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Century Media (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

Swedish metalheads Morbus Chron have emerged from the mists with their second full-length album, which comes two years after the impressive A Saunter Through The Shroud EP from 2012. The quartet once known for their old school death metal dabbling have long since taken on more progressive strains, culminating in this interesting ten-track album.

Morbus Chron consists of vocalist / guitarist Robert Andersson, guitarist Edwin Aftonfalk, bassist Dag Landin and drummer Adam Lindmark. When these four minds meet there is clearly an intriguing result.

Sweven is at times an engrossing affair, which boasts many layers that hope to take extreme metal to new heights as the combo slip through varying guises. Rarely does this album and its many moods stick to one train of thought, so it’s no surprise that at times these Swedes hint at the complexities of Pestilence and Atheist, instead of treading the usual path of fellow countrymen with buzzsaw riffs and Entombed-styled grooves. This is certainly thinking man’s metal that jars, frustrates, cavorts, twists, turns and bemuses in its entirety.

Rolled out like some grey tapestry of technical etchings, Sweven boasts so many differing arrangements that it’s almost impossible to pigeonhole due to its uneven nature. Although vocally it’s certainly a harsh affair, a track such as ‘Aurora In The Offing’ – for instance – refuses to be extreme elsewhere because of its diversity of textures. Extremely catchy even with its ever-changing patterns, it’s a pivotal track on the album when one attempts to analyse the musicianship of this talented bunch. One moment fast, the next groove-based, ‘Aurora In The Offing’ keeps the listener guessing with its intricate passages and time shifts. With a pinch of colour thrown in, it makes for an interesting pasture of dream and nightmare-based philosophy.

Progressive metal it certainly is but without the pretentious dawdling, and yet there is still that death metal layer which enables the likes of ‘Chains’ to remain fluent and weighty at the same time. Admittedly, this record does echo the bands I mentioned earlier during a time in the early 90s when all manner of death metal acts were branching out and experimenting.

My only complaint about this engaging album is the overall lack of weight, but then again, I could never accuse the likes of Death, Atheist, Pestilence et al of the same thing during their later works, because with such arrogant technicality there was no need to revisit the mouldier climes of their earlier classics.

Sweven isn’t as jarring as one might think. The whole album kind of takes the listener on a trip of misty gulleys and rainbow-illuminated peaks which can arise in the most unexpected of ways, ranging from the lucid glare of ‘It Stretches In The Hollow’, with its progressive rock intro, to the vast, sprawling landscape that is the closing instrumental ‘Terminus’.

As each track unfolds and each musician injects his own character into proceedings, Sweven unravels its coils to reveal its inner chamber of secrets. Mightily impressive, extremely rewarding and often quite moving in its melodic passages, Morbus Chron as a force have matured considerably into a creature that will continue to spread its wings.

Neil Arnold

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