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Old time Mortification fans get ready for the biggest stylistic change since Bloodworld. While some of you might find that statement a little alarming, I personally find it important for Mort to vary the formula a bit to avoid monotony. Frankly, I think that Hammer of God bordered on being monotonous. At the same time, I think it is quite reasonable to say that this album does have a recognizable Mort sound. So you really shouldn’t be alarmed. While listening to songs like “Metal Blessing” and “Bring the Joy” for instance, I feel like Steve might have been listening to some Judas Priest as these two songs bring Mort closer than ever to playing Classic Metal in the NWOBHM vein. I find this amusing since Hammer of God was described by Steve as being more Classic Metal than previous attempts. I didn’t think it was. Then there are songs like “Hardware” which seem to break new ground musically as it is absolutely the slowest song ever to appear on a Mort album. The rest of the album might be described as similar in style as the last two albums with the exception of some tweaking of effects and such. For instance, one will notice repeatedly on this album that either Steve or producer Mark McCormack has added some effects to the bass sound. While Steve may have played with effects before, they have never been so noticeable as on songs like “Metal Blessing” and “Whom they Would Kill”.
But this isn’t the biggest musical change that will concern fans. The real interest I would say is new drummer Adam Zaffarese who is somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 years old. Well let me lay your fears to rest, Adam is quite a drummer and his contribution is very noticeable on this disc. His playing style, I think, is a lot like Phil Gibson’s on Bloodworld. Needless to say that while Keith Bannister stepped up and filled in nicely as a drummer, Zaffarese is noticeably confident. Fans should be excited to hear his playing. Let me add that I’ve always admired Lincoln’s guitar playing and I think he is one of the finest Christian guitarists out there—not to leave anyone out!
I consider Mortification to be the true “torchbearers” of what is labeled “Christian Metal” for several reasons. One is that they have been there for the long haul. Another reason is that they have been so prolific. I have been a fan since I bought the self-titled album in 1991, have seen them three times in concert, and have prayed for them. I say this because I do have one criticism. On this album, and especially Hammer of God, the lyrics have been really weak. I don’t mean weak on preaching or evangelistic focus. I mean that much of the lyrics sound like they were written by a 12 year old in the 80’s where Metal was all about tough guy attitude. This is the second album in a row with the opening track using the word “metal” in this 1980’s sense. This album starts out with “Metal Blessing” whereas Hammer of God started out with “Metal Crusade”. I know that Steve is deeper than this. I believe that he proved it with songs like “At War with War”, “Influence”, “Mephibosheth”, even “Noah was a Knower”. But when he tries to repeat the cycle with “D.W.A.M.” on Hammer or “I am a Revolutionary” on this one, it sounds a little too deliberate and strained. I would like to hear some more thoughtful lyrics coming out of Steve to match the progression of the sound of Mortification. While this may sound critical, it is only meant as a critique, and I don’t consider myself to be an enemy of a band I have every CD of.
One other knit-picky thing. The concept behind the album cover is clever, but fans will notice that it looks kind of “low-budget” compared to the lavish illustrations on previous albums. This may just be my impression, but I anticipate hearing others say the same thing. Also, the logo is different and doesn’t look as cool to me. I can live with this, of course. I’m not that big of a stickler. Perhaps it is just the intention of the band to change things a little to keep things interesting. Either way, what is important is the music and the lyrics. I give the music high marks but think the lyrics need improving. This is no Primitive Rhythm Machine nor is it a Triumph of Mercy. But I do think it is a worthy addition to your collection, and an improvement over Hammer of God.
There is a reason that this original recording by Mortification keeps surfacing. Originally, “Break the Curse” was recorded as a demo to shop around to labels. Many of the songs appeared on their first album and one on the third album. “Brutal Warfare”, “Break the Curse”, “Journey of Reconciliation” and “The Majestic Infiltration of Order”, dubbed “God Rules” all appeared on the self-titled debut. “Impulsation” appeared later on “Post Momentary Affliction”. Also, “Blood Sacrifice” and “New Beginnings” appeared on Intense Records’ five year retrospective of the band which ended Mort’s contract with Intense. So the question is: why buy it now? Well, to begin with, even though many of these songs have appeared on subsequent albums, all except “Blood Sacrifice” and “New Beginnings” appear in a different form here. On this album the guitarist is Cameron Hall who was with Steve in Lightforce. His guitar technique is different from Michael Carlisle who recorded on the early Mort albums. Secondly, there are songs on this demo which appear nowhere else—at least, as far as I know. “Illusion of Life”and “Your Last Breath” are two old style Mort songs not to be missed and are musically consistent with the other eight songs on this disc. Further, the sound quality of this disc goes well beyond that of most demos (I suspect they spent a lot of money on the recording of this). It sounds like a Mort album. In fact, I wouldn’t mind it at all if they returned to this very style.
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