Ties, it sounds like these different vocal layers are somewhat cushioning the rest of the music.

As mentioned Oxygen is an album you should listen to a few times before appreciating it at its fullest, which certainly is the case with me. The many stimuli on this album are not only causing this, those are also making this an album on which you’ll discover new things each time you listen to it, because there’s a lot to discover. Morbid Death pounds and grooves heavily on Oxygen, such as in Grow Stronger and the title track, but this album also has its more melodic, and sometimes even symphonic, moments, such as in opener Away and the, with the voice in the sample and the melodic backing vocals as exceptions, instrumental track Jordsträngar, in which the heavily humming bass is also clearly present. In that track we’ll also clearly hear those electronic influences in Morbid Death’s music, while those can be heard in each song on Oxygen, may it be in different amounts. These electronic influences are for example giving Deep Down its spacy, and later on, spooky vibe, while it can also be heard clearly in the ambienty intros of Cry Me Out, a nice old school vibing track in which the guitar also stands out nicely, and album closer The Perfect Lie, in which the guitar also has a nice heavy sound. Of course the guitar also stands out in the solos, as we can for example hear in the nicely roaring solos in Cry Me Out and Grow Stronger.

Vocally Oxygen also contains a lot of variation, from very clean and high to a quite raw grunt and scream, both present in for example Deep Down, and everything that’s in between. As I mentioned before this gives a lot of variation and also creates some in my opinion less cool moments. There is one other thing about those vocals though that isn’t that positive to me and that is about the low, clean vocals in Cry Me Out and Dark Love. In the first parts of these two songs these vocals sound a bit too exaggerating to me. Dark Love is also standing out positively though, already at its beginning with the nice guitar-intro, but also due to the perfect-for-being-played-live-vibe of this track. Compared to the other track on Oxygen, Dark Love may be a bit more straightforward, but due to this and the nice guitar-sound in this track, again including a nice solo, it becomes a bit bombastic, which makes that this song will probably do very well at live shows.

Aside from a few points of criticism Morbid Death delivers a nice album with Oxygen, but it may take a few listening sessions to fully appreciate it due to the huge amount of variation and many layers in their music.

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