Molder – Engrossed in Decay Review

I cannot understate the futility of attempting to introduce this record more accurately than its album art does. For the learned among us, it leaves not a single note in question. But for those of us impaired in the fields of vision or death metal knowledge, I’m compelled to at least give it a shot. Engrossed in Decay, the debut record from Joliet, Illinois’ Molder, is a triumph of slime. Coughing up spores from mycetozoic muck, Molder exhume ten tracks from very recent, very shallow burials in a graveyard that’s been filled to the brim for thirty years. It’s not slick but slicked, damn near dripping with plasmodial ooze that obliviously recycles its carbon with a charmingly contented stupidity. I like it.

That’s not to say that I’d recommend it. If you want unsophisticated, unpretentious death metal, Molder would be downright elated to give you 47 minutes of it for $121. But I struggle to think why you’d want theirs specifically. It’s not due to any particular deficit; Engrossed in Decay lacks neither polish or passion. Vocalist Aaren Pantke steals the show with an unhinged performance that’s just a tad more conservative than that of Obscene’s Kyle Shaw. His gruesome, campy screams color Molder’s paint-by-numbers death metal in fluorescent hues, lampshading the music’s inherent corniness in a way that I really appreciate. The record’s production is no less appropriate; the drums ring with reverb, the guitars have the texture of gritty swamp mud, and the bass is barely distinguishable at the best of times.

These sounds combine to produce a convincing clot of grimy glop. The band’s riffing is up to par, with a few highlights in “Unsubstantial Hallucinations” and closer “Cask of Maggots.” The occasional solo or break for a drum fill keep the record well-drained enough not to drown in its own muck. Molder are competent enough songwriters to keep the record from being a total bore, but they’re not so ambitious as to make any part of it particularly interesting. If Molder want nothing more than to play their way through Chicagoland’s metal bars and open for a cool tour once in a while, Engrossed in Decay is a great résumé. If I still lived in Chicago, I’d be quite happy to see them at a show, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to witness them.

Still, it’s hard to call Engrossed in Decay anything other than a success. Molder clearly want to play dumb B-movie death metal and they’re doing it as well as anybody else in the game. But that’s really all they do. The ten songs here rely on patterns of alternating grooves and kick rolls or alternating d-beats and blasts, and though the riffs are only appropriately stale, I’m at a loss to pick out more than one or two to report on. Everything is just good, and authentically so; there’s not the faintest suggestion that Molder have any motive but to play death metal, and, ideally, to do so while drunk and high. I want nothing more for them.

But I want something more from the art I encounter. If you saw that album cover2 and knew you had to hear this record, you probably do, and you’ll probably be totally satisfied with it. But I’ve heard so many death metal records like this that I’ve forgotten any way to distinguish between them. Engrossed in Decay accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, a task far from trivial but short of remarkable. Molder aim low and hit their subterranean mark with a damp thud.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 15th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. “I did that” – Joe Biden
  2. Credit to Lucas Korte.
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