Morbid Saint – Swallowed by Hell (High Roller Records)Wednesday, 7th February 2024
Wisconsin band Morbid Saint gained notoriety over the years through the underground for their 1990 album Spectrum of Death – taking elements of thrash into a deadlier direction a la other bands of that time period like Dark Angel or Demolition Hammer. Resurrecting themselves in 2010, three-fifths of that original core lineup still exists in this latest incarnation (the rhythm section now includes bassist Bob Zabel and drummer DJ Bagemehl). Third studio album Swallowed by Hell came together under remote circumstances – recorded by Chris Djuricic (Numskull, Disinter), these ten tracks show no signs of velocity restraint or savage aggression, the frantic lead breaks, explosive screams or mid-range raspy vocals, and gripping riffs/tempos still as relevant today as they were in previous decades.
Occasional twin guitar circular runs gain support from a beefy bass underpinning – check out the instrumental opening sequence for “Burn Pit” that has a lot of early Testament qualities before chugging along at a slightly above mid-paced arrangement, where the shouted gang chorus garners infectious overtones beyond the neoclassical, melodic to shred lead break section. Machine gun sequences where all parties unite in this jackhammer stop/start precision movement sets “Fear Incarnate” to alert mode – although the relatively calmer transitional section will mandate larger than life pit action. Deadly riffing as well as timely transitional picking maneuvers from guitarists Jim Fergades and Jay Visser ensure plenty of massive neck whipping situations – their work throughout “Bleed Them Dry” as well as the swirling buzzsaw opener “Rise From the Ashes” worthy of deeper attention. Topping off the proceedings is the speedy, vicious vocal delivery of Pat Lind – containing the ideal amount of ferocious bark, sandpaper-like screams, and rapid-fire wordsmith qualities that you want in an extreme thrash-oriented platform. One favorable aspect to the band is their ability to consistently inject these songs with advanced musical or hook-laden passages – that even amidst the faster or heads down elements, they understand the need to deliver memorable, distinct riffs or parts in every track.
Many times, worry sets in when a band from the 80s or 90s tries to record new material in the 2020s, as they may step into another time period awkwardly, unable to achieve the greatness of youth. Morbid Saint has no concerns there – Swallowed by Hell giving the listeners what they hope and desire from this set of veteran musicians.