Come backs, eh? It seems to be a bit of a halcyon period for bands which called it a day in the 90’s. Morta Skuld are a death metal band from Wisconsin that were signed to the mighty Peaceville Records back in the day, releasing albums into the 90’s, before buggering off and doing other things. I have to say, while I remember seeing the name about in the press of the time, I hadn’t actually ever got round to listening to them – maybe because the name didn’t really grab me, if I’m honest – which seems like a pretty lame reason not to give them a go these days. Well, for whatever reason (and I think it’s unlikely  that the band reckon they’re going to go on to rock star levels of fame and riches), the boys in the wrecking crew have decided to get back together and have another punt. They’re always a bit of a bet, reunions, aren’t they? Has this one paid off?

Well, again, I’m not able to say with any authority whether or not this stands up to their back catalogue. I guess that’s a boon or a curse in equal measure, depending on how well acquainted you are with their former works. What I can say is that this is a pretty impressive release, with a sound that is both reassuringly traditional in terms of being an adherent to the death metal blue print, but with enough quality and character to make it stand out from the also-rans.

From the outset, with opener “Breathe in the Black”, it’s apparent that Morta Skuld are a band that most definitely know what they’re about. The opening of the track is a great, self-assured statement of intent, with a deep, foreboding guitar riff over some technical, very rapid drum beats. Once the song proper comes to play, there’s a really hefty churning riff that brings to mind the likes of Morbid Angel circa the “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh” album, but with a really keen ear for a much drier, more focussed delivery. It’s a technical number, but one that manages to pull off that impressive feat of both being musically accomplished, yet still having a knack for having a hook that keeps the listener engaged.

Elsewhere, there’s a more head-down, less fussy approach that drips with aggression and has elements of prime thrash mixed in with the death metal ingredients, in the form of mid-album stormer, “In Judgement”. This is the band at their most ferocious, with a breathless, wide-eyed attack that finally gives way to more of those tumbling, swirling riffage. The bass work is really one that leaves the listener slightly dizzy here, effectively underpinning the music while having enough flair to stand out among the rest of the tune.

In terms of an album, there are nine tracks here for your delectation, and in fairness that has no filler in it at all. I found myself reaching for the replay button at the cessation of proceedings, as I was keen to get to know the intricacies of the music a little better. It was produced by the band themselves, and while some may find the production ever so slightly dry and sterile in the clinical precision of the guitar sound in particular, I thought it hearkened back to the golden days of American death metal, coming across like a more powerful version of the classic Morrisound. While all of the musicians are impressive in their own right, I thought it only fair to single out vocalist Dave Gregor, who has a really rasping yet clearly understandable delivery that really helps the music pop and stand out among their peers.

In summation – I found this to be a really engaging and accomplished death metal album, and I have now decided to take the dive and explore more of their soon-to-be re-released albums on Peaceville. Certainly on this showing, this album is as good a place as any to start your journey too.

(8/10 Chris Davison)