You can usually tell right away whether the album you hold in your dirty little paws is going to be one of those uplifting, fist-pumping Metal moments, or it’s going to be dark and gritty and nasty. One look at the cover of Mortiferum’s Preserved in Torment and you get the idea that this isn’t going to be a moshpit of fun, but rather a long slog down a skull-filled road to Hell itself. And you know what? This is one of those times where the cover doesn’t lie. The boys from Olympia, Washington, slap you in the face right out of the gate and don’t stop punching until well past putting you in the hospital with their blackened, hateful, morose riffs, vocals, drums, and distorted bass.
Opener “Eternal Procession” shows you what this album is going to be like, the blueprint for things to come. Thundering, angry, a morbid machine belching fire and smoke, riffs that bludgeon in a slow-motion act of mutually assured destruction. The rumble alone puts you in mind of phantom tanks rolling across plains of the dead, leading the march into Hell. The vocals are like tired, depressed demons, taunting your every step. The riffs! Well, let’s just say they’ll satisfy the dark hearts of every Death Doom lover out there, and then some. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Sludge (although there’s plenty of that on the album), and it isn’t just grim for grimness’ sake, either. These are well-crafted, epic tunes of darkness, despair, and guttural contempt for life itself. There’s plenty of dynamics going on, no song ever once just sitting there, plodding along, with nowhere to go. “Seraphic Extinction” is a good example of this, because it will drag your bloodied face by the hair across rough glass one minute, then speed up and pummel you with some good, old-fashioned Death the next.
Plenty of sprinklings of melody throughout, as well. Never boring, never staid, always shifting and moving. But yeah, you’re not going to listen to this and laugh and have a good time. This is music for the night when you’re searching the deepest, blackest parts of your soul. The good news is, there does seem to be a sort of cleansing and release after a good spin or two of this warped wax. “Mephitis of Disease” closes the album, and you get the sense that you’ve arrived at the Gates of Hell at last, and you get a glimpse inside and you see it isn’t that bad at all. In fact, it’s filled with kindred souls, those who have suffered in similar ways. There’s a sense of comradeship at the end of the slog, a feeling of “we have arrived,” the end of the journey is at hand. Turns out, you’ve got a lot of friends in Hell. The song opens up about three minutes in, revealing a vista that is large and expansive, allowing in fresh, foul air. The suffocation of the last half an hour or so has now revealed an apocalyptic landscape of riffs that bludgeon but also liberate.
Mortiferum doesn’t mess around. These guys are precise, sharp, and focused on bringing you some of the most gruesome, dirty Death Doom you’ll ever experience. Yes, it’s an unforgiving experience, but you will find an emotional release at the end of it. This one is a fistfight in an alley filled with rotting, putrid corpses, and if you embrace the struggle, you might just come to see that the light at the end of the tunnel is Hell, but Hell ain’t a bad place to be.