It's a difficult task to think of one word or phrase to describe Mortuary Drape, such is the extent to which the band's sound is a vast and chimerical one. "Secret Sudaria" is no exception, and seems to do its utmost to bring a huge and diverse range of elements to the table. Indeed, it's almost confusing as a listener when one tries to decide which paradigm to listen to the music in. Fun, or grim? The only answer seems to be found in trying to take stock of everything at once. Rapid-picking and thrashy sections appeal to the old-school 80's thrash sensibilities in their sharp and athletic sound. Frequent d-beats and prominent bass then varnish the album in an almost Motorhead-esque sheen of filth and cruising nastiness, elevated further by the evil but extravagant solos. The rumbling and jagged riffs are among the best I've heard in any sub-genre of metal, reconciling the dynamic riff work with a cavernous and morbid atmosphere, particularly in the world-devouring vocal delivery. Infectious though much of the album may be, it still looms over the listener with infernal and malign intent, vomiting-forth from the grave with malice, for all of its bounce and swagger. It isn't doused in "necrosound", but it carries a distinct and flavoursome evil in its veins - it doesn't need to be scathingly raw.
The dominant elements of death metal and black metal likewise interact in interesting ways throughout the running time of the record, with the album maintaining an ability to writhe with the energy of old-school death metal, but also descend into a crushing and devilish darkness. It's a coming together of flavours, somehow both morbid and, for want of a better word, rocking, following-on from bands like their fellow countrymen Bulldozer in doing so. Indeed, while perhaps not the culmination - if any album could ever claim to be such - "Secret Sudaria" very much represents a buffet of some of the very best ideas and recurring tropes that metal had accumulated from its inception right through to 1997, when the record was released. It's not that the album itself is diffuse in identity, or gratuitously eclectic, either; the songs have a fixed and consistent style throughout, giving it great cohesion through its runtime. Instead, what seems to have happened is that Mortuary Drape are a band who sit so thoroughly betwixt the archetypal products of the various subgenres from which they take influence, it's impossible not to sit-up and notice the resultant amalgam. It's the sort of record which will challenge you if you try to be too meta. The most enjoyment it can offer, as writing this review has taught me, is when one listens to it without thinking too deeply into what it is, but savouring simply how it is.
Mortuary Drape have outright rocketed into being among my favourite extreme-metal acts, and with albums like Secret Sudaria appealing to more or less my every preference with regards to metal, it's in many ways unsurprising. While the band seem to be a treasure of the underground, reserved only for those who go looking, I nonetheless thoroughly recommend anyone with a vague interest in extreme metal to seek their material out.
This is a 9.5/10.
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