For an album talked up by those in the know, and by the band themselves, Morgengrau‘s debut Extrinsic Pathway is a bit of a disappointment. Lifting riffs from Slayer is not exactly an unpraiseworthy vocation but Vader made a career out of doing so at least twenty-five years ago before these guys, and released some noteworthy albums in the process. The irony with a lot of newer bands conforming to old templates, sincere as their intentions may be, lies in self-consciousness trumping over the spontaneity of classic death metal. With masterpieces of the genre, the feeling one got was that of an imminent eruption of the creator’s personality. What hope of originality, however, when every grain of the songwriting process pivots around an aching desire to be perceived as fitting to an established trope?
But even receiving Morgengrau with requisite leeway and consideration in view of the pocket of time they occupy, there is something unambitious and pointless about this album. Extrinsic Pathway is a collection of cool, jam-quality riffs that have all been vaguely heard before, though stitched together in a competent manner, indicating band personnel’s genre intimacy. Power chord motion with interspersed thrash-style picking is the primary mover of melody here, instead of the roving, tremolo-picked riffs of conventional death metal. This approach adds a choppier, more percussive aspect to the music, creating passages primed for headbanging but not capable of holding under more intense scrutiny. A favourite ploy of modern death metal bands when running low on ideas, to slow down songs to a crawl in hopes of crafting atmosphere, be it via rambling chords or dissonant single note choices, is employed on several occasions with expectedly futile results.
Extrinsic Pathway shows signs of life on the very last song ‘Polymorphic Communion‘. Morgengrau finally ditch the thrash accoutrements to create a death metal vortex *mostly* free of unnecessary impediments, save the endless chugging section that appropriately leads into the outro. Somewhat frustrating but apt commentary, this, on an album that makes all the right noises but fails to convey a larger meaning beyond the momentary.