Ohioan anti-supergroup Morbid Wizard return with an EP to back up the vicious onslaught they brought with their first album. Even the name of the release, Necrosis of the Eyeball, should be some hint as to the sonic extremity on tap, and though the four-piece (down a guitarist in the missing Bahb Branca) have solidified their approach somewhat over the course of the last year since they issued their 2011 Lord of the Rats debut (review here), there’s still a very real, very palpable threat of violence in what they do. At any moment, they might put their instruments down and cut you. No shit. You might not think so, but that works to the favor of the five-track, half-hour-long Necrosis of the Eyeball, the guitar of Scott Stearns keeping consistent nastiness throughout varied pace while drummer Corey Bing and bassist Mike Duncan underscore already low-end psychopathy with vomitous churn. Recorded separately, vocalist Jesse Kling’s screams are no less caustic than they were last time around or on his work with The Disease Concept on their own Liquor Bottles and Broken Steel EP (review here), lyrics vaguely discernible in the barrage of abrasive tonality. Bing also took part in The Disease Concept, and that’s only the most basic of connections that draws these players together. Over time in acts like Fistula, Rue, Sollubi, Ultralord, King Travolta and Son of Jor-El, they’ve helped typify their own brand of Ohio sludge, but Morbid Wizard might be the most cohesive showing they’ve had of that style, and likewise, Necrosis of the Eyeball brings these elements together with a fluidity and creativity that doesn’t necessarily work against the loose, dangerous atmosphere – only more vivid for the roughness of production – but instead giving an all-too-real sense of conscious choice. The difference between being hit with a hammer in broad daylight and being stalked and subsequently stabbed in the dark, let’s say. The results may be roughly the same bloody mess, but how you got there is the whole story.
Like its predecessor, Necrosis of the Eyeball arrives in a DVD-style case with artwork from Stearns, and though that and the short span between releases – not to mention members’ participation in other projects – might lead one to think there hasn’t been much development between the two, that’s just not the case. The recordings may sound roughly similar and the ethic may be along the same lines, but the execution has grown some, and so as the EP gets started with its slowest, perhaps meanest track, “Grave Chyld,” and Stearns tears through shredding leads and painfully slow riffing, there persists a sense of songwriting at work. A few of these tracks are – seems almost impossible to say it, and yet – catchy. Not so much the 9:29 “Grave Chyld” (the longest track on the release; points for the opener), which begins with a sample invoking Lucifer and is working more on bludgeon and killer soloing than on the memorability of its hook, the three songs that ensue – “Necrosis of the Eyeball,” “Chemical Fog” and the Cinderella cover “Night Songs” – each have a strong chorus, however caked in filth and fucked up that chorus might be. After the plodding, doomed mournfulness in the ending of “Grave Chyld,” the faster push of the title-track is both a surprise and seemingly a respite, though ultimately Morbid Wizard offer no quarter. Kling, who handles the samples, uses another at the beginning of “Necrosis of the Eyeball,” and when the riff is introduced, its metallic progression (punctuated by tom thuds from Bing), if played somewhat faster, wouldn’t be out of place on any number of death metal records, and that might very well be the intent, though when they break and Duncan’s low end rumble leads them to a chugging, lurching repetitive section, it’s all sludge. Extreme sludge, but sludge all the same. More excellent guitar solos persist through the slowdown, and though I was left wondering if they’d bring the pace back up to finish, they just sort of let the song fall apart instead. I guess even working with structures has its limits.
The centerpiece “Chemical Fog” is also the shortest song at 4:07, with its first half based around a bluesy descending riff that Kling tops with Mike Williams-esque drawl and its second around a faster movement met with some drawn-out echo in the guitar that almost – almost – hints at a melody line. Morbid Wizard aren’t there, but they come closest as “Chemical Fog” hits its peak, and cymbal-wash and feedback their way to a quickly faded end, after which, yes indeed, they do cover Cinderella. No doubt they do so with some tongue-in-cheek chuckling, but the swaggering riff of the track, the title cut of Cinderella’s 1986 debut, nonetheless works well in this context, and Kling injects a kind of punker snottiness into his voice that straddles a line between his prior screams and a cleaner shouting approach. Whether or not that’s the vocalist’s capitulation to the sugary pop of the original version, I don’t know, but his layering in the chorus makes the track a standout either way, and Stearns meets him head-on with more scathing leads, which take hold for much of the second half of the song. Between the cover art and the soloing, it would seem the guitarist can’t quite keep his fingers still, but even in Iommic-style with two solos plastered one over the other to end “Night Songs” amid a big rock finish from the rest of the band, it’s not overdone, and contrast is soon to arrive with closer “Skull Vision,” which though it has a solid riffy hook of its own, is far less concerned or even rooted in any kind of accessibility. There is, however, one last killer groove, and Morbid Wizard use it to set up a break into more directly hardcore chugging that Stearns uses as a bed for lead lines while Kling adds samples as Bing and Duncan take a short breather. A sort of verse resumes, and builds to a chaos of crash and shred, and at 4:45, after feeding back the song to pieces, they launch into a final d-beat fuckyou with Kling repeating the title “Skull Vision” a couple times before cutting short like the tape ran out. Conclusion: It’s fucking disgusting. If your bowels make it through Necrosis of the Eyeball, then you’ve obviously been weaned on guts and gore splatter, because Morbid Wizard’s shit is nastier than whatever sludge you want to sit it next to. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep going on their course of developing some verse/chorus structural sensibility, but it’ll be more interesting to see if they don’t get put on probation first just for sounding like this. Is premeditated sludge even legal in Ohio?
Tags: Goat Skull Records, Morbid Wizard, Morbid Wizard Necrosis of the Eyeball, Ohio, Sludge, sludge metal