Texas death metal band Morgengrau may be a new name, but it features former Ignitor vocalist Erika Swinnich Tandy and current Plutonian Shores bassist Jacob Holmes in its ranks. This year the group has self-released their debut full length Extrinsic Pathway which is full of 90s death metal influence as well as some faster thrash tinged moments. It manages to do the style justice, and while the release doesn’t quite stand out on every song it’s a solid start for the band and hints at further potential still to come.
Morgengrau certainly sounds authentic when it comes to this style of death metal, as the production retains a raw feel. There is a bit more clarity to the overall recording if you compare Extrinsic Pathway to some of the U.S. death metal albums actually released in the 90s, but a nice balance has been struck between raw intensity and clarity that lets the riffs take the spotlight. As for the actual songs, the instrumentalists have put together a lot of mid-tempo, forceful riffs that lumber forward with plenty of intensity but they aren’t afraid to whip things up into a frenzy and hit listeners with much faster arrangements. When the tempo does speed up the riffs have both a thrash and death metal feel, and it is during these moments that the band makes an impression. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the slower moments are bad, but as the album came to a close I found that some of those sections felt a bit too similar and it was the sections where Morgengrau sped things up that I was returning to the most.
I was familiar with Erika Swinnish Tandy’s performance on Ignitor’s Road of Bones where she had a clean but forceful vocal style. But what she is able to deliver on Extrinsic Pathway is something else, as her performance adopts a death metal growl that has a good deal of intensity. In fact, if I hadn’t looked up who was in Morgengrau before writing this review I may not have even known that this was the same vocalist as Tandy has delivered pitches that I didn’t know she was capable of before. The production not only lets the riffs breathe but it gives the growls additional emphasis and as a whole the performance on this album was impressive.
Extrinsic Pathway stands as a solid death metal album that’s worth checking out if you’re big into the early American style that became so prevalent in the 90s, but it doesn’t quite stand out as one of the best to come out this year. Morgengrau has potential, as there are some moments where the riffs stand out and the vocals remain consistently killer throughout. But they still need just a little more growth when it comes to songwriting, and if the band can accomplish this I expect their new album or two will push them into the spotlight.
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