Swallowed By Hell
Review by Greg on February 11, 2024.
What do you do after releasing one of the best albums in history? Well, not many bands are eligible to answer such a question, aren't they? Among them, of course, Wisconsin's premium metal outfit Morbid Saint finds place. Their debut, and for a long time only effort, Spectrum Of Death needs no introduction, still standing as one of the chief examples of how brutal and extreme thrash could be around 1990, without really becoming something different. Their response to the opening question would probably have been along the lines of: 'Obviously, you release a second one! As long as you manage to find a label that will actually publish it...'. It wasn't meant to be, indeed, as Destruction System didn't see the light of day until recent years. But now the legendary formation, spearheaded by guitarist Jay Visser and recently welcoming back old mates Jim Fergades and Pat Lind, joins the ever-growing list of 'comeback albums everyone would've deemed as impossible ten years ago' with Swallowed By Hell.
Starting from the presentation, the far from subtle Ed Repka artwork, which I honestly can't find any words to comment about, would suggest a return to a more lethal, extreme style, discarding the relatively measured approach taken by Destruction System, and it's not that far off. Naturally, if one rarely expects comeback albums to compete with the bands' older works, that is even truer considering Spectrum Of Death's untouchable status. Much like with Razor's "Cycle Of Contempt", hearing middle-aged men acting like against-all rebels can feel odd at first (there is literally a song called 'Fuck Them All'), but just like in that case, it feels more or less consistent with the band's pedigree, and surely less childish than modern-day Manowar. Swallowed By Hell can be summed up as said men recording the angriest and most furious album they could. And isn't that exactly what, you know, everyone would have expected from them?
It surely helps that the album is off to a deflagrating start. I don't have much to ask from the inaugurating triplet. The title-track and advance single, in particular, is still growing on me listen after listen, with several breakneck accelerations and a perfect, if criminally short, chorus riff. 'Bloody Floors' even kicks it up a notch further with a vicious tremolo attack (you can really feel there's the same picking hands of 'Assassin' behind it) and wannabe-demonic vocals, another excellent song. New face DJ Bagemehl was described by the band as the best drummer they've ever had, and while he's surely more conventional than Lee Reynolds, I'm inclined to believe that bold claim – the guy's simply devastating. I was also curious about Lind's performance, or should I say worried, as I recall having read some negative comments about his voice recently. Last time I heard him, he was still fiercely awesome on his guest appearance on Lich King's "Born Of The Bomb", but even that was 12(!) years ago. In any case, I'd say he does a commendable job, all things considered, with the caveat that many of his lines are very alike-sounding and will become a bit monotone in a matter of songs. Add to that the tons of reverb missing from the debut, which really was a distinctive feature. Of course, it's easy to notice the differences when the dude was spitting literal venom back in the days, but it was truly just another peak unlikely to be equaled.
I'm less convinced by other tracks. The aforementioned 'Fuck Them All' isn't that hostile, in the grand scheme of things, and along with 'Fear Incarnate' or 'Burn Pit' doesn't quite show that Morbid Saint DNA I was expecting – as if, nothing wrong with those, but you could tell me another band wrote them and I could easily believe you. The rest of the album is not short on terrific moments, like the simply awesome chorus riffs of 'Bleed Them Dry', a later highlight, and closer 'Psychosis', or the leadwork in 'Killer Instinct' and 'Pine Tuxedo' – it just doesn't manage to reach again the heights of the initial trio. But at the end of the day, nothing can diminish the alluring effect of getting a new Morbid Saint full-length in 2024, especially one that doesn't tarnish their basically immaculate legacy. Swallowed By Hell is more than a respectable effort from a band that was sorely missed for too much time, and arguably their second-best LP ever. Not that they could aim for more than that, right?
Rating: 7.6 out of 10302