Nearly in all cases, music is about collaboration. The meeting of many creative minds bring forth beauty, innovation, and sometimes a bit of chaos. Moral Collapse is a recently constructed project that flourishes through an alliance of skilled musicians, both internally and externally. The main trio of the band within their self-titled debut consists of Arun Natarajan (vocals, guitar, bass), Sudarshan Mankad (guitar), and Hannes Grossmann (session drums). You likely recognize Hannes' name for his seemingly endless resumé including Obscura, Necrophagist, Hate Eternal, Alkaloid, Howling Sycamore, and many more. However, if you're less in-touch with the Indian metal scene, you'd be unfamiliar with the other aforementioned members who have been involved with acts such as Eccentric Pendulum, Infamy, Humanbroth, and Tachyon Medula.
While it's already clear that there's much prior experience being brought to the table, there's many more surprises to come. After the ominous, dystopian soundscape intro "Anechoic (Initiation)," we are treated to a guest feature by Bobby Koelble (Death) on "Abandoned Rooms of Misspelled Agony." Although Koeble's appearance is fitting considering the material's forward-thinking take on death metal alike late Death albums, comparisons could also easily be drawn to other extreme experimentalists like Gorguts or The Faceless. As guest saxophonist Julius Gabriel blasts triumphant notes into the already dense wall of cacophony, it becomes quite clear that this album is designed to push limits sonically.
The most notable and discordant piece that emerges from this jarring LP would be "Suspension of Belief." Imagine the brainchild of Car Bomb and Ulcerate doing their best old school death metal impression. It's a very grating, but rewarding listen with dizzying rhythmic shifts and timid melodies breaking through the a fortress of aural pandemonium. In correlation with our overall theme, this stand-out track also thrives through the act of collaboration, welcoming violinist Mia Zabelka, guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts), and noisemaker Sandesh Nagaraj (Extinct Reflections) into the army of intense sound.
Although the previously mentioned track shines brightest for being so obtusely harsh, Moral Collapse nonetheless have the capabilities of conjuring an infectious groove into their death metal. "Sculpting the Womb of Misery" churns along like a chainsaw, tearing through brutal, yet nearly progressive riffs before bringing a seriously groovy movement in the final minute. Additionally, "Your Stillborn Be Praised," "To the Blind, All Things Sudden," and "Denier of Light" all convey a solid mesh of both traditional, avant-garde, and technical death metal, proving the project's impressively wide scope.
In the same vein as the intro track, Moral Collapse holds a couple more purely atmospheric pieces. Some may discredit these as filler, but in the context of this subgenre, some lighter soundscape tracks are necessary to help decompress the listener. After the onslaught of multiple hefty death metal bangers in a row, "Vermicularis (Interruption)" provides a break on the ears in exchange for extraterrestrial ambience. "Trapped Without Recourse (Rumination)" presents eerie violin and creepy vocalizations bound to make you physically cringe. It's quite the peculiar and unnerving conclusion to an utterly heavy album.
As previously expressed, the material in this record can be unquestionably overwhelming. The stacked layers of guitar riffs, dark atmospheres, dissonance, and more importantly guest musicians aplenty create for a very crowded listening experience. While normally such an abundance would be off-putting, Moral Collapse embraces the element of constant commotion in their favor. Experimental death metal is no stranger to severe density, but seldom is it done well. Fortunately, this debut LP lands in the rare territory of balancing havoc and slight restraint, resulting in a genuinely impactful release.