A subject that often comes up for discussion with a dear friend is that of the Morbid Angel of the second half of the 90s and the small scene that came about inspired by the styles seen on Formulas Fatal To The Flesh and Gateways To Abomination. Though not without their individual flaws, bands like Hate Eternal, Internecine, and Mithras carried a certain aura with them that just felt like death metal. This was serious music, technically accomplished to a razor sharp level, that captured a specific pocket of the genre, empowering, martial, and mystical without being self-referential.
This period of time and the sound it gave birth to, unfortunately, much resembles a lost chasm today in context with death metal history. New bands give it a wide berth for the most part, instead favoring Swedish death metal, Incantation, and Blasphemy with their gratitude. Demisery‘s Hive Of Mutation, released four years ago, tries to recover this passage in time, an endeavour that, by default, becomes deserving of notice in today’s climate.
In all honesty, Hive Of Mutation never truly rises above its humble origins in tribute; there were many derivatives of Morbid Angel and Vader in the late 90s, and an album like this would’ve barely qualified for the death metal second tier. But what draws the jaded fan towards albums like these today is the acute interplay between textures, the many-layered approach to songwriting with an emphasis on dark melody, and a firm understanding of metal as riff-oriented music.
There is no “swathe of sound” to be found here; riffs are sharply defined, an area that many modern bands display poor grasp of in their eagerness for atmosphere. Drums, peculiar to this style of death metal, carry a natural swing and groove, molding themselves to the music as a very real musical component instead of being mere beat-keepers.
It would be disingenuous to call Hive Of Mutation innovative, and I doubt whether I will play this over older favourites, but the thing to extrapolate from this album and contrast with modern death metal is its view on death metal writing itself. Minor details vs broad strokes: in an ideal composition, these two aspects would be in balance, helping the other by turn to achieve full realization. Newer bands focus solely on the latter, however, and end up being nondescript blurs, but it takes thought and effort to see the two as indisposable parts of one whole. Demisery are too derivative to be more than a commentary and a footnote on such things, but that, perhaps, is their real calling after all.