While Germany’s Arroganz may have started off playing more traditional death metal with some hints of black metal tonality woven in, with 2017’s Primitiv they began to transform their sound with much slower elements that brought the atmosphere and power of doom to mind. This approach continued with the 2018 EP Erzketzer, and now the group has blown the doors wide open with their fifth album Morsus, which tie up a trilogy that started with Primitiv. Spread across thirteen songs that spend just as much time focused on slower grooves and darker atmosphere as they do on faster blasts and crushing intensity, this is an album that takes a bit of time to fully sink in but those that give it the opportunity to do so will find elements that stick with them.
From what I can remember of Arroganz’ previous material, 2014’s Tod & Teufel spent a lot of time hitting listeners with faster paced and crushing riffs that recalled a wide range of old-school death metal, while Primitiv almost went into full-on death/doom territory for much of its run-time. Right from the start of Morsus it’s clear that you’re getting something very different with this album, as opener “Anodynon” leads in with a soft yet ominous guitar melody and singing that is drenched in reverberation. From there the title track showcases how Arroganz has evolved their songwriting into a much more dynamic approach, moving from lumbering mid-tempo grooves and sudden bursts of blasting into much slower tempos where the tonality gives off a haunting and almost gothic feeling. There’s quite a bit of emphasis on these slow and methodical tempos, especially around the mid-point of the record, but the band keeps things interesting with melodies that seem to dance around your speakers with a ghostlike presence and grooves that have some real staying power. Songs like “Aurora Arroganz” even bring in some bluesy tones into the mix that remind me of what Glorior Belli was attempting a decade ago. There’s a little bit of everything extreme metal woven into Morsus, as the material can sound closer to black or death metal one minute and then recall doom and sludge moments later. With the emphasis on atmosphere and slower grooves, admittedly the album doesn’t have the same immediacy as some of Arroganz’s previous material and some moments blend together, but some of these melodies have been stuck in my head for days since those initial listens and I suspect quite a few other people will find this material to have the same staying power.
There’s a lot to discover about the instrumentation on Morsus, but you’ll find that the vocals have the same level of variety. As previously mentioned, the first taste you get are much cleaner, somber tones on the short opening track but it’s not long after that the vocals shift into much harsher and low-pitched growls. Arroganz’s vocalist has a lot of range and is able to go from guttural growls into higher screams and shrieks, with cleaner tones layered over top, and as a result they capture the same amount of power and emotion as some of the better black and death metal singers. One difference between this band and many of the others out there is the amount of focus they give to singing and spoken word sections, and this is where the album really stands out for me. Where not every black or death metal band can pull off singing without it deflating the energy level, these guys use it to their advantage and it only adds to the emotion and haunting nature of their music.
Arroganz has been tweaking their approach on each album, but Morsus finds them making significant changes that push them far beyond their death metal and doom roots towards a mixture of all extreme metal styles. The emphasis on slower grooves and somber melodies alongside sudden bursts of faster riffing works to their advantage, and while some moments blend together this is still a leaner album than the band’s prior work and reaches some truly stunning peaks. Give it a few spins to fully take hold and I suspect you’ll find Arroganz’s latest to be another of the year’s highlights. Morsus is available from Supreme Chaos Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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