Review by Paul Castles
Release Date: 24 February 2014
When the heavy hitting duo of At The Gates and Triptykon roll up at the Birmingham Academy in December be sure to get there in good time. Not only have you got two of extreme metal’s shining lights performing, the opening act Morbus Chron are also a formidable proposition. The dynamic Swedish quartet’s latest album Sweven opens with a slow burner of a track in ‘Berceuse’ which slowly meanders its way around your senses like a snake slithering unnoticed through the long grass.
It’s very much a case of the lull before the storm as once Morbus Chron extend themselves to their full height they unleash a feral beast that threatens to trample flat anyone foolhardy enough to get in its path. Just as the final teasing tone of the opening instrumental has burnt itself out the slightly heavier sound of ‘Chains’ takes over, carrying a much more searing and demanding throb that finally parts like the Red Sea to allow the first significant slab of venomous vocals from Morbus Chron frontman Robert Andersson.
Some feisty riffs carry the track along as the Swedes slowly start to wind things up, and the true destructive diversity of Sweven starts to become apparent. The album’s longest track, ‘Towards a Dark Sky’ is a powerhouse of conviction, the opening grand entrance eclipsed by some feverish riffs which feed off the interplay between Andersson and fellow guitarist Edvin Aftonfalk. There is a real complexity about the urgency and ambiguity of the songs that recall the likes of Meshuggah and Ulcerate. Morbus Chron have no interest in being tamed and it would take a brave man – or a foolish one – to try.
When the young Swedes first pooled their creative juices in Stockholm about seven years ago it was against a backdrop of listening to death metal giants such as Autopsy and Death. That gorefilled template translated to Morbus Chron’s debut full length release Sleepers In The Rift, released through Pulverised Records in 2011. But with maturity Morbus Chron have chosen not to simply ape what’s gone before but to take it and twist it and manipulate it into a Frankenstein of their own making.
With Sweven, that is what they have successfully mastered and they have now reinvented themselves as something other than just another bunch of gorehounds riding the death metal conveyor belt. Tracks like ‘It Stretches in the Hollow’ and ‘Ripening Life’ take you on a journey with so many twists and turns that you’re convinced that they’ve lost all sense of direction. With more emergency stops than a nervous L-Plate driver on his test, Morbus Chron manage to change direction with an effortless ease that Lionel Messi on the ball would stand and applaud.
Three of the ten tracks are instrumentals while substantial slabs of the other seven songs are also devoid of Andersson’s angst-filled roars and cries. The extended solos grab you by the throat and exert more pressure on your Adam’s Apple than a toffee apple from Blackpool pleasure beach. And just like the much maligned Lancashire seaside town, there’s a few rollercoaster rides where you just have to sit tight, shut your eyes, and just pray you’re gonna get off at the other end.
By way of announcing their move to Century Media – the ‘A Saunter through the Shroud’ EP in 2012 notwithstanding – Sweven could scarcely have delivered a more devastating debut. The album attempts to convey a suffocating concept of desperation and despair and if indeed that was the aim, then Morbus Chron have passed with muster. While the more seductive melancholic passages inspire and invigorate the twisted darker forces that are hidden within are torturous in the extreme, carrying all the more vitriol for only being glimpsed in patches, a little like lifting the lid on the bottle and letting the genie out for a few seconds.
To attempt to pin a label such as death metal on a piece of work of this depth is pretty churlish. Sweven is much more than that and December’s triple header with fellow Swedes At the Gates, and Triptykon, will be a very special festive gift to those who gather to worship at the Birmingham Academy.
9 out of 10
- Towards A Dark Sky
- Aurora In The Offing
- It Stretches In The Hollow
- Ripening Life
- The Perennial Link
- Beyond Life’s Sealed Abode