Poland's pummel-gods Vader have always been one of the most consistent and reliable acts in all of death metal, but in truth, many of their records catapult beyond that threshold to the realm of veritable classics. One of the few bands that can simultaneously imbue their works with pinpoint technicality while retaining an unabashedly old school framework of composition, they relentlessly pursue modern aesthetics without ever betraying their roots. One could listen back through their nearly 20 years of albums, back to The Ultimate Incantation and hear a fluid, formidable progression straight to their 9th full-length Welcome to the Morbid Reich, which is stylistically a sandwich of Impressions in Blood, Black to the Blind and their last, divisive effort Necropolis.
I'll come right out and say that I'm an impetuous fanboy for this band, and if Peter continues to produce such taut and magnificence exercises in technique and aggression, that status is unlikely to change until my heart stops beating, or his does. That he continues to surround himself with such crack musicians is admirable, and he's got himself a great new lead guitarist here in Spider, who kicked around briefly with a few other Polish bands. For his own swansong with the band, drummer Paul has provided an unflinching foundation over which the massive riffing flourishes; and from a production standpoint, Welcome to the Morbid Reich is infallible. Intense clarity is cast through the bricklaying vocals, the manic and beauty lead manifestations, and the concrete artillery of the rhythm section. You'll continue to hear the influences that have always been prevalent in their sound, from Slayer and Possessed to Sepultura, and even a few surgical traces of old Pestilence (Mallevs Maleficarvm era) spliced into a handful of tracks.
Honestly, for the first 11 tracks, I was in utter, crushing paradise here, because the album is pretty much perfect through all of that time. You've got your atmospheric instrumentals that expertly escalate the listener's excitement into the oncoming onslaught ("Ultima Thule" and later "They Are Coming..."), and then an incessant beating which is constantly mindful of great riffing and variation. The lead guitars in "Return to the Morbid Reich", "Come and See My Sacrifice", and "Only Hell Knows" explode into the listener as if he/she were launched over the edge of a cliff with no rope and suddenly had to experience all their exhilarating life memories before a quick and flattening end. And that is exactly how they fucking should be. As usual, this is not a band who blasts needlessly. Oh, they blast. But there is always a goal in mind, and here that end zone is divided between deeply thrashing, memorable breakdowns and segues of glorious atmosphere that round out the overall work with an appreciable added layer.
The one track I wasn't blown over by was the closer, "Black Velvet and Skulls of Steel", which is essentially a death metal march with fairly average riffing. The lead here is nice, but the guitars leading up to it just don't resonate with quite the same thrills as the rest of the album. Granted, you do get about 34 minutes of excellence before this arrives, but it simply doesn't end on a high note, and that's a quip I'm unlikely to ignore. Otherwise, this is a triumph on all accounts, with a nearly flawless presentation, the sort of album that is not going to exit my radar any time soon. Welcome to the Morbid Reich is marginally more brutal than its direct predecessor, so fans who (incorrectly) thought the band was drifting south of cool might be drawn back here; but really, Vader has never fallen off the scent of superior craftsmanship, and here is another of the many reasons they deserve your utmost support. Hell, the 'Morbid Reich' might even help compensate for another 'Morbid' disappointment many of us have no doubt experienced of late.
Verdict: Epic Win [9.75/10]