Album Review: Molder – “Engrossed in Decay” (Death Metal)

Written by Kep

>Molder – Engrossed in Decay
>Death metal
>Illinois, US
>Releasing July 15
>Prosthetic Records

Molder (mohl-der) v.
1. to turn to dust by natural decay; crumble; disintegrate; waste away
2. to possess a ludicrous amount of fat tasty motherfucking riffs 

You know how sometimes you see an album cover and you just *know* that you’re gonna love it? That was me with Engrossed in Decay. Disgusting old school death metal with art featuring a half-dead dude whose skin is clearly dissolving and sloughing off in slimy green layers? Shut up and take my money. The only thing to wonder about was precisely how good it was going to be. The answer: extremely goddamn good. 

I’d call this record riff city but honestly that doesn’t really do it justice; Engrossed in Decay is more like riff continent. It’s picture perfect OSDM, where every song is packed with the kind of guitarwork that begs, nay *demands*, that you bang your head, and you’ll more than happily oblige. And they really lean into that classic death metal vibe: from the gritty (but not muddy!) production all the way to the varied songwriting itself, this album feels like it could’ve been pulled straight from the early 90s. Molder nails the aesthetic in a way that few modern outfits do. 

It’s a true ensemble effort from the Illinois quartet, where no one part overshadows the others primarily because they’re all solid as goddamn bedrock. Frontman Aaren Pantke channels the classics, his beastly bloodcurdling roars and howls falling somewhere in the neighborhood of John Tardy and Chris Reifert. He can deliver a satisfying Tom G. Warrior “UGH!” with the best of them, too. His work on the axe, along with fellow guitarist Carlos Santini, has plenty of Obituary and Autopsy in it as well, plus a little Morbid Angel for kicks and lots of tasty chunks of thrash the way you’d expect from 90s-style death metal; this record is full to bursting with fat gut-punching death grooves that break into elbow-swinging up-tempo destruction. On the bottom end Dominic Vaia and Kyle Pooley, on bass and drums respectively, are a disgusting duo of a rhythm section, the former with a filthy overdriven buzz and the latter with that sort of bass drum and low tom impact that sounds like it’s thudding against layers of tissue. 

The killer production is a massive highlight here. The clarity of that fuzzy bass through the breadth of the other instruments is particularly impressive, and the full body that the guitars manage to maintain while keeping a saw-toothed ripping edge is a testament to what modern production can do for OSDM. My hat’s off to audio engineer Cheyenne Brandt and masterer Arthur Rizk. This thing sounds vivid and fresh even as it drips and wretches like a putrid reanimated corpse. 

I’d love to go track to track and tell you all which riffs I love most, but honest to hell I dig them all a ton. Tracks like “Huff the Stench” do stand out to my ears though: that one has a lengthy doom-influenced opening with slow chugs and searingly psychedelic guitars, then finally kicks into murder mode with a nasty bass solo and a down and dirty drag-you-through-the-mud pummeler. Those hideous vocals of Pantke’s add so much to these tracks, too, and the way he spits out rapid fire words over thrashy charging assaults in songs like “Chemically Dissolved” is a goddamn delight. You know you’re onto something good for degenerate death metal fans like me when you can write the sort of scummy marching riff like Molder does in the verses of “Relentless Pestilence” and then spew lyrics out like projectile vomit over top. It’s a perfect match that takes those A+ riffs to loathsome new heights. Yeah, the driving rise and mauling blows of “Disinhumed Carcass Revived” are classic on their own, and tailor-made to create pit-based destruction, but the sum of the parts once the torturous howls arrive is even greater than the whole. 

Engrossed in Decay is a meaty 10 tracks and 48 minutes long, which is juuuuuust about pushing the edge of what most listeners will tolerate out of an OSDM album, but it’s worth sticking around for the whole runtime. There’s not a single song that feels like filler, and the back half of the record has three of my favorites (“Huff the Stench”, “Unsubstantial Hallucination”, and monumental closer “Cask of Maggots”, which has a particularly nasty guitar solo near the end). I’ve already found that Molder’s ability to pack each track full of eminently satisfying riffs brings me back for another spin when I’m not sure what to listen to, and since there’s none of that clichéd intro/outro track nonsense that so many bands inexplicably love it’s gratifying from top to bottom. Personally, I could do without the spoken word samples that start a few songs, but they’re not long and are very much in the spirit of the style, so I’m not complaining either. 


If you’re looking for the next big death metal album this year, look no further: Engrossed in Decay is it. Much like Undeath and similar throwback outfits have captured those classic Cannibal Corpse vibes, Molder nails the aesthetic and the musicianship of thrash-infused OSDM, and they deserve every bit of the love that’s about to come their way. Two diseased thumbs way up for this rotten and bile-soaked record!