Sunday, December 23, 2012


Mortuus - Grape of the Vine
The Ajna Offensive, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Layil
2. Grape of the Vine
3. Torches
4. Sulphur
5. Disobedience
6. Nemesis
7. Tzel Maveth

After an incredible release in 2007, Mortuus finally return after a seven year wait for their second full-length. There was indeed speculation over this time as to whether the project was still running or not. When it was finally announced that a new album was imminent this year I immediately ordered a copy as soon as it was available. They are often compared to Ondskapt, but I feel Mortuus is creating more in the realms of "Draco sit Mihi Dux" than Ondskapt even bothers in these more current times. That slow tortured brooding brand of Black Metal is where Mortuus really creates the quality textures I've come to expect from the project.

In the booklet there is a note that says "treat this album as a sonic meditation into the most sinister reaches of the mind" and it truly does live up to that. With that intention in mind this has a lot more of a droning pace throughout the album to really generate that meditative effect. "De Contemplanda Morte" has a lot more rhythmic variation and dynamics by comparison, in my opinion anyway. That being said "Grape of the Vine" isn't too far off from the debut, which is great given that seven years have passed. They still perform that mid-paced ultra dark style of Black Metal that is so rarely performed and for that reason I think they will always stand out to me whenever a release hits, no matter how rare. "Grape of the Vine" has a slightly different feel to it from the changes in production quality. "De Contemplanda Morte" actually sounds brighter by comparison. "Grape of the Vine" plunges the listener into a level of dense material that there is just no escape from the weight of the music pressing down on you. This gives the performance an even darker texture than prior works, and the lyrics really round this atmosphere out. I really loved the lyrics on the debut album, but I think I like them even more on "Grape of the Vine". Lines like "we are but ruins here, all aligning to be forgotten! Ever staring at the stars knowing they died ages go." Combined with the vocal delivery that sounds far away from the music, but still audible really makes a lot of this atmosphere work perfectly for how they're designing it. It may not have the catchier aspects of "De Contemplanda Morte", which I miss quite a bit, but it gives us a different direction to stare into the depths of darkness with the focus being on a meditative experience. In that regard the song structuring mirrors more of an Ambient album than anything else and they've managed to do this without actually being Ambient/Atmospheric Black Metal. So, it's quite impressive in that regard.

When I was listening to this, for some reason I thought of interviews I've seen with Watain concerning their most recent efforts... and, honestly, Mortuus perform the music Watain seem to think they are playing as far as I can tell. You can hear some Watain influence in chord structuring here and there, but "Grape of the Vine" is really where the style is being done justice to me. Watain has released some great material over the years, but in the descriptions of their modern music it sounds more like they are describing Mortuus.

In the end this is quite an ambitious work and it is no surprise that it took seven years to really work it out.  In the end I'm actually not sure which album I like more. The debut is markedly different and I feel the goals of the second are quite different as well, so they are ultimately tough to compare. I really love that they are quite different experiences though. After seven years I think I would have been pretty happy with a rehashing of the first album, but they did give us something quite different. The only real challenge with "Grape of the Vine" is that the songs may not stand well alone outside the context of the full experience. Just about all the songs on "De Contemplanda Morte" sound great on their own, but like a lot of Ambient albums, outside the context of the full-length experience "Grape of the Vine" songs may not work as well. They may be reliant on generating that meditative experience Mortuus is trying to build into their writing, but only time will tell in that context for me.

Either way, if you enjoyed Mortuus' releases so far, I see no reason why this one wouldn't be enjoyable as well. It is absolutely one of the albums I consider worth purchasing for this year and I'm sure it will wind up near my top ten as their debut album wound up there. We'll see what else transpires from this year, but I think people should mark this as something worth picking up for sure.

Mortuus - De Contemplanda Morte
The Ajna Offensive, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Penetrations of Darkness
2. Astral Pandemonium
3. The Constant Descent of Seraphim
4. The Illumination of Job
5. Rebirth in the Sterile Triad of Six
6. Supplications for the Demise of All: Withdrawal into the Lifeless Sanctum

Well this was certainly a surprising release; since I was under the impression this project was defunct.  In 2005 this band released a 7” EP that I purchased off of a whim and loved, then they were silent for over a year.  Usually when you put out a two track release a full length is short to follow, not Mortuus it took them much longer than I would expect.  Maybe they wanted to refine some points?  Maybe they didn’t actually have a full length ready to be released, whatever it may be “De Contemplanda Morte” was more than worth the wait.

If you enjoyed the tracks on the 7” there is no reason for you to dislike the tracks on the full length for they are even more grandiose.  It’s not about creating pure chaos or how many times you can say the name Satan in one album or how many upside down crosses you can draw in your logo, this material is well researched.  I personally enjoy the intelligence levels with which the band displays throughout the recordings and especially the lyrics.  In fact, I was getting quite tired of the ultra-satanic bands trying to outdo each other over the years, so this is a breath of fresh air.  Granted this will probably stagnate to me at some point as more and more bands attempt to jump on this bandwagon, but as it stands there are really only a handful.  However, something good could come out of these works creating a new standard of the intelligent Black Metal fan, granted that would require many people to spend a great deal of their time reading in order to understand where these bands are coming from lyrically, spiritually, and musically, which I think could only benefit a person, alas there are few who will do this.  Most people will jump on the bandwagon and tote these bands with high praise as the Les Légiones Noire craze went through and then when Moonblood suddenly got discovered by the greater populace and all of a sudden these bands were untouchable even though some of them played quite poor music such as Vlad Tepes (on early albums at least)!

Anyway, what to expect on this album musically?  Well it appears to be highly influenced by Ondskapt’s “Darco sit Mihi Dux”, as was the 7”, and since Ondskapt don’t seem to be returning to that particular feel anytime soon, I am happy to hear it revisited again on this Mortuus recording.  A major difference is that there are very few fast parts on the Mortuus album; I can think of only two that stand out to me.  Also thrown into the structure seems to be a distinct Thorns touch in the chord structures, such as that felt on the Thorns demo material rather than the newer material.  So if you take the slow parts from that Ondskapt album and blend them with Thorns’ “The Trøndertun Tape” then you would likely have a fair image of “De Contemplanda Morte.”  I wouldn’t say this is wholly revolutionary, but it creates quite a different atmosphere than its main influences.  For one, there are no fast Black Metal sections giving this a more brooding and foreboding aspect that even the Ondskapt album didn’t really have.  Ondskapt was more draped in darkness and a tinge of insanity, whereas Mortuus is methodical and secretive in nature.  So, similar aspects, but vastly different connotations.  I can see many reviewers writing this off as merely an Ondskapt clone, but those are the types of people who only look at Black Metal from a surface level, they only hear music in the sense that it is comprised of guitars, vocals, drums, bass and sometimes keyboards, they do not view it as shifting atmospheres, subtle connotations and so forth.  Though, there are just as many instances where it is just music to the musician playing and nothing more.  So if you are an in depth listener then be wary of other reviews for this album, they will miss the subtle nature that this album holds within itself and it is that aspect that truly brings it into the light against the others and the creators should be commended on their grand effort.

Now that we’ve discussed the music it is time to move onto the lyrical works, which are vast.  For a quick summation this sort of picks up where the 7” leaves off, but it’s much more in depth, but the underlying concept is quite similar.  Basically the lyrical content deals with contemplations of death, if you couldn’t guess that from the title of the album.  Along with the music being improved the lyrics have been improved even more drastically than the music.  They are much more philosophical and they appear to be researched much more.  They even have portions of their lyrics written in Hebrew script.  Though I’m not sure about a lot of the Hebrew terms used on Mortuus, I looked up a lot of them or tried to and I can only identify a handful, so I’m not sure if they are all really real words in Hebrew.

The booklet itself is even very interesting to look through and it’s not just pretty images, they all have great meaning for the lyrics and the concepts.  This is something else I greatly appreciated.  Mortuus is not just some band following a trend, they are the whole package and nothing is left lacking.  The music itself is a spiritual experience on many levels and anyone who wishes to have their minds illuminated would do well to observe this work with open eyes.

Mortuus - Mortuus
The Ajna Offensive, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Silence Sang the Praise of Death
2. All Dead

Enter Mortuus in 2005, and the actual names of the people involved in this have not been named, but I’m going to do something very bold and suspect that someone from Ondskapt is involved somewhere in this, since they are both from Sweden and actually sound quite similar.  It’s possible they have nothing to do with each other though, but I don’t know for sure.  It’s obviously not the whole group for there are only two members of Mortuus pictured on the 7”.  However, everything seems to be directly in vein of Ondskapt to some degree.  If there ever was a transition album between “Draco Sit Mihi Dux” and “Dödens Evangelium,” this Mortuus 7” would be it.

Want to delve into the world of Mortuus?  Take the slower sections of “Draco Sit Mihi Dux,” make them more measured and darker and you will have essentially what Mortuus presents to the world.  If you’re expecting some blasting Black Metal, look elsewhere.  Mortuus is slow, brooding, and sinister, like a dragon calmly waiting for its prey to notice the immense foe that is before it.  Mortuus focus their directives on creating an impenetrable atmosphere of darkness in only the most sinister way imagined.  “Silence Sang the Praise of Death” is a testament to the atmosphere bands in Black Metal should strive for, and to some degree it has a more tangible atmosphere than even that of “Draco Sit Mihi Dux.”  The vocal work seems to be directly influenced by Ondskapt for they are the only ones I’ve ever heard use this sort of approach.  Mortuus have some religious overtones here and there, but they use them sparingly, which is something that makes them a little different from Ondskapt, but lyrically they sing their praises to Death and the music emulates this approach perfectly.  Even under the sinister vocal performance you hear tinges of spoken word, which adds a strangely ominous atmosphere to the overall composition.  At points the lead guitar goes into the background, but then in others it stands out with a tremolo picked passage that adds just that extra layer to the listener.

“All Dead” is similar in style, but the lead guitar approach reminds me of Thorns’ “Funeral Marches to the Grave” with the lead section fading in slowly then out as the intro progresses.  As it keeps up in the song it adds this natural effect of screaming to the song.  Some bands can evoke in their compositions the feeling that all hope is lost; Mortuus take that to the next degree and create an atmosphere that says “there is no point in hoping in the first place.”  I suppose this comes from the depressive pace of the music, which only enhances that specific essence that Mortuus envelopes its listeners with.

Both songs are performed at a very slow pace in terms of Black Metal, I would never term this as being even remotely related to Doom however.  Mortuus will present you with some of the darkest and most sinister Black Metal I’ve presently heard these days.  What a way to make it though, they released only one 7”, vinyl press only, then broke up and I believe this was also a limited pressing to top it off.  If you can actually hear these tracks, I highly recommend it.  You’ll be hard pressed to find atmosphere like this in other recordings.

No comments:

Post a Comment