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Morgoth
1987-1997
June 2005
Released: 2005, Century Media Records
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman

You can’t explain the Doobie Brothers to someone under thirty. We just don’t get it. We tend not to “get” stuff like Steely Dan or Foghat, either. Really, you had to be there. I was not. When I hear “Listen To The Music,” I turn off the radio. I don’t “get” it; but I guess it made sense at the time. Hell, it was years before I figured out Vanilla Fudge.

But yet another age has passed, and with it, a generation—and with any generation, comes a gap. Generation X begat Generation Y and Y-Not?, and it’s been all mallpunk from here.

Just you try to explain Morgoth to a teen. They wouldn’t get it. Sure, they’d like it if they listened close enough—at least we aging headbangers try to reassure ourselves of this. But they have their Atreyu and Every Time I Die and From Autumn To Ashes and any number of other tuneless, whiny, frazzled, post-emo, post-death Ritalin kids with sentence-length names and “ironic” iconography. Their hair shorn tight because they work nine to five, and can’t afford to rock the boat in such uneasy economic times…they blather on about being “straightedge,” when the truth is that they’re Closet Christians, and an X-marked hand is no sort of rebellion when the majority of the scene are dyed-in-the-wool Social Conservatives, living in the most politically conservative era since the days of Joe McCarthy. This is their legacy: Wallet chains and droopy pants, buzz-cuts and ghetto jargon, X-marked hands and pock-marked faces—shouting bravery in conformity, happiness in slavery…metalcore and random riffs, square spectacles and “tough geek” vocals, with a wanking nod to things bygone, but not quite understood.

These kids aren’t going to “get” this band. It’s a relic of the past…and damn it, it’s high time we brought them back. Put the wallet-chains and torn fishnets away; it’s time to hear real rage, freed of the pretension hypertension of the day. This was an era when long-haired ruffians, armed with bandaged instruments and broken English, growled out bitter hymns against the church, and snarled pithy songs about burn victims and zombies with a straight fucking face, hunched over and scowling all the while. Yeah...if you younger folks aren’t “in da club” at the moment, perhaps—after church, of course—you might want to give this stuff a shot.

Morgoth were late-comers in the 80’s German Thrash scene—a scene ruled by the likes of Kreator, Sodom, Destruction, Necronomicon, and so forth. But as late for one party is early for another, the band would soon be leaders of a brutal scene to come. This was the dawn of Nineties Death Metal; Florida had led the charge—Morbid Angel, Deicide, Obituary, and so forth. It was time for Europe to deliver. And deliver they did, Swedish scene aside: Morgoth’s debut EP, RESURRECTION ABSURD was easily the next logical progression of German Thrash…and the European answer to new sound from the West. Songs like “White Gallery” and “Lies Of Distrust” were instant classics, and hinted strongly at what would come.

It was also the first released by a young, fledgling label called Century Media. Hear of ‘em? I thought so.

Stylistically, the band has always run the fine line between Sodom and Obituary. They always teetered on the edge of foreign and domestic inspiration, and this is no more evident than on 1991’s CURSED, an early agonizing classic that brought to mind equal parts Cancer and Kreator.

The band made two distinct stylistic jumps in their career: The first, 1993’s ODIUM, saw the group assimilating a more concertedly mod approach, incorporating hardcore, industrial, Swedish, and power-groove leanings, all in a cohesive thundering roar that screamed forth “This is Death!”, while tipping the morbid jester’s hat to myriad other styles. It was like a bizarre Euro-Death blender packed with ARISE-era Sepultura, early Entombed, and Demolition Hammer. Songs such as the anthemic “Resistance” and moody, rhythmic ”Under The Waves” are without equal, and bludgeon with abandon, even today. ODIUM was meaty and powerful, and probably one of the last great Death Metal records of that era.

Then there was the Tragedy: 1996’s FEEL SORRY FOR THE FANATIC, which is—by Rock Snob standards—one of the great Misunderstood Classics of our time. Unfortunately, it was not much of a Morgoth record, either—but don’t let that stop you from pursuing it. You see, the band was sick of Death Metal, no matter how mixed up they tried to make it. But they all loved the clever post-Industrial rock of Killing Joke and Pop Will Eat Itself. Cue the disaster.

In the end, the album was a mish-mash of blatant Killing Joke worship and ham-fisted Voivod moments that infuriated Death Metal fans, but was still just way too heavy for Industrial Nation types. No band tainted by the “sin” of Heavy Metal (at least in the 90’s) could ever be accepted by those very pretentious pricks that Morgoth sought to reach, if not become. Taken on its own merit, however—and freed from the death strikes which preceded—FANATIC is a decent spin, and Marc Grewe did a damn fine Jazz Coleman, if I may say so.

Despite the odd misstep or cliché, Morgoth were a band of rare caliber in their day. Now they’re simply rare. This is a loving collection of all the groups highs and lows, best and brightest. Event he band’s seminal, influential demo (“Pits Of Utumno”) is included, as well as a number of other bonus tracks, mixes, videos, and loving recalled liner notes to cap the whole endeavor. This is an excellent, A-list Death Metal Reissue—a piece of violent history for an all-too peaceful present. It is well worth obtaining for the newbie seeking to learn, and the old farts wishing they had converted all their old tapes to CD when they had the chance.

Now how about those Comecon CD’s?
Track Listing

Disc 1
1. Selected Killing

2. Lies of Distrust

3. Travel

4. Burnt Identity

5. White Gallery

6. Pits Of Utumno

7. Body Count

8. Isolated

9. Sold Baptism

10. Resistance

11. Under The Surface

12. Drowning Sun

13. This Fantastic Decade

14. Graceland

15. Last Laugh

Disc 2
1. From Dusk to Dawn ("Pits of Utumno" demo, 1988)

2. Being Boiled ("Pits of Utumno" demo, 1988)

3. Eternal Sanctity ("Pits of Utumno" demo, 1988)

4. Pits Of Utumno ("Pits of Utumno" demo, 1988)

5. The Beyond ("Pits of Utumno" demo, 1988)

6. Dance Their Dance ("Pits of Utumno" demo, 1988)

7. Golden Age (unreleased demo version, 1992)

8. TV War (early version with different lyrics of "A New Start", 1994)

9. Indifferent (rare track from the "Feel Sorry..." recording session, 1996)

Lineup

Harry Busse - Guitar
Marc Grewe - Vocals
Rudiger Hennecke - Drums
Carsten Otterbach - Guitar
Sebastian Swart - Bass

Other reviews

» 1987-1997
by Gabriel C. Zolman


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