Mortiferum – Preserved in Torment Review

It may be an oversimplification, but I like using the triune brain theory when trying to understand how my mind works. Originally put forth by Paul D. Maclean, the concept of a brain built by evolution, and the resulting challenges we face as millions of years’ worth of competing motivations square off inside our heads, was made popular in Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden. The author of a more recent book I read1 described his brain as “a person standing on a dog, who is in turn standing on a crocodile.” The model explains why I can think, feel, and want several conflicting things at the exact same time. Music can speak to all three of these mental creatures. There’s the highbrow, intellectual stuff that speaks to our analytical human mind, the primal, emotional stuff that makes our doggies bark, cry, or snuggle, and the stuff that is built for pure sensory experience—the stuff that reaches that deepest, oldest part of us, sending us into fearful fright or into instinctual, savage attack.

Olympia, Washington’s Mortiferum belongs to that last category. I let myself get a bit carried away while describing their debut, Disgorged from Psychotic Depths, back in 2019, but my evaluation still stands: these guys know how to write songs that alternate between laying you slowly to rest in the grave and violently shaking you back to life. The cavernous growls, the swirling Incantation riffs, the trance-inducing Bolt Thrower rhythms, the chaotic leads, the noodling bass, the thunderous drums—they all combine into one big (though brief, clocking in at 39 minutes) auditory beatdown. Embedded single “Exhumed from Mortal Spheres” contains more riffs in five and a half minutes than a lot of death/doom bands can conjure in an entire album.

As I mentioned recently, that is exactly the problem I have with most death/doom bands, and it’s one that Mortiferum avoids completely. Many bands spend most of their time on the “atmosphere” and the build up, and all too often, the payoff isn’t worth the wait. Mortiferum already had a good balance on their last record, but Preserved in Torment is even better. In a recent interview, drummer and co-vocalist A. Mody states that the band had “made a slight effort to just get to the fucking point with things” on the new record, and it shows. Even the doomiest of songs here, like “Seraphic Extinction,” “Caudex of Flesh,” and “Mephitis of Disease” are rife with up-tempo passages, and the album flies by despite the tracks averaging over six minutes.

I praised the production on Disgorged from Psychotic Depths rather highly, and things have only improved on Preserved in Torment. When you give this a listen, don’t forget to crank the volume! Quieter than most death metal albums, Preserved in Torment rewards the diligent listener with a nearly transcendent experience. The grooves are thick, the transitions are seemless, and the vocals reverberate through my skull—and at times, when I close my eyes with headphones on, I feel as if I am floating in a sensory deprivation tank, engulfed by the comforting warmth of rotting, congealed filth. I’m nearly at a loss when it comes to picking album highlights, because each track is incredibly strong. Listen to the whole thing, damn it! But if you can’t, I bet you’ll enjoy “Incubus of Bloodstained Visions” and “Exhumed from Mortal Spheres.”

With a few notable exceptions (Asphyx and 1914), I generally don’t reach for death/doom all that often. In fact, I grabbed reviewing rights for Mortiferum’s debut simply because the band happens to hail from my neck of the woods. That debut nearly got the 4.0ldeneye treatment, but I couldn’t quite pull the trigger. Not so, this time. On Preserved in Torment, Mortiferum have struck the perfect balance between mournful doom and ferocious death, creating a visceral, sensory experience that bypasses our higher brain functions to speak straight to the crocodile within.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Releases Worldwide: November 5th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. You’re a Miracle (And a Pain in the Ass) by Mike McHargue.
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