Album Review: Mortuous – “Through Wilderness”

A lost paradise under the Ibex moon

Gentle finger-picked acoustic guitar opens Through Wilderness, the full-length debut from Californian death sect Mortuous. For a little over a minute, all seems still as frail notes chime to silence undisturbed. But when drummer Chad Gailey (also of Necrot, ex-Vastum) starts counting down on a battered snare head, “Beyond Flesh” buries the solemn intro in a shallow forest grave.

From there Mortuous march onward to Golgotha, invoking early Incantation as they rumble death/doom’s past into the present. Guitarists Colin Tarvin and Mike Beams (ex-Exhumed) each contribute vocals while navigating a balance between audacious blasting and downcast atmosphere. Together they summon riffs that could fight their way onto Rottrevore’s first/only LP or Paradise Lost’s pre-Shades of God material. Producer Greg Wilkinson captures Mortuous’ affinity for yesteryear’s old-school DM by abandoning the “dead heavy” guitar tone of their 2012 demo, opting for a warmer range. Standout single “The Dead Yet Dream” feels like it could covertly slide into 1992’s Peaceville Vol 4 compilation, and there’s a good reason for that: Autopsy’s Chris Reifert and Danny Coralles contribute vocals and guitars, respectively.

While Reifert’s distinct snarl resurfaces on “Anguish and Insanity,” the album soon diverts from its mid-record mental funeral during “Prisoner Unto Past.” With an ear for despondent melodies, Mortuous don’t shy away from a sense of drama akin to My Dying Bride’s two-act “Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium.” Their “Screaming Headless” finale moans with morose leads, even welcoming flute flourishes courtesy of shredder Teresa Wallace. By the time Through Wilderness reaches its completion, Mortuous have returned full-circle to the disarming acoustic plucks. With death metal’s old-school as their north star, Mortuous stay on course while rampaging through the wilderness.