Morta Skuld – Through the Eyes of Death: The Early Demos

Wisconsin Death metalers Morta Skuld has since their beginnings in 1989 made a deep mark on the genre without always being given that credit when more other prominent bands are mentioned, not unknown but rarely one of the first names mentioned when death metal is analysed over the past twenty years. Formed by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Dave Gregor with the simple aim of making music that was brutal and honest the band steadily and firmly grew as formidable as the following that built up for them. A subsequent career that included an array of shows with the likes of Slayer, Obituary, Death, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, and Carcass, four albums and a compilation release as well as inclusions on tribute albums to Ozzy Osbourne and Mercyful Fate has come up to date with the signing with Relapse Records and the recent re-release of early demos in the form of Through The Eyes Of Death. That is obviously a quick tour through the years of Morta Skuld to allow concentration on this new release and the treasures within.

Through the Eyes of Death combines the band’s first two demos from 1990, Gory Departure and Prolong The Agony, remastered by Chris Wisco at Belle City Sound for this release. Though raw and basic compared to today’s technology enhanced clean cut noises from bands the tracks all show the sonically coarse searing power of Morta Skuld that rivals any one then or since.  

The first demo here, Gory Departure was recorded in April 1990, the band consisting of alongside Gregor, guitarist Keven Zeitler, bassist Jason Hellman, and drummer Jesse Rofritz. Produced by Eric ‘Griffy’ Greif, manager of DEATH it consists of four tracks ‘Sacrificial Rite’, ‘Gory Departure’, ‘Preacher of Lies’, and ‘Senseless Killing’. In preparation for this recording the band had help and support from fellow Milwaukee metal act Viogression who they were great friends with. The name Morta Skuld actually came from Viogression vocalist Brian DeNeffe, who also assisted in some of the songwriting, whilst Viogression bassist Bryan Jaeger assisted in the reaction of the band’s logo, picture, and title graphics for the cassette cover.

The songs themselves are impressive and leap into the ear menacingly and eagerly. Of the two demos this collection of songs are more vibrant and notable though on neither is there a track that does anything less than show Morta Skuld as a strong and immense band even back then. After a brief hellish intro ‘Sacrificial Rite’ unleashes its mayhem complete with a teasing groove that lures one in before taking over with all consuming riffs and overwhelming intensity. Dark and coated with an ominous atmosphere the track is undeniable and it can be argued whether the band have produced a song since as powerful and satisfying within their catalogue of fine tunes. ‘Gory Departure ‘continues with equal measured assault before handing over to the release’s other slice of glory ‘Preacher Of Lies’. With a galloping riff it tramples the senses under foot leaving the listener as debris under its death metal monstrosity. Closed by ‘Senseless Killing’ again a song that does no less than crush with uncompromising intent, the demo despite as mentioned the raw and its of the time production, brings an immense selection of songs  making the release worth a look alone.

Musically one can hear obvious limitations within the band at the time but the song’s quality and energy make up for it, and continues into the second demo Prolong the Agony recorded August 1990 and with Jef Jaeger now on drums and Jason O’Connell on guitar. An intro and three songs made it up with ‘Feast From Within’, containing lyrics originally written by Jef Jaeger and Bryan Jaeger for Viogression for a song that was retired without ever being recorded, the strongest, though to be fair all tracks are of equal standard if a little lacking against Gory Departure. The tracks here are darker with predatory riffs and black intent especially on Feast From Within’ and the bestial ‘ProlongThe Agony’.

Through The Eyes Of Death also contains a great cover of the Metal Church song of the same name and ‘Eternal Suffering’ a song hosen as a single for Earache Records but never seeing a release. This album has that has something for everyone, existing fans and those new to Morta Skuld and the proof that re-releases can be worthwhile every now and then.

RingMaster 14/10/2011

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