Morthus, hailing from Germany, came to be in the fall of 2011, but the line-up wasn't completed until the end of 2013. Since then, the band has done a handful of live performances, honing their craft before entering Nautilus Studio Gera in the summer of 2014. However, while in there, original bassist Hellum parted ways with the group, leaving the band to recruit live/session bassist Florian Rahm for live duties. The outcome from the now four-piece is their first EP, Into Oblivion, which was released in late October that very year and met with a great deal of praise. But is this debut effort one worth checking out, or is there still more room to grow?

Into Oblivion is a fairly crisp sounding effort, though isn't as sleek as some modern acts in the style like to dabble in. The only continuous atmosphere it manages to continuously give off, however, is that of darkness. You can tell there's meant to be a chill in the air, and some tracks manage to execute it quite well at times, but the instruments don't always hit the mark. The guitars sound great, sticking between somewhat cleaner leads and slightly sharpened distortions elsewhere, a strong bass guitar presence, and a fantastic drum performance all around that only completes the impact of the music as a whole. The vocals, unfortunately, are a bit underwhelming. While far from bad, a lot of times it sounds as though vocalist Kharon is kind of holding back with his rasps, leaving the growling that occurs from time to time to feel far more natural to the music.

"Into Oblivion" shows off a good deal of technicality to the guitar hooks utilized, giving it a subtle progressive metal touch that carries into the main verses a bit through the mid-pace aggression and slower hook-filled bridges. It's an interesting approach that actually makes the furious performance seem a bit more laid back, belied only by the blistering drums and that fantastic pounding bass kick presence that hammers into your skull along side with the eerie leads. "Symphony of the Black Death" ends up a far more hostile track in comparison, coming off more like something Dark Funeral would have unleashed. It's grim as hell and equally as heated, though not forgetful as far as some of the second wave's roots. Just beyond three minutes in offers a grim mid-tempo pace with plenty of eerie grooves thrown in for good measure with traces of early Dissection lingering about.

But then there's "Eternal Epidemic", which finds that latter influence on display a little more. Hints of gothic-era influence can also be found, adding onto an under-utilized creepiness that the fairly virtuous leads often conjure up in the main verses. None of this, however, compares to "Blinded by the Holy Light". Again we are given some complex hooks that do cast an eerie aura when utilized, and a few of the bridges, such as early on around the thirty seconds mark, do give a nice, but all too brief, chill to the air. The progression of the track itself, not to mention the drums, are what really stand out. The riffs vary quite well and never really seem too distant in tone from one another outside of necessary changes to depict verse and chorus, but the often varied drum kit, backed by the steady faster double bass kicks, really adds a ruthlessness to the music that the other instruments can't quite push on their own. Even the raspy vocals become a bit more visceral at times, such as about three minutes in where they seem to mix in some of the earlier guttural presence that gives them a ritualistic chant sensation that is like a harsher version of what you'd find on any Inquisition effort.

Into Oblivion may not be everything you expect from a tried-but-true melodic black metal outing, but its slight differences are what make it stand out. Fantastic mixtures of technicality and memorable hooks, hints of atmosphere ranging from hot to creepy, fantastic drumming, an obvious dose of brutality, and a not-quite-sleek production value all work in favor of Morthus to not only give this recording a voice of it's own, but leave it comparable to the power of many pioneers within the field like Naglfar and Dissection to name a few. The only thing that feels at all detrimental is how the vocals could use a little more enthusiasm. Other than that, Into Oblivion is a fantastic EP that hits the listener with one track after another that will get your head bobbing along at the very least, and one well worth your time to check out.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.