Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

There is a fine line between persistence and stubbornness, a line walked by guitarist/vocalist Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek, leader and founding member of the Polish Death Metal institution Vader, since first forming the band way back in 1983. The amiable frontman with the massive voice began his recording career in the early 90s and continued creating fast and uncompromising Death Metal at times when most similarly-minded bands were throwing in the towel, mortally wounded by the sharp claws of Grunge. With the completion of the third decade of the band’s life fast approaching, Vader have just released their ninth studio album entitled “Welcome To The Morbid Reich” and the first question that springs to mind is, how relevant and dangerous is this band still in the year 2011? Let’s see then.

Vader’s style has long been associated with Peter’s brutal but comprehensible vocals, fast rhythmical riffs and guitar solos whose influence from the mighty Slayer could even be seen as pure worship. This is the same recipe that brought to existence albums such as 2006’s “Impressions In Blood” and 2009’s “Necropolis”, the band’s last two studio albums, so one might automatically assume that all this band had to do was to record a similarly sounding album – something that would not acquire enormous amounts of effort and inspiration. The fact that in “Welcome To The Morbid Reich” we hear the best Vader album since the days of “Litany” (2000) is purely as a consequence of Peter’s determination to prove that there is still plenty of steam left in this old but reliable Death Metal engine. Yes, the riffs are still simply crafted and rhythmical, the solos are still Slayeric in their orientation and the drums are as explosive as ever – what is different is the way that these elements are utilised and how they manage to translate into material that is easy to digest but which is also fairly layered and technically demanding.

The epic sounding intro “Ultima Thule” does well in raising the excitement levels, especially in view of the forthcoming onslaught, entitled “Return To the Morbid Reich” – a composition filled with neck breaking riffs and flamboyant leads. In “Black Eye” we have a fast tempo riff-orientated composition that does not hold many surprises but the same cannot be said of “Come And See My Sacrifice” – a five minute opus based on a massive riff, galloping supporting drums, Slayeric riffs and, at times, multi-layered vocals of Deicide quality. “Only Hell Knows” is another old-school belter that is followed by the sinister keyboard themes and colossal head banging riffs of “I Am Who Feasts Upon Your Soul” – one of the album’s absolute highlights. If the Ralph Santolla (Deicide/Obituary) sounding melodic leads of "Don't Rip the Beast's Heart Out" doesn’t do it for you then maybe the flamboyant solos of “I Had A Dream…” will get you to appreciate the levels of craftsmanship placed behind the creation of this album. Now, if the riffs of “Lord Of Thorns” sound fast to you then wait until you listen to “Decapitated Saints” – the fastest, most brutal song on offer which also happens to be my personal favourite. To close this very diverse album, Vader have chosen another epic-sounding instrumental entitled “They Are Coming…” which is soon followed by the slow-paced but heavy-riffed “Black Velvet And Skulls Of Steel” – another composition capable of giving your neck a turn for its money.

Vader is one of the most consistent bands in Death Metal, so for them to come up with another good album was something that I pretty much expected – the fact, however, that they released an album that I came to appreciate almost as much as the classic “De Profundis” (1995) was indeed a very welcome surprise. “Welcome To The Morbid Reich” is the band’s second release for Nuclear Blast and it somehow feels that being connected to one of the biggest Metal labels in the world has provided Peter and Co with the motivation needed in order create material that is classic-sounding but also capable of impressing with originality. If you think that these Poles are simply interested in resting on their laurels rather than aiming to becoming leaders of this much love genre then listen to this great album and you will undoubtedly change your mind. Is this the best Death Metal album of the year that we are talking about? Something tells me that the answer to that question is a massive ‘yes’!

John Stefanis