Album Review: Gloria Morti - Lateral Constraint
Melodic death metal is one of those things that, if you listen to a purist, will tell you cannot exist. Death metal, they say, is incompatible with the melodic elements other facets of the metal universe take for granted. The music should be uncompromising, focused on nothing but steamrolling the listener with riff after riff of unrelenting brutality. The bands that dared step outside that box and try to make their assaults into what conventional thinkers might consider songs were heretics, and the music they made was cute, but not really death metal. It was to death metal what boy bands were to pop music; candy coated substitutes for more serious music people lacked the fortitude to appreciate.
“Lateral Constraint” is not melodic death metal in the traditional sense of the word. It's a wild, high-speed affair, but shares little with the classic music I think of when the term 'melodic death metal' comes to mind. This is modern, thrash-influenced death, the kind that evolved as all metal does; to be heavier than anything that came before. When “Lex Parsimoniae” burst out of the gate with all buns blazing, anyone who loves this kind of music will be smiling. The riff, with the hinted at layers of atmosphere underneath, are exactly what you listen to this for. It's hard-hitting, heavy, fast, and about as fitting an opening as you can have.
Even before the first song ends, however, a sense of disappointment sets in. There's nothing wrong with what you're hearing, but it's not what you were promised. The melodic aspect of melodic death metal is all but missing, from the guitars focus on pure speed, to Psycho's unvaried gurgle of a vocal, the music is more death-cum-thrash than what I was led to believe. Labels shouldn't be important, and they're something I dislike when they become too particular, but they can be effective when used properly. When you know nothing of a band, the labels are what give you expectations, and it's those expectations that make me question “Lateral Constraint” the most. Surely, the band knows their music isn't melodic, and yet they are called that anyway.
Without a strong melodic sensibility, the songwriting has to be that much sharper to make up for the lost component. Gloria Morti doesn't meet the challenge, instead leaving the songs feeling like incomplete sketches of what they should be. “The First Act” is a perfect example of what I'm talking about, a song whose only melodic aspect is a tremolo-picked guitar harmony, sitting atop five minutes of mostly open chords. There isn't even a strong riff to break up the proceedings and bring you back from drifting away. Nothing about the song demands your attention, and nothing about it is the least bit memorable.
Some of these faults could be forgiven if Gloria Morti was breaking new ground, or at least giving us a record that sounds amazing. “Aesthetics Of Self-Hyperbole” tries it's damnedest to live up to the hype, giving the hyper-speed attack the best vocal line on the album, and sounding like the most focused song we've heard yet. The riffs aren't the sharpest, but the hint of an accessible vocal does wonders for the music, and makes it immediately more satisfying.
Ultimately, mediocrity makes “Lateral Constraint” a forgettable record. The guitar-work should be the focal point of the record, but between third-rate thrash riffs and droning open chords, there's not enough meat on that bone to be satisfied. Couple that with the fact that the vocals, by and large, add nothing in the way of interesting melody or even rhythm, and you wind up with a record that is well executed, but devoid of a soul. I don't hear passion in “Lateral Constraint”; no love, no anger, no go for the throat mentality. If I listen and I can't tell the band loves the music, how am I ever supposed to?