Mortuary is one of those bands that should've been much larger than they were. Blackened Images is one of those records that is simply crushing from beginning to end, and unlike most albums from this time period, you don't need rose tinted shades to appreciate it.
From the album's pummeling opening volley, to the very last bit on insanity offered, this is a no-holds-barred assault on your senses. The guitars are thick, fuzzy and fairly reminiscent of Carnage in their bloated attack. The drums are fairly compartmentalized, but thankfully the bass drum is thuddy as all fuck and doesn't come across as "clicky". The bass has a nice "round" sound that definitely pins the guitar down nicely, but sadly, is too passive to really add too much. The vocals are pretty grotesque, taking hints from Sepultura's own frontman.
Throughout this record, you will hear plenty of riffs that seem like an adequate mashing of influences. This really gives Mortuary their own distinct on this release. There is at once a very immediate likeness to Slayer, but Mortuary manage to surprise the listener and take them to places that you wouldn't get from the latter.
Riffs swirl in and out of one anther across this record, offering moments for the hooks to sink in but never offering enough comfort before shifting into another ugly assault. This is perhaps the album's best feature, it's a veritable riff buffet. Every song is full of punishing, effective songwriting that gives you hook after hook without beating you over the head with "the good bits"
The songwriting is fantastic, and it is hard to believe it is the same band that played on the ‘Where Death Takes Your Soul’ demo, despite the three-year difference between the two releases. Where as that demo showcased a band who really weren’t capable of writing songs that consisted of more then a few primitive death/thrash riffs, and playing them also wasn’t exactly the bands strongpoint. However, ‘Blackened Images’ is a different story. Here, the band shows off their much-improved songwriting and construction abilities to the point where they sound like they had been playing this game for much longer, and the musicianship has also improved by miles. Although technicality was far from this band’s goal, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to incorporate a little tech riffing here and there. Tempo changes are occurring constantly, and the transitions from one to another work very well, making each song flow coherently and enticingly.
Although Joel Alanis’s vocals were nothing too new or spectacular by 1992, they still fit in nicely with the rest of the band and pull their weight. Rather then going for the low, guttural, demonic growls that so many bands would adopt, he keeps it in the higher register, sounding semi-similar to Chris Reifert on the early Autopsy demos, though not quite as vile. Like the vocals, the guitars tend stay in the higher end of the death metal spectrum, which I suppose is where the “death/thrash” tag comes from, but make no mistake, the riffing here is very much death metal-oriented, just not tuned down to the floor. One of the techniques they use a lot is playing a riff openly and slowly for a couple measures, then proceed into a section that includes the same riff, but this time tremolo picked instead, and maybe with some added double-bass drum action as well, which brings me to my next point. The drumming on here, although not phenomenal, definitely works well with the band’s intentions, and does a mighty fine job of holding everything together, and that is really what matters the most. His fills could be a little more varied and inserted into different parts to make them more effective, but like I said, it gets the job done.
If you like death metal, as heavy as it gets (for the time), then look no further. This is an absolutely mandatory listen for anyone that thinks that they truly hail "The Old School".