Mortiferum’s Grisly Death/Doom Metal Is “Preserved in Torment” (Early Album Stream + Interview)
Prepare your guts—Mortiferum's second album, Preserved in Torment, is streaming in full below ahead of its Friday release date. Coming almost two years to the day after the release of their first album and Profound Lore debut, Disgorged from Psychotic Depths, Preserved in Torment uses its predecessor's ingredients to create an even bleaker, more violent followup. While others take their metal with a side of something else—say, Worm’s low country boil of blackened doom or Decrepisy’s doom-seasoned chunks of death metal—Mortiferum bellies straight up to the death-doom buffet. Across Preserved in Torment, the band heaps savage death metal riffs onto a blast beat ribcage and then swaps it for a bassy soup of funeral doom metal. Clanking rides and undulating bass lines keep the album at a boil, slaking even the most bottomless appetite for filth.
Preserved in Torment wastes few of its roughly 40 minutes of runtime. The record's cohesiveness can in part be explained by the fact that the band recorded the record in just twelve days. It also benefits from a cleaner production than the band’s earlier efforts. Where their first EP, Altar of Decay, had a similar blend of funerary passages and Alex Mody's tireless drumming, Preserved in Torment has a clarity that lends its chaotic visions an immediacy that wasn’t quite there before. Andrew Oswald, who previously mixed Disgorged from Psychotic Depths, joined the band for both recording and mixing this time. Whereas Mody's blasts on Altar of Decay sounded subterranean, they surround the listener here, as at 1:55 in "Seraphic Extinction."
Bands that dwell largely in the mid tempo range can occasionally get bogged down by unimaginative riffage or excessive runtimes. Mortiferum avoid both of these issues in a couple ways. For starters, the woozy riffs on tracks like "Seraphic Extinction" and "Caudex of Flesh" are endlessly intriguing, sometimes playing the role of deranged muttering and sometimes of a terrifying psychotic break. Yet the album is also surprisingly compact. The longest track, "Incubus of Bloodstained Visions," neither feels self-indulgent nor eight minutes long. Even when it comes down from dizzying blast beat sections, the rhythm remains propulsive. This track is also the album's second, so its heavy runtime is frontloaded.
The final track, "Mephitis of Disease," is the album’s second longest and contains some of Preserved in Torment’s more compelling harmonies. While it would be misleading to call the song "melodic," it contains interesting, galloping riffage and all the cymbal clanks one can handle. It’s a representation of what makes Preserved in Torment work—without sacrificing too much speed to fall into a doomed lull, and while avoiding an excess of the tropes of "filthy slab"-style death metal, it hits the sweet spot of death/doom metal's best attributes and still manages to stir innovation into familiar broth for a potent brew.
Over their five years of existence, Mortiferum have proved a steady presence in the Pacific Northwest scene. From the meaty riffs to bowel-shaking drums, and guided by Bowman and Mody's dual vocal attack, everything on Preserved in Torment is there that you’d expect from this four-piece. Even the artwork—a bleak intestinal landscape painted by guitarist Slaker—is a continuation, building on Disgorged from Psychotic Depths’ precedent.
Moments like the solo near the end of "Exhumed from Mortal Spheres" also show a band that continues to grow and refine. This is an album that may not thrill with novelty each second along the way, but it will surely make heads bang and hands clutch with its competence and heft. Within the glass bowl of its production, Preserved in Torment is a sumptuous dish if death/doom metal is your thing. It contains all the right flavors, healthy dashes of seasoning from outside that genre pair, and that touch of sublime that lets you know you’re in the hands of a cunning chef.
I spoke to the band about Preserved in Torment to see how they achieved this blend. The interview that follows has been edited for clarity and style. Read the interview and listen to an advance of Preserved in Torment below.
Preserved in Torment is coming out just over two years after Disgorged from Psychotic Depths. Obviously, a lot has changed in the world since then. What’s new with Mortiferum, and when did you get started with Preserved in Torment?
Alex Mody: It felt disheartening as fuck to have to cancel two and a half really cool tours in 2020, all in support of Disgorged from Psychotic Depths. But Max and Chase are pretty prolific riff writers. They had a ton of ideas going before Disgorged was released. So, when we found ourselves with so much newfound free time in 2020, it came naturally to begin writing a new album as soon as "lockdown" ended.
From what I understand, you recorded this album in less than two weeks. What was the process like of synthesizing these ideas in a relatively short timespan?
AM: It helped a lot that we played together a couple times a week for seven or eight months before going in to record. I think I took a day longer than intended to record drums, and then we finished all essential tracking two or three days ahead of schedule, allowing us and Andy ample time to experiment with re-amping guitars, drinking, effects, vocals, and the mix. While 12 days might not seem like a long time, it was longer than any of us in Mortiferum have spent recording any one release. It felt great that we never needed to hurry. We just went in and did our thing each day, and had enough time to be intentional about tons of minute details.
This record ventures a bit further from death-doom than Disgorged from Psychotic Depths to my ears. How would you characterize the sound of Preserved in Torment? Did the band make conscious shifts in songwriting, or was this a natural next step from your previous work?
AM: Our songs on Preserved feel a bit more straightforward than what we wrote for Disgorged, as there are fewer slow intros and breaks in our songs. So maybe we have made a slight effort to just get to the fucking point with things. I would also add that [the] riffs are coming from a much wider range of influences, though I'm not writing any of them. I still hear things that sound like doom to me, though I’d agree, less of that feeling is present here. As a drummer, I made a conscious effort to only write parts that I can play while hitting hard as shit.
How has COVID impacted the band? Are you also facing supply-chain issues with vinyl?
AM: Aside from canceling several tours, skipping a few months of practice, and playing far fewer shows, COVID has not directly impacted the band, and there are no supply-chain issues I am aware of.
Max Bowman: The supply chain issues of vinyl luckily haven’t impacted us too badly. We couldn’t have vinyl in hand by the release date, but we’ll have them in time for the album release shows. Turnaround times are fucked but luckily we were given deadlines with this in mind. We’re pretty lucky.
I understand one of your members, Chase, handles the cover art. How do you all go about translating your sound into something visual?
Chase Slaker: By the time I start working on the cover art, I’ve already been immersed in our music for months during the writing and recording process and have a really clear feeling for what the imagery should be. I’m fairly new to painting, so the technical aspect of making the art is still challenging, but for the most part, I’m just sitting there channeling the music and trying to visually depict and expand on the same realm we already inhabit sonically.
As with many metal folks, Mortiferum’s members are in other, sometimes very different bands. I know three of you are in Caustic Wound. What’s it like shifting between musical modes like that, and how do you negotiate the time and effort required for different groups?
CS: When both bands are trying to do stuff at the same time it can get a bit grueling, but for the most part I see it as a positive and a way of diversifying our creativity. One band might be focusing on getting tight for shows, while the other is writing new material. If I sit down and deliberately try to write a riff for Mortiferum, sometimes I end up with some Caustic Wound riffs instead. Shifting attention between different projects prevents boredom and stagnation.
You released a split with Hyperdontia last year, and now you’ve both got full-lengths in 2021. How have collaborative relationships informed your music over the years? Do you all have any splits you’re working on or hoping to do?
MB: In all honesty, I don’t imagine we'll be doing any more splits. Doing the split with Hyperdontia was fun, but it ends up being a bit of a "too many cooks in the kitchen"-type situation, especially when that was a co-release between two labels. It became a headache and we ended up wishing we just used the song on our album. Our songs are also pretty long, so it ended up being a challenge to fit it on to the 7" format. That said, Hyperdontia are a fantastic band, and we’re happy to have something in the world with both of our names on it.
Given that part of your tour for Disgorged from Psychotic Depths was canceled last year, do you feel like there’s a "making up for lost time" in planning new shows, or are you still proceeding cautiously with touring?
MB: I'd say maybe a little bit of both. We are planning to tour as much as we possibly can but acknowledge the uncertainty of the future. We want to do as much as we can before we reach full societal collapse, but also realize that could happen in the blink of an eye, which is basically what happened in 2020. We've confirmed for a pretty extensive tour with a legendary act whom we can’t name just yet, [and] I, for one, am barely able to contain my excitement about that. We’re also planning on doing a European tour later next year, but again, who knows what could happen! I’m hoping with the touring that does happen that all attendees are courteous to one another and acknowledge that, while they might think this thing doesn’t affect them, that’s not the same for everyone. So far everyone has been pretty chill at every show we've played. Everyone is having a great time, but trying to be careful.
What’s coming up later this year and in 2022 that you're excited about?
MB: I'm excited to see and play alongside our friends who we haven't been able to since 2020. When we all parted ways with one another at Total Death Over Mexico in March of that year, I remember thinking "fuck, I might not be seeing these people for a really, really long time." It was really depressing. I can't wait to watch everyone shred again, I can't wait to be on the road again, and if the world goes to shit again, we’re just going to make another heavy as fuck record. Nothing will stop us, ever.
Preserved in Torment is out tomorrow on Profound Lore Records.