Review: “Tales Of Woe” by Codex Mortis

“Tales Of Woe tells about an evil spirit that tortures a man through demonic possession and mind control. With horrific visions of its previous victims, the evil spirit tries to turn the man into a murderer. The man escapes its hold by taking his own life, as a desperate attempt to end the circle of terror…” ~ Codex Mortis

Incorporating influences from the 90’s Death Metal scene Codex Mortis came to life in 2017 in Utrecht Netherlands as former members of Baatezu, Usthor and Izegrim to name but a few joined forces with a shared vision for a sonic landscape characterized by ferocious speed and an abyssal depth with each arrangement both relentless and relentless. It was 2021 before their inaugural full-length opus “What Befalls of Tainted Souls” arose from the black depths, a churn of musicians adding to the delay as founding members bassist Mathieu Westervelt and vocalist Dirk Willems searched for stability. In 2019 guitarist Arjan van Dune joined them with Michiel van der Plicht credited as the bands drummer and Jos Schilder the lyricist for sophomore album “Tales Of Woe“. Mixed and mastered by Ronnie Björnström (Blood Red Throne, Sacrificium, Buried Realm), a second chapter awaits…

Wasting no time with an atmospheric introduction to set the scene, Codex Mortis put the pedal to the metal and go full throttle Blackened Death Metal with throat scraping vocals and blast beats after just a few seconds of “Forsaken“. Willems vocal range impresses immediately, switching between shriller, dry and raspy lines and death growls seemingly effortlessly as the violently turbulent percussive battery pummels the discerning listener into submission. Breakneck speed riffing is the order of the day but it’s not without melody or atmosphere, the mid section in particular offering some melancholic moments before the Death Thrash inspired final moment brings the killing spree to a breathless conclusion. Gliding through the gears “Capricious Disembodied Villain” has a wonderful Melodic Death Metal introduction before the vocals rear their head, spitting and snarling with venomous intent. That serves as a signal for Michiel van der Plicht (Layers Of Devotion, Pestilence, God Dethroned) to deliver an artillery shelling performance from behind the kit and while it seems unlikely he will be more than a session musician, fans will be hoping for more. Sinister and brooding the track has an eerie spoken word moment that adds a spellbinding touch but it is the lead guitars on this one that truly mesmerise. A haunting dance macabre plays out on the piano as the sea crashes against the shore to introduce “Chosen“, the melody replicated in the Black Metal styled guitar work as Codex Mortis push on Extreme Metal boundaries with an evil grin. Another rampaging cut to get the blood pumping, it echoes the sentiment of the earlier tunes stylistically while having a life of its own. Only the solo lacks, as while it is flamboyant it doesn’t reach the incendiary levels of the sound that wraps around it like a Boa Constrictor.

The storm shows no sign of dissipating as “Trenched in Blood” roars into life with Michiel van der Plicht beating the living daylights out of the drum kit. The pace is electric as the band capture the energy of the songs like lightning in a bottle, fretboards smouldering as calloused hands work their magic once more. An ode to 1916 and the infamous trenches of World War I, this piece of brutality is surprisingly epic with sublime interplay between the rhythm guitars as it plays out. Flavours of bands like Aborted rise to the surface with “Fire Screams and Death“, the neck snapping pace ensuring that when they play it live circle pits will act as portals to other realms. Tearing a hole in the space time continuum but somehow not only maintaining but surpassing the quality of the earlier material seems impossible but that’s what they have done here. A mid track slowdown for a rich extended solo with classic Traditional Heavy Metal leanings is a nice touch, the seamless transition into it spellbinding. The piano returns making this one feel like the grand finale but the band have other ideas and give us the barn burning “It Dies with Me” in all it’s glory. Intense and intoxicating the track draws you in with riffs of both Black and Death Metal persuasions flying in all directions, the rumbling base and driving percussion destroying the cranium within sections. Another Death Thrash inspired section brings in the final verse, the solo that comes before it nailed to perfection which is something that can also be said of the mix. An incredible sophomore album, this one will leave you wanting more [9/10]

Track Listing

1. Forsaken
2. Capricious Disembodied Villain
3. Chosen
4. Trenched in Blood
5. Fire Screams and Death
6. It Dies with Me

Tales Of Woe” by Codex Mortis is out 21st June 2024 via Black Lion Records and is available over at bandcamp

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