As much as I love American death metal, and as much as I hate to bag on my fellow countrymen, I have to say that in my opinion, the Swedes have us beat. Our Scandinavian friends have been worshipping at the altar of the Boss HM-2 pedal for as long as Nihilist has been a thing, and the result has been a tremendous legacy of grimy, disgusting metal that – and this is the important part – never lost that quality of rocking the hell out that so many of their American counterparts sacrificed in pursuit of brutality. In that regard, Blood Mortized don’t offer much new with The Key To A Black Heart. But what they do offer is a solid, if perhaps uninspired, contribution to the Swedeath legacy.
What the Blood Mortized boys offer here is essentially a take on Unleashed with a harsher, more growl-y vocal style. They bring the riffs and the guitar tones to match, and they do a pretty convincing job of fitting in with their forefathers. Occasionally they even manage to write something that sticks out – check out “Only Blood Can Tell”, with its driving verse riff and crushing chorus. And speaking of crushing, that HM-2 tone is all over this record. The problem is that a good portion of the time, The Key To A Black Heart sounds like it’s checking off the boxes on a list of how to make good Swedish death metal. There’s not much in the way of original ideas or thinking outside the box, and while they know well the elements of their genre, they hew a little too closely to stand out from the pack. This would be all well and good if they could just crank out completely stellar death metal, but it stays pretty firmly in the middle of the road. Part of the problem is the production-while I can say I dig the natural drum sounds, and the tone itself is there, it just doesn’t have the fullness a genre like this demands. I’ve heard demos by other bands in this style that sound completely crushing, and it leaves me wondering why this real, full-length record can’t quite hold up in comparison. Another problem is that one of my favorite elements of Swedeath, the evil, devil’s tritone-using riffs, is in short supply. Some of the leads sound almost uplifting-they harken to their countrymen Amon Amarth at times. Oh wait, what’s this, Metal Archives entry for Blood Mortized? Guitarist Anders Hansson was in Amon Amarth in the ‘90s and played on their first demos and Once Sent From The Golden Hall? You don’t say! So hey, I was pretty much on the mark with that.
Like I said, The Key To A Black Heart is competent, but outside of “Only Blood…” and closers “Bringer Of Eternal Death” and the title track, there’s not much that stands out or makes an impact on the listener. If these guys could amp up their production and rework some riffs, there’s a glimmer of something special here but as is it’s just another Swedish death metal record.