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Review

Morbid Breath – In the Hand of the Reaper EP Review

Album: In the Hand of the Reaper
Label: Redefining Darkness Records
Genre: Thrash Metal
Country: Sweden
Release Date: May 21st, 2021
For Fans Of: Slayer, Venom, Sodom, Kreator

Grab a shovel and get ready to dig up the ultimate 80’s time capsule. Morbid Breath is a tight, no-frills 4-piece from Sodermanland, Sweden formed in 2020 to pay respects to early thrash legends (and modern Hot Topic goldmine) Slayer. Their first single, “Hellbringer,” had the underground thrash community buzzing when it was released on Halloween of the same year, so much so that the band re-recorded the track to include here on their first 5-song EP.

Every aspect of In the Hand of the Reaper oozes with nostalgia. It feels like you’re discovering metal for the first time all over again; like it’s 1980-something and your friend’s cool older brother just handed you a cassette. Even the cover by Hellish Maggot looks like one of those worn, black, screen-printed tees that always seems to smell like weed.

Studio noise rumbling throughout the album makes plain that this is a raw, plug-and-play operation. No fuss, no fancy effects, no stompbox hopscotch. The guitars are crunchy, the drums are taut, and it all sits on a thick layer of bass fuzz that is by far the defining characteristic of Morbid Breath’s sound. In fact, to call vocalist and bassist Marcus Eriksson’s tone “fuzzy” doesn’t effectively convey its grit; the correct word is “prickly.” It’s like his tone has little barbs that help the riffs to stick to your brain long after you’ve run through the 20-some-minutes of tunes.

Those aforementioned riffs are the star of the show. Each one is crafted with undeniable reverence for now-legendary global pioneers of thrash and speed metal. The opening title track evokes early Slayer and the groovier parts of Kill ‘Em All Metallica. “Hellbringer” is a shred-heavy nod to European thrash masters like Kreator. Part of what makes this EP so fun is identifying these dutiful tributes along the way. Sodom? Check. Vader? Check. Wolverine Blues Entombed? Double check. At just under 21 minutes, In the Hand of the Reaper might not be the most replayable collection to drop this year, but it is definitely the most devout.

If you long for the days of whitening your shoes and stuffing your skinny jeans, or if you missed the 80’s thrash wagon altogether and want to know what all the fuss is about, In the Hand of the Reaper will scratch your itch. The cassette is hands down the best way to go here for the nostalgia factor, but if you’re not the tape-trader type, throw down the 3 bucks for the digital copy, because this EP succeeds at being both authentically vintage and distinctly fresh all at once.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:

  1. In the Hand of the Reaper
  2. Hellbringer
  3. Ancient Beasts
  4. Beneath the Graves
  5. Death Trap

Total Playing Time: 20:55

Click here to visit Morbid Breath’s Bandcamp

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