Vader - Welcome To The Morbid Reich

Nuclear Blast
Produced by Wojtek Wieslawski

When a band is as consistent as Vader, pinpointing what causes certain albums to stand out can be difficult. Their extensive back catalogue is littered with unarguable highlights – The Ultimate Incantation and The Art of War are especially (and rightly) acclaimed – but the Polish death metal crew has essentially been doing the same thing proficiently and reliably since 1993.

While it's not necessarily incorrect to say that Welcome To The Morbid Reich, the band's ninth and latest full-length, is simply more of the same, it still feels like a game-changer, not least of all because it may be the band's best record yet. Notably, the album is the first one for every member of Vader except for founding guitarist/vocalist Piotr Wiwczarek. Drummer James Stewart, bassist Hal, and second guitarist Spider joined the band in the interim between 2009's Necropolis and today, and their influence permeates the still Piotr-dominated sound just enough to give the songs a fresh feel. This is the most youthful sounding Vader album in over a decade, and the new members deserve a lot of credit for that, their very presence apparently pushing Wiwczarek to a level he's only occasionally reached before.

The songwriting is tight; none of the album's twelve tracks exceed five minutes, with the average falling right around three. Every riff is executed with purpose, appearing just as long as it needs to before bleeding into another. There're more guitar harmonies present than on any other Vader disc, making the record feel at times like a death metal take on classic Iron Maiden. It's better not to lean too heavily on that comparison, though, because Welcome To The Morbid Reich is undoubtedly a death metal album, brutal at all the right places, deadly serious but not afraid to wink at the listener, and evocative of that golden era of Entombed and Dismember when death metal could be melodic without being melodic death metal.

Barnburners like Return To The Morbid Reich, Don't Rip The Beast's Heart Out, and Black Velvet And Skulls of Steel are windows-down-on-a-hot-summer-day death metal at its finest. The re-recording of Decapitated Saints, the best song on Vader's first album and perhaps the best they've ever done, manages to make their fastest song even faster, and in the vein of Destruction's Thrash Anthems LP, gives a classic tune the tightness and production it always deserved – albeit whilst sapping a bit of its initial visceral energy.

Death metal has stagnated in a big way in the past decade or so for those who aren't interested in the ongoing competition to be the most brutal or the most technical band on the planet, but with a new album from a longtime stalwart of the genre as excellent as Welcome To The Morbid Reich, one has to grow a bit more optimistic about its future.

“ brutal at all the right places ”

Tracklist: Ultima Thule / Return To The Morbid Reich / The Black Eye / Come And See My Sacrifice / Only Hell Knows / I Am Who Feasts Upon The Soul / Don't Rip The Beast's Heart Out / I Had A Dream... / Lord of Thorns / Decapitated Saints / They Are Coming... / Black Velvet And Skulls of Steel

Written by Brad Sanders
More: 2011, Albums, Death Metal,

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