While it seems that the majority of contemporary death metal acts are currently locked in an ever-accelerating technicality-based arms race, there does appear to be a growing number of bands who have eschewed attempting to out-sweep Origin in favour of taking a murkier, groovier, dirtier death metal path. Swedish quintet Blood Mortized are one of those bands, proudly taking their inspiration from the early 90s Swedish death metal scene that spawned the Sunlight Studios-reared, buzzsaw-guitar-weilding likes of Entombed and Dismember. They’re no upstart youngsters appropriating the sonic hallmarks of a scene they’re unfamiliar with, either – guitarist Anders Biazzi was a member of Viking-obsessed death metallers Amon Amarth from 1991-1998, while drummer Mattias Borgh currently pounds the skins in Crypt Of Kerberos.
Bestial is the band’s second release – a 4-track EP following on from their warmly received self-titled debut album, and one which sees the band once again marshalling Anders Biazzi and Gustav Myrin’s growling, Boss HM-2-fuelled guitar tones, Mattias Borgh’s straightforwardly propulsive drumming, Mattias Söderlund’s rumbling bass and Mattias Parkkila’s tortured roars into a solidly entertaining 20 minutes of old-school death metal. Opening track ‘Bestial’ wastes no time in laying down a bed of sinister trem-picked riffs over driving double kicks, liberally juxtaposed with ringing, sustained power chords and a midsection that effectively chooses ‘creepy, minimalistic leads’ over ‘shred-happy soloing’. Showing a bit of diversity, ‘Of Dust & Doom’ appropriately enough takes a far slower, doom/death approach – military tattoo-esque snare patterns and booming toms batter away underneath groaning riffs for just under four minutes before quietly fading away, which makes the track sound more like an interlude than a fully-fledged song in its own right – something of an odd inclusion for a 4-track EP.
‘Shadow Of The Quarter Sun’ rampages along on insistent thrash beats and more of that signature Entombed/Dismember-styled riffing, while still finding moments to slow the pace and allow a bit of malevolent melody to peek through the murky clouds of pungent riffs, while EP closer ‘Rekviem’ stands as the most outright evil-sounding track of the four – taking a distinctly mid-tempo tack and featuring some effectively unsettling, Eastern-sounding lead work and a closing section consisting of droning chants, reverberating, pounding toms and tribalistic hand percussion. Throughout the EP, the Sunlight Studios-indebted production keeps the guitar tones gnarly, the drums naturalistically hammering and the low-end appropriately swampy without making matters overly muddy – basically working in concert with the band’s old-school influences to ensure that Bestial wouldn’t sound out of place on a 90s death metal compilation.
The thing is, there stands a chance that a lot of people out there already own the collected works of Entombed, Dismember, Grave, Unleashed and their ilk – and as such, might well be asking themselves if they really need a copy of Bestial in their collection – after all, the band are up-front and unapologetic in their sonic similarity to those acts, and the EP puts one in mind of Clandestine-era Entombed in particular. So, depending on how dedicated you are to the primitive murk of old-school Swedish death metal, Bestial is really going to either come across as a perfectly-entertaining addition to the pantheon, or as just wholly unnecessary. Personally speaking, that chainsaw guitar tone never fails to put a grin on my face, so while Blood Mortized may not be releeasing material that matches the quality of their inspirations, they’re still good enough to get this reviewer’s head banging for the 20 minutes it takes Bestial to reach its conclusion.