POST MORTAL POSSESSION “Catacombs of Bedlam” – Album Review

Today during the “Modern Age” of death metal, it seems increasingly difficult to find any new bands that offer intrigue or originality. Much to our dismay, it’s almost becoming “cool” to play death metal and we now see viral internet bands popping up everywhere offering more meme content than actual music. Rest assured, amongst the sea of over-saturation and monotonous copycats there is a diamond in the rough with Pittsburgh-based brutal death act Post Mortal Possession. After much time and preservation as a band, they are really starting to come into their own vein of unique and modern death metal. Post Mortal Possession are indeed bringing their homemade Steel City hammers and forging their own path the old school way by focusing on writing great music, and laying the rest to waste.

Back in 2013 guitarist Jake McMullen aka “Sewage” started Post Mortal Possession with drummer Nick Bentzel, Tim Church on bass, Ed Gremba on vocals, and Brian Cremeens. Sewage and Nick had played on and off for many years going back to their first band together in 2003 “Dead by Dawn”. Through their formative years they released their 2014 debut EP “Possessing Entity” followed up with 2016’s “Forest of the Damned” EP. They were cutting their teeth and finding their foundation and chemistry as a band, establishing dynamics that you would find essential in future efforts.

In 2015 while between EPs, they had a vocalist change that brought Jake “Munson” Nelson (a second Jake) to the forefront with his crazy vocal dynamics. Upon this early new addition, guitarist Sewage noted how sick Munson’s high vocals were and informed him that they wanted a lot more of those thrown into the mix. According to Munson, these highs were heavily influenced by Black Dahlia Murders “Unhallowed” album. With this newly developed and re-vamped lineup came their first full-length album “Perpetual Descent” in 2018. It showed a much more matured and refined effort, displaying song writing dynamics that would become a staple in their signature sound.
A lot of great and memorable moments on this release show a healthy display of catchiness and proficiency of their instruments. With this natural progression, the future looked bright for Post Mortal Possession.

Now brings us to the 2020 Lords of the Sick Productions release of “Catacombs of Bedlam”. The very moment this album starts, the intro casts you into a soundscape that one could see inspiration from dystopian themes the likes of Blade Runner. An almost Matti Way-like dialogue begins, hypnotizing and drawing you into the asylum that is this monolith of an album. During recording, Munson actually put himself under a bedsheet to achieve the chilling effect in this album opener. I cannot help but envision the contrasting bellows and hysterical laughs from his band mates in the studio as they watch their vocalist literally attempt to put himself in an asylum-like state. The desired effect is certainly achieved, as the album atmosphere matches perfectly with the bleak, despairing album cover. Then bam!! …the opening riff dials in the listener as the signature dynamics of well-calculated drums and vocals sink you into the back of your seat. Blasts, grooves, infectious hook after hook, all layered with varying vocals throughout. There is a lot of attention to detail, and much more subtleties that you find with each listen. A memorable trem riff comes in around the minute mark of the opening song, “Gates of Lyssa” and it surprisingly sounds a bit Gothenburg-like in a subtle way with the guitar harmony. This moment is like many throughout the album where it is difficult to pinpoint the exact sound of Post Mortal Possession. They incorporate such an array of diverse influences but their distinctive spin on it is seamless and not overshadowing. Where Post Mortal’s previous album had the odd lead guitar hook, they have replaced them with modern sledgehammer slams that are extremely effective and quite simply devastating.

The band continue to evolve, and now show modern touches and slams, which are influenced by Post Mortal Possession getting into current bands, such as Analepsy. However if you look a little further, you’ll see that deep down their riffing style is very much in the early Unique Leader Psycroptic range, with a healthy dose of your Severe Tortures and Decapitated. Where their earlier material leaned on Sewage / Jake #1 for song writing, now we experience on “Catacombs of Bedlam”, Brian Cremeens ran with some great ideas and wrote a majority of the riffing. My favourite song on this album is track 4 entitled “Congenital Syphilitic Entombment.” It has an infectious old school skank beat that propels the song with such tremendous momentum. Just a hair past the minute mark drummer Nick Bentzel puts on an almost standing on his head clinic, as he does in many moments throughout this album. It has a falling off the train tracks frantic feel but that soon dissipates momentarily and gets chopped perfectly into a half time pummeling, and surging double kick beat. He is very much a Houdini type drummer in a sense that he likes to leap frog and do things in an unorthodox approach where he is almost trying to outsmart the listener. As soon as you are trying to catch on to the unique drum blemishes, moments later you blink and he leaves you in his dust as he goes to the basics without missing a beat. This brings immense replay value to dissect exactly what he is doing. As he embodies a Nick Barker to ex-Deeds of Flesh Michael Hamilton technical efficiency, he does remind me a touch of Lille Gruber in a jazz death metal drumming sense. The drum performance alone is well worth buying this album in my opinion.

An interesting misconception that will follow this band indefinitely is that they sound like Cattle Decapitation. This is something that I am sure they are tired of hearing but needs a moment of analysis. Upon hearing the high vocals of Jake Munson Nelson, you could say that on a superficial level, yes, they are similar. However, Post Mortal uses these high vocals so infrequently now that it is not a fair comparison.

When you get down to it, they really do not have as much of a black metal vibe as Cattle Decapitation, who have consistent high vocals and minor chord strumming riffs. On the flipside, Travis Ryan does not do gutturals anywhere close to the likes of Jake. Therefore, it is fair to say that Jake is a hybrid singer in the sense that he has inhumane lows but also crazy pterodactyl highs, leading more so on the lows and mids. Some moments do have a slight Dimmu Borgir feel; it is very subtle, but it is there. Beyond the Cattle reference, the band states that many have compared them to Pathology but I think they offer far more dynamics and textures to entertain that comparison.

If you crank this album, it sounds amazing! The production itself is very clean and modern; beefy, and coherent beginning to end. You can hear every instrument easily at all times. My only quarrel with this album is that they traded in the odd lead guitar hook, which was what made their previous album “Perpetual Descent” a stand out of 2018 for me. If you take into consideration the hooks of certain memorable melodic riffs on “Catacombs of Bedlam” they could have almost achieved an old school Brutality, almost Disincarnate vibe, because of the potency of the riffs alone. However, this is a new era for the band, and perhaps they will incorporate leads again in future efforts.
In addition, that could get in the way of slams bro, and man they lay down some of the best slams of 2020. As they meticulously set up the listener, mid way or three quarters through a song, a groove can drop out of nowhere, grab you and throw you into a headbanging, slamming, and hypnotic state. It is definitely not lacking in grooves and will age well due to how well they are executed. It is just classic song writing, that exhibits well-versed musicians sending a message, reminding the masses of “what’s up” when it comes to well-crafted catchy death metal.

If there is one word that encompasses what Post Mortal Possession is all about, it is synergy. They have phenomenal band chemistry and know their part in order to execute memorable death metal and man they have it honed down. This is simply next level song writing that needs more attention and praise because new quality work like this comes along so rarely these days. In the end Post Mortal Possession embody the foundations and philosophies of old school death metal in the sense that they are like-minded musicians getting in a room and producing what comes naturally regardless of idioms, trends, all while staying true to their craft. Really, that is all metal is about is jamming out with your bros and playing some heavy shit! The difference is this is Steel City death metal, and you do not want to miss out on this display of excellence. Do yourself a favour and go buy this stellar slab of brutality. 9/10

“Catacombs of Bedlam” was released May 30th on Lord of the Sick records.

You can stream or purchase the album at the following link:
https://postmortalpossession666.bandcamp.com/album/catacombs-of-bedlam

 

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