Sunday, July 19, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Morpheus Descends "From Blackened Crypts" CD/DVD [Compilation Box Set]

Let's start off this review with a digressive story, how I discovered and met Morpheus Descends. I first became aware of them when they re-united to play Martyrdoom Fest II in 2013. While researching other unfamiliar bands to prepare for the fest, I was blown away by Morpheus Descends; they are an integral and original part of the influential NYDM scene that has escaped me for years! How had I missed them? Well, having only one full-length and a small host of rare demos and EP's, I suppose I can forgive myself... a little. Anyway, I have more on them in a separate post for their MDF appearance. I managed to run into current (and incredible) singer Craig Campbell (may former singer Jeff Reimer be remembered) after their MDF set, to express my enthusiasm for the band and the show (as well as ask for an autograph). He was in a hurry but advised me to drop by their merch stand later and he'd round up the band for signatures. I did this, and he followed through... with a twist. I got to talking with Sam Inzerra, who was totally infatuated with the idea of us both being the many-eth Sam in a line of Sams (neither of us are a seventh son, however). It was he who rounded up the rest of the band for me, walking around the fest with me, shooting the shit, and being an all-around awesome guy! In fact, the whole band was really approachable and grateful for my enthusiasm. I wish I could have been more eloquent than "YOU GUYS FUKCING RULED" but I suppose my point came across. Thanks again to Sam and the gang, you guys really made my day, I felt like VIP royalty!

So, onwards to Golgotha... I mean the box set. Essentially a collection of everything the band has ever recorded, there's also a double-sided poster and a DVD featuring interviews and various shows. The DVD is really worth the price of the set itself, it is a strong document of the band's history and development, clearly dedicated to Jeff Reimer, now deceased. The box is heavy cardboard with black-on-black lacquered ink. The DVD comes in a CD case with a heavy card stock cover. The new Putrid artwork for the poster is pretty awesome, though I'm partial to the surrealism of Brad Moore on the "Ritual Of Infinity" album. The booklet is a bit confusing as there's no list anywhere as to where the songs on the CD come from, but if you follow along the booklet, the tracks follow the order listed there:

1-2 “From Blackened Crypts” recorded 2014, now a 7” in 2015 from Dark Descent Records
3-11 “Ritual Of Infinity” 1992
12-16 “Adipocere” EP, 1991 by (pre-Morpheus Descends band) Morpheus
17 a 1993 version of 'Cairn of Dumitru'

1-5 “Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones” EP, 1994
6-9 “Horror of the Truth” EP, 1997
10 live version of 'Corpse Under Glass' from Martyrdoom Fest II, Brooklyn NY, 2013 reunion show
11-13 Rehearsal 1990
14,16 Rehearsal 1991
15 pre-recording version of 'The Cruciform Hills' from 1994
17 a 1993 version of 'Autumn Bleeds'

The booklet includes all the artwork from all the releases as well, including front and back cover and all lyrics. Sound-wise, this release is solid, even the rehearsals are listenable while still having that lo-fi, unbalanced feel I find desirable in rehearsal recordings. For new fans, here's chance to catch up (like I did) on an important and interesting NYDM band that combines the local brutality of their neighbors with the bizarre-ness and darkness of their Scandinavian counterparts (Finland, I'm eyeing you) for a unique flavor of Death Metal. For old fans, here's a great chance to complete your collection and go for a shamble down memory lane to visit old cadavers long since cannibalized.

A great compilation, this box set closes the casket on Morpheus Descends' past while simultaneously opening the lid on their future, thus unleashing more undead hordes to reach from beyond the dimensions of mortal men.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Stardust V Fest: Saint Vitus Bar, Brooklyn NY Fri-Sun, June 26-28 2015

Despite many set-backs, such as headliners Taake and Bethlehem being unable to perform, this festival still managed to have a great line-up and be a fun, intimate experience. I only was able to attend the Friday and Saturday shows, so I missed the second sets of material that the bands slated for Sunday performed as well as Mutilation Rites' performance. I must admit that the only bands I was familiar with on the final line-up were Black Anvil and Tombs, so I was excited to hopefully experience some cool new bands.

Friday's lineup consisted of Anicon, Fell Voices, and Wolvserpent. Anicon played some very competent Black Metal with some interesting melodious parts reminiscent of mid-90's Sweden. Fell Voices, however, was remarkable and provided the most memorable set I witnessed all weekend. The guitar and bass style created huge, grim, walls of sound while their drummer pounded away mechanically. The drumming was easily the most remarkable part; while not terribly technical for this set, Mike displayed unbelievable endurance, essentially maintaining a blast beat for an entire set, with few fills in which to rest. He was incredibly intense, too! The whole set felt like a ritual extirpation of pain; all vocals were shouted, sans microphones. Upon the countenances of all band members, despair and rage gave way to transcendence as the set closed, demons exorcised (or should I say 'exercised'?). Also, the Sisters Of Mercy levels of fog added to the performance, I'm still unsure how the band could even see their instruments. I really like their incense too, I couldn't quite place the scent but it was meaty and woodsy. Wolvserpent closed the night with some heavy Blackened-Doom. I appreciated that both band members were multi-instrumentalists (drums and violin, guitar and electronics) who would switch as needed during songs. This was a challenging set to play live and loop stations were used brilliantly.

Saturday Vorde opened our journey to the stars with Burzum-heavy Black Metal riffs, again featuring the inimitable Mike of Fell Voices on drums. Very exciting riffs here, I can imagine this band's name carried far on ashen winds. Svart Crown from France took stage next, playing some brutal, technical Death Metal NYC style, with lightly-blackened elements (crispy croissant death metal?). They were enjoyable and energetic, but were eclipsed, for me, by openers Vorde. Next up was Black Anvil whose set was cut short for technical issues. They had a projector with some interesting images of mostly flash-animated medieval woodcut-like stills. While the set was energetic, what was played was light on material from Black Anvil's debut album (also my favorite one) Time Insults the Mind. Tombs took stage next and finished out the night (and for me, the fest) with a set heavy on their second LP, Paths of Totality, with a track or two from (my favorite) Winter Hours, and many from 2014's Savage Gold. Readers of my blog may recall that in my review of Savage Gold, I felt something was lacking. That something was found for this set in the many talents of Fade Kainer (Batillus, Theologian, Statiqbloom, etc.) who played keys/electronics and added backing vocals. Fade's addition of textured atmospheres and keys really filled out these songs, as well as Saint Vitus' always excellent and perfectly balanced sound system. I can only hope a live album for Tombs materializes, as this was an excellent performance and fans who haven't experienced this line-up NEED to see it. I hope Fade Kainer remains a member of Tombs and that we can look forward to some album material with his contributions.

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*