Mortuous – Upon Desolation

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California-based death metal band Mortuous makes a solid return with the sophomore release 'Upon Desolation'. The present lineup features drummer Chad Gailey (Vastum, Necrot), guitarist/vocalist Colin Tarvin, guitarist/vocalist/piano Michael Beams and bassist Clint Roach. There’s no doubt that in recent years Mortuous has become well-known in the underground death metal scene of the USA. Their 2018 debut effort 'Through Wilderness' was well received by the fans. However, the quartet's long-awaited return shows that Mortuous has a knack for writing some vicious music.

Perhaps those who are familiar with Mortuous‘s full-length album can absorb the tight performance of the riffing work that comes with proper riffs spewing viciousness. The opening track ‘Carve’ immediately picks up from where the band left off. There is a considerable sense of cavernous brutality in the tone of the vocals and the drums are often straightforward. While the growling suits the overall style of the music, the guitar unleashes chunks of heavy riffs. ‘Upon Desolation’ is a time-honed album that manifests tons of monstrous riffs. The following track ‘Nothing’ kicks off with grinding double bass drums followed by a blasting drums section, yet there are some atmospheric moments that offer some killer hooks.

Mostly the riffing is achieved in the organic and engaging method that the band presented on its debut. While such a methodical style has some similarities to bands like Vastum and Necrot, the use of the violin and the piano instrument isn’t just emphasized, it adds a whole doomy spectrum. Mortuous musical trademarks infuse different elements to create a feeling which is more akin to death/doom. The riffing ability on ‘Upon Desolation’ has been doubled. There is so much rawness when the music switches to mid-tempo mode. The slow ominous intro on ‘Metamorphosis’ adds many textures to the music and the drumming work shines throughout the eight tracks.

The heavy bombardment of the loud hitting drums and guttural growls maintain the putrid style of death metal with the drums going rampant and adrenaline-pumping tempos offering a brutal slab of death metal. Meanwhile, the guitars are given enough space to swagger with heavy propelling riffs. Everything seems well-balanced: the growls and the blast beats sometimes add a sinister effect to the music. For example, ‘Days of Grey’ is full of punishing beats and spiraling solos, and the middle section of the song gets darker and even doomier. Given the clarity of the instruments, the sound production is absolutely clear and massive. Consequently, the songs result in a raw and coherent sound that is packed with tremendous riffs. Even though I would have preferred it if the violin were given more room to create a somber sensibility.

Defiled by Fire’ and ‘Burning Still…’ focus on relentless brutality: as the drums kick off with sporadic blast beats and double bass, the guitar follows into a riffing assault. There are plenty of infectious riffs that show the viciousness of the band which makes the songs even more coherent. As matter of fact, Mortuous has improved the level of brutality as each instrument, including the bass guitar, is maximized to greater levels. ‘Upon Desolation’ bears the old school characterization of bands like Autopsy and Incantation, but in my view the doom elements this time feels lacking.

Mortuous combines everything from old-school death metal. Each riff brings some chugging grooves and filthy rawness, although I would say the sophomore is a bit of a refined offering with reasonable variety throughout its entire time length of 38 minutes. Another great track is ‘Ash and Dismay’ which is a mix of fast aggressive riffs, pounding drums and a slower tempo that is full of hooks. When the piano segments are combined, they create spacious and memorable melodies. Despite the aggression, the only problem is that ‘Upon Desolation’ feels very similar to Vastum and Necrot. This is why the album lacks the originality of the debut album. The closing track ‘Graveyard Rain’ begins with a monstrous crunchy guitar tone. Although the overall sound feels diluted and less putrid, the drums on this track hits harder. The breakdown allows for the hypnotic and capturing atmosphere to flow, and there’s also a hooky guitar melody section well placed in the song.


  • Music / Songwriting 8/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 8/10
  • Mix / Production 8/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 8/10
  • Originality 7/10

In conclusion, ‘Upon Desolation’ is still a good album that deserves several spins. If you dig retro style of death metal with some twisted doom metal, then give this album a shot.

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