Plucked out of bed by a beam of light, you float towards the open window. A few lonely souls remain awake in this hour, but for the most part, the neighborhood is dark. There is a doorway carved in the sky, through which strange stars glow brighter than the rest. Sustained synths carry on the wind during your ascent, accompanied by distant keys. A pair of eyes stares out from the portal – summoning you to Dimensions Obscure.
Cadaveric Fumes wafted onto the scene just four years ago with their Macabre Exaltations demo, an offering of old school death metal devoid of frills (and bloated with reverb). From the start, they’ve had a penchant for groove that permeates guitarist Wenceslas Carrieu’s riffs and the beats of Léo Brard – although some of the nuances of their playing were buried beneath the raw production of …Exaltations. The band’s evolution in the years between this demo, their 2014 split with Demonic Oath (Entwined in Sepulchral Darkness) and 2016’s Dimensions Obscure shows a hunger to explore the limits of their sound.
The opening track, “A Crepuscular Journey,” begins with an ode to 80’s sci-fi/horror movie soundtracks. Synths and piano evoke the washed-out neon lights of Blade Runner or Elliot Goldenthal’s score for Pet Sematary, signalling a departure from the meat and potatoes style of their earlier releases. With the first crash of cymbals, it’s apparent that the production has been improved, with spaciousness and balance in mind. Each instrument is represented with clarity, from the chunky (and audible!) bass to the ride cymbal that shines through the mix, even as the drums begin blasting halfway through “…Journey.”
The guitar tone is a departure from previous releases as well. Listeners won’t hear the “buzzsaw” distortion favored by OSDM bands, or the digitized tones of some contemporary recordings. The guitars are only lightly distorted (almost rubbery), with a shot of mid-range to brighten the sound. This somewhat retro tone, in lesser hands, could lead to muddy recordings when applied to a genre known for its speed and technicality. Instead, the songwriting as a whole benefits from the light distortion, displaying the nuances of Carrieu’s riffs.
Influences from a wide range of genres outside of OSDM appear throughout the EP’s 25-minute run-time: proto-black/punk riffing and drum patterns emerge toward the end of “…Journey,” and nods to progressive and psychedelic rock consume the final minutes of “Where Darkness Reigns Pristine.” The band’s genre-bending never sounds contrived, but rather serves as a much-needed transfusion of energy and ideas. “Swallowed into Eternity,” the epic-length closing track, begins with another synth/piano arrangement before transitioning into doom riffs that eventually give way to swaggering death metal tremolo. Keep in mind, this is all within the first half of the song.
Shortly after a sound bite (suspiciously reminiscent of The Thing’s tentacles as it assimilates those poor huskies), the band starts the second half of the track with an infectious passage weaving together elements of thrash and perhaps even a sprinkle of surf rock. It’s this happy irreverence toward genre norms that makes this EP so much fun; even “Extatic Extirpation,” the most straightforward death metal song of the bunch, drips with groove (just listen to Brard’s joyful china cymbals at 00:23 and try not to grin) and contains one of the most bizarre harmonized solos this side of the Milky Way.
Reuben Muntrant’s call-and-response bass-lines in “Extatic Extirpation,” and Romain Gibet’s imaginative vocal cadence throughout are just a few highlights in a release littered with memorable moments. A word of advice: buckle in, drive to the nearest backwoods road and let yourself be abducted by Morbid Dimensions. You’ll be deposited back to Earth in just under half an hour, without any of those intrusive implants.