Through the Eyes of Death - The Early Demos
Relapse Records/Riot! Entertainment
Reviewed By Justin Donnelly
Fans rejoice! Others, try before you buy
Formed in 1990, releasing four full-length albums in their time, and eventually parting ways in 1997 (after which two of the founding members went on to form MS2 and later 9mm Solution), Milwaukee (Wisconsin) based outfit Morta Skuld never really achieved the same success as fellow death metal acts Death and Obituary, and therefore slipped away into obscurity. But with a growing interest in resurrecting and re-releasing long forgotten gems from the past, it comes as no surprise to see that Relapse Records have dusted off some old Morta Skuld material from the confines of an abandoned vault and re-released them some twenty years later. As the title suggests, Through the Eyes of Death - The Early Demos compiles the band’s two original demos for the very first time on C.D.
Packaging wise, this re-release is quite attractive, with renowned artist Travis Smith providing the cool cover artwork. And on the audio side of things, the remastering of the demos (courtesy of Chris Wisco at Belle City Sound) has certainly injected some life into the old recordings. On the surface, Through the Eyes of Death - The Early Demos would appear to be a worthy re-release. Unfortunately, it’s the music that ultimately lets this release down.
The opening five tracks are lifted from the band’s Gory Departure demo from 1990, and showcases the band’s (who at the time comprised of vocalist/guitarist Dave Gregor, guitarist Jason Zeitler, bassist Jason Hellman and drummer Jesse Rofritz) primitive and guttural approach to death metal. Intro sets up a suitably creepy vibe to start things off, but the rest that follows certainly doesn’t muster up the same demonic tone. Having said that, Sacrificial Rite and Preacher Of Lies are solid tunes, and are the definite stand outs.
The band’s follow-up demo Prolong the Agony (which was also released in 1990) shows a huge improvement on both the performance and song writing front, with guitarist Jason O’Connell and drummer Jef Jaeger (replacing Zeitler and drummer Rofritz respectfully) adding a greater technical edge to the group’s overall sound, which is evident in tracks such as Feast From Within and ...Of Evil.
Rounding out this compilation are two previously unreleased recordings, namely Eternal Suffering and a cover of Metal Church’s Metal Church. Eternal Suffering (which was supposed to be released through Earache Records in 1991, but never saw the light of day) features Kent Truckenbrod taking over the drums from Jaeger, and sounds like a lost recording from Obituary with its sluggish and hammering sound and direction, while Metal Church is from recordings the band made in 1998 with ex-Realm guitarist Takis Kinis providing the lead work, and remains true to the original, albeit with a more aggressive vocal approach.
Overall, Morta Skuld were never the most innovative or ground breaking act, and not surprisingly, they really struggled to find genuine success in their time but, if you’re a fan of Morta Skuld’s first couple of releases (1993’s Dying Remains and 1994’s As Humanity Fades), then you’ll appreciate this re-release. If on the other hand you’re not familiar with the band, then don’t expect to be blown away by Through the Eyes of Death - The Early Demos.