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Morgengrau - Blood Oracle

Blood Oracle
by Chris Hawkins at 14 May 2018, 10:27 AM

Those of us who were alive and into Metal at the time can remember back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when Thrash was ruling and Death Metal was in its early infancy.  All of the elitist snobs dismissed both, and particularly Death Metal, as being noise, rubbish, and a fad.  No one realized how big Extreme Metal was becoming, and thankfully, all of the detractors were wrong.  MORGENGRAU were formed in 2010 in Austin, Texas and theirs is a sound derived from the aforementioned time period.  Unabashedly, they glorify yesteryear and offer a pretty convincing take on the genre(s).

The title track leads off the album and starts with a simple minor riff which is soon joined by double bass drumming characterized by good, organic/natural tone.  It's not long before one becomes aware of the sound the band are going for, the late 1980s/early 1990s period of transition and overlay between Thrash and Death Metal.  The strongest song on the album is definitely the second track, "Wolves of Thirteen," which opens with a strong groove reminiscent of old SEPULTURA.  Gradually, though, the song becomes more Death Metal with the predominance of tremolo picking, and when the breakdown happens, it's brutal, unexpected, and most welcome.  The same approach is taken with the fifth track, "Forced Exodus," which has its own breakdown, but it's one that sounds awkward in its oversimplification.  "Evocation of the Wheel," the last track, is a very straight-forward, mid-paced affair with tons of dive bombs adorning the riffing.

MORGENGRAU are definitely not reinventing the wheel, but one question pervaded throughout my second and further listens:  Where is the line between old school and regressive?  In other words, at what point is the band playing in the style of yesteryear, and at what point is it holding the music back?  Many of the riffs/motifs on "Blood Oracle" do indeed seem regressive as they seem too simple.  It's like the Death Metal version of listening to old PRONG albums.  Perhaps some types of riffs have just not aged well.  Despite these draw backs, there is a pronounced element of fun on the album.

One can tell that the singer is female, though her performance comes across as legit and not annoying or gimmicky.  The only issue is that the vocals are just entirely too loud in the mix.  The guitars have excellent old school tone but are unfortunately too buried in the mix.  The bass, however, is clear and audible as it holds down the low end throughout.  It's admirable that the dedication to old school authenticity is extended to the drum sound as triggers and effects manipulation is cast aside for a pure performance, but like the guitars, the bass drum is especially not loud enough.

MORGENGRAU play Death Metal from a simpler time when monstrous riffs spoke for themselves and not every square inch of the recording had to be filled with as many polyrhythms and arpeggios as possible.  While the sound can get a bit repetitive at times, one has to admire their dedication.  Everything from early INCANTATION to early ASPHYX can be heard in their sound though without the same level of ingenuity or originality.  As a fan of old school Metal, one cannot help but admire MORGENGRAU for their dedication despite their flaws.  It can only be hoped that where they fall short on the recording, they make up for in the live setting.

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 5
Memorability: 6
Production: 5


3 Star Rating

1. Blood Oracle
2. Wolves of Thirteen
3. Progression
4. Poised at the Precipice of Doom
5. Forced Exodus
6. Invert the Marker
7. Incipit Bellum
8. Evocation of the Wheel
Jacob Holmes – Bass
Nick Norris – Guitars
K. Elrod – Drums
Erika Morgengrau – Vocals, Guitars
Record Label: Unspeakable Axe Records


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Edited 02 December 2022

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