When it comes to death metal albums from 1993, I cannot recommend Morgoth’s Odium enough.
This album from the German band could be called “experimental” and it could be called “progressive,” or you could just call it “death metal.” Whatever you want to call it, this album sounds like nothing else (that I’ve heard at least) released on the death metal world at the time.
What really stands out on this album is how well the band works as a unit. Nobody’s performance pushes aside anyone else in the band.
Marc Grewe handles vocals on Odium. His performance compliments the music well, offering not your typical, guttural and indecipherable death metal growl, but a roar that’s coherent and very metal at the same time. His performance is one of the key reasons this album works so well and doesn’t get lost in the sea of other death metal bands.
It really helps that Grewe is complimented by a pair of guitarists, Harold Busse and Carsten Otterbach, who deliver both face shredding rhythms and somewhat ghostly melodies, matching what looks like a blasted landscape on the album’s cover, though, I think that “blasted landscape” is actually something like a piece of dust magnified times one thousand.
Bassist Sebastian Swart and drummer Rudiger Hennecke keep things grounded with their heavy beats. Hennecke’s performance definitely stands out as he is a drummer that seems to know when that extra little something he can throw in can make the song all that much better. Hennecke also handles the often unnoticeable keyboards on the album.
This combination produced something that could actually be called “progressive death metal.” Morgoth did something different, taking the listener through a journey of the unexpected and leaving them with an album full of songs that they can remember years later.
Things begin with the pounding tempo of “Resistance.” This song is at once merciless and fascinating. The elements of death metal are all there — heavy down-tuned guitars and bass drums that hit you like a wild horse galloping over your face — but it’s also very tonal and shows that a lot of thought was put into it. Most interesting of all, it’s catchy. Well, as catchy as death metal can be. Within the first listen, you’ll find yourself growling the chorus “resistance!”
It sets the tone for the rest of the album. The songs are memorable and I don’t think there’s a bad one in the bunch. Morgoth crafted the songs on Odium to each be able to stand on their own yet be part of a greater whole.
“The Art of Sinking” keeps the momentum started with “Resistance” going. It starts out slow, with a lone guitar building up to frenetic paced verses, slowing down once more in this song that’s like a wave of tempos. “The Art of Sinking” is an appropriate title as by the end of it, you’re submerged in Odium for its entirety.
My personal favorite song is “Under the Surface,” with its unpredictability and rather awesome intro guitars. This song is chaos that manages to somehow hold together. It should fall apart, but everything in it sounds like it should belong together.
While there aren’t any bad songs on the album, the last three songs don’t rise to the same level as the first five. It doesn’t weaken the album, instead, it just shows how strong the first five songs are.
While I wouldn’t call Odium perfect, it’s a great album in my opinion. It’s something I don’t think can be replicated, nor should it be tried. I’m actually amazed it isn’t held up as one of the high points of the genre 25 years later.
Would I recommend it?
Definitely. This is one of the few albums I’d say one would be happy paying full price for. Sure, you can find the whole thing on YouTube and listen for free, but I feel that it’s sort of a moral obligation to buy it, either as a hard copy or a download. People hate paying money, I know that, but paying is also a way of saying “man, that was great work and you should be rewarded.”
With Odium being a masterpiece of death metal, I think that reward is well deserved.