Crucified Mortals – Psalms of the Dead Choir Review

Crucified Mortals - Psalms of the Dead ChoirChoosing what to do for Halloween is, in some sense, a lot like choosing how to be a metal band. You can try to deliberately frighten people, like Portal, be as provocative as possible, like Anal Cunt, flaunt your feminine good looks like the one member of Amaranthe anyone cares about, do something wacky and out-of-the-box like Troldhaugen, or you can throw on some old goblin mask and just go get drunk, loud and rowdy. This last approach is what Cleveland’s Crucified Mortals takes on their second full-length Psalms of the Dead Choir, and this sort of behavior is definitely welcome at any party I’m attending or throwing, Halloween or otherwise.

While they’re called a death-thrash band, Crucified Mortals isn’t the bland and boring modern kind. Instead, this is just overly extreme thrash metal played with early death metal’s energy and reckless abandon, clearly influenced by Bay Area luminaries Slayer and Exodus. Venom’s devil-may-care attitude underlies a lot of this stuff, and the fun nature of Witchery that Ragehammer exploited so well makes an appearance too, but it’s less convincing overall than The Hammer Doctrine was in this regard. Vocally, everything-but-drummer Reaper sounds like a cross between Rigor Mortis’s Bruce Corbitt and Autopsy’s Chris Reifert, being largely intelligible and gruff.

With Reaper in control of everything and the versatile Ash Thomas on drums, it makes sense that Psalms of the Dead Choir sounds consistent and focused. “Traitor” opens the record in pitch-perfect fashion, being well-structured, pummeling, and largely memorable. “Dusk of the Advent” has an amateurish charm in the best way, recalling old Celtic Frost and Venom in spirit and bringing nothing but riffs to the table. It’s not original, but neither is a grilled hamburger and those are still many orders of magnitude better than some weird “fusion” nonsense. The Autopsy influence of “Into Eternity” makes its six-minute runtime fly by, as Reaper has a good handle on their composition style circa The Tomb Within and Thomas has an uncanny ability to never overplay anything and let the songs breathe while still being impressive. Again, this is just more good riffs glued together in a coherent, convincing, and engaging way that you’ve probably heard before, but it’s done well enough to make this irrelevant.

Crucified Mortals 2016There’s little to sneeze at here, but by the same token, I can’t find much to get hugely excited about. There’s no standout weak moments save “{” being a mediocre intro track, but it’s only forty-five seconds and easily skipped. Reaper is remarkably adept at writing death-thrash tunes of a good quality that are unobjectionable, entertaining, and riff-tastic while they’re on. When Psalms of the Dead Choir ends, however, I find myself turning to something that isn’t Crucified Mortals for my death-thrash fix. A song like “Bringer of Death” is solid while it’s playing, but after it’s done it doesn’t really stand out from the pack and I’m back to listening to other stuff from the genre instead. Put in a succinct way, I’d listen to Crucified Mortals when I want to listen to some death-thrash outside of my normal rotation, but I wouldn’t listen to Crucified Mortals because I want to listen to Crucified Mortals specifically.

All of this is to say that Psalms of the Dead Choir is a good release. It’s produced well, with a hugely present bass, clear and natural drums, and a guitar tone that errs a bit too much on the sterile side, but isn’t really detrimental. Crucified Mortals occupy the niche of good death-thrash and they seem damn happy to be there. Largely no-frills riffs, energy, and fun, you really can’t go wrong with Psalms of the Dead Choir, but you could certainly go more right. If overlong concept albums, prog-rock excesses, masturbatory dissonance, and odd time signatures for the sake of it are grinding your gears and you just want to crack open a cold one and bang your head, Crucified Mortals have provided a mighty fine soundtrack for that occasion. If you don’t distinctly remember a whole lot of it the day after, it’s not the booze or brain damage; it comes with the territory, but you’ll be sure you had a pretty good time.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hells Headbangers Records

« »