Review Summary: Why bother?
One or two year vets of skimming blogspots and Metallum for melodic death metal gems are generally able to tell a good melodic death metal album from a bad one, just by a listen to one song. The presence, or lack thereof, of strong production values, the technical playing ability of the guitarist(s), the presence, I repeat presence
, of an audible bass player, the strength of the vocalist(s) in charge of mic duties, and the use of keyboards, if any, contribute to how strong an album in said-subgenre is. And while there are some exceptions, the melodic death metal subgenre’s explosion in the past decade has bred a generation of bands that can be lumped into the ‘good’, the ‘bad’, and the ‘sucky’ categories fairly easily.
In short, just one listen to a song from Mortuus Machina
told me that Australia’s Universum currently reside down under in the ‘sucky’ category.
Closer inspection to the album comfirmed the time-aquired instincts given to my person, as did research into the band’s history in recording the album and whom they recorded it with. The infamous Christian Alvestam, Lord of all melodic death metal side projects, it would seem, performs vocals on a number of tracks: “Sum of the Universum”, “Fractured Archetype”, and “2.0”. And as does myGRAIN
garbler and power metal-fit Tommy Tuovinen, too, on “Asymmetric Dimensional State”. The guest vocal inclusions ruin these tracks for Universum, sadly, in conjunction with a plethora of nauseating, overused keyboard effects from keyboardist, and lady, Rachael Madden. Transitions from harshly shrieked and growled verses to choruses that are cleanly sung by Alvestam and Touvinen are very jarring and ill-fitted; sounding quite tacked on, as a matter of fact.
Things don’t fare well for the remainder of Mortuus Machina
either, though, especially since the band wastes the actual worthwhile guest inclusions on a couple of the prior, ruined tracks: Nightrage
guitarist Marios Iliopoulos' and ex-Soilwork
Ola Frenning's lead solo on “Sum of the Universum” and the other Nightrage
guitarist’s solo, from Olof Morck, on “Asymmetric Dimensional State”. The remainding tracks start well enough but often end badly once the keyboards and vocalist Adam Soinen enter the songs, however. The likable military-march riff in “Transcendence” is ruined by the sheiks of Soininen that pervade the verses of the track, for instance, and in many of the other songs, too. The screamer employs two styles on the album, an ear-grating shriek and a competent, deep growl, with the prior being the worst, that attempt to harmonize each other, but often fall flat.
The two areas where Universum show some promise are actually those where the band follows the lead of big dogs Insomnium
on “Take Another” and closer “Black Infinity”, using guitar leads to run beneath the tracks and lead into, fairly, naturally placed choruses. The latter even borrows some pointers from Dark Tranquillity
’s keyboardist, Martin Brandstrom, as Madden uses her keys to lead and guide the songs’s chorus along. However, even at Mortuus Machina
’s best, though, Universum are strictly just borrowing from other bands here, better bands even, and they just can’t find an identity of their own. Most of the time Universum sound like keyboard-drenched Scar Symmetry
knock-offs, strongly thanks to Alvestam’s inclusion here, which easily places them in the 'sucky' category of melodic death metal. You’ve heard it before, and you won’t want to hear it again. Why bother?