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December Moon (1987)

By now, most in the underground are aware of the cult Swedish band, Morbid. Their only official demo, December Moon, was released in 1987. Though the band featured two guys who would go on to make a bigger name for themselves with Nihilist/Entombed, this project is mainly known due to the involvement of Pelle, otherwise known as Dead. He became an icon within the black metal world through his work with the Norwegian band, Mayhem, even more notorious following his grisly suicide. Sad to say, Morbid has mostly been a footnote in the history of death/black metal.

Influenced by bands such as Bathory, Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate, the other band members took care of the songwriting while Dead handled the lyrics. They were able to record the demo at the studio of the band Heavy Load, thanks to help from Sandro from Mefisto.  Taking only about 16 hours, they just let the studio guy control most everything, not really taking much of a hands-on approach to the recording. Perhaps, the band wasn't terribly serious, as they didn't even put much effort into sending the tape out, afterward. It seems like the reputation of this recording grew when Dead passed away, which is too bad, as it is quite a solid piece of music.

Like many others, I first heard of this band due to Dead's involvement in Mayhem and I was finally able to hear these songs when I got the bootleg A Tribute to the Black Emperors. Originally, I was seeking the two studio tracks that Dead recorded with Mayhem, "Freezing Moon" and "Carnage", but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the December Moon material. 

"My Dark Subconscious" begins with Dead saying something in Swedish, making reference to a kids' show that featured monsters, of all things. The guitars fade in from the darkness and unleash very grim-sounding thrash riffs. This is very primitive and Dead's vocals truly embody the band's name; Morbid. This possesses kind of a black metal atmosphere, mostly due to the production and the vocals, but the band themselves didn't really consider themselves black or death metal, specifically. The riffs are mostly thrash, with some excellent lead solos thrown in as well.

"Winds of Funeral" starts with demonic death screams taken from "The Evil Dead", leading into an acoustic intro that then gives way to sinister thrash riffs. The vocals are done in sort of a hoarse whisper, sounding like a zombie that crawled out of a grave, half-rotten. Dead's performance is truly ghoulish and morbid, perhaps taking some influence from Quorthon. The bass and drums are done in kind of a subtle way, leaving the guitars to dominate this recording, much as it should be. The closing riffs of the song are much more death metal than Thrash, finishing with a nice solo.

Doom riffs, reminiscent of Candlemass, introduce "From the Dark". For a band that existed for only a short period of time, Morbid really showed a lot of promise. Had they remained together, there is no telling how much they could have accomplished, though they may have been a few years ahead of their time. This song features a mixture of thrash and doom riffs, creating an unexpectedly complex and epic atmosphere. Halfway through, there is a very slow section that features only an eerie acoustic guitar and Dead's desperate moaning, in the distance. There is a great variety in tempo and the demonic vocal effects, near the end, are well done.

"Disgusting Semla" erupts at full speed. Dead's vocals hiss over shredding guitar riffs. Everything builds to a climax where the solos rage back and forth like poisonous serpents and the song becomes mid-paced. Dead clearly loses his fucking mind with the twisted sounds emitted near the end. It soon becomes a chorus of complete insanity and no other word can accurately describe this. Upon first listen, it seems ridiculous, yet it really works for the song. As December Moon concludes, one gets the feeling that they just got a glimpse into the long forgotten past at what could have been... what should have been. Some time later, an integral member left the band and Morbid fell apart. Dead soon left Sweden for Norway and the rest is history...
(20 Mar. 2009)

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