The Ajna Offensive, 2014
Genre: Black Metal
2. Grape of the Vine
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.
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.
The Ajna Offensive, 2005
Genre: Black Metal
1. Silence Sang the Praise of Death
2. All Dead