Agonia Records, 2006
Genre: Black Metal
1. Periculum Mortis
2. Souls Ejaculation
3. Embrace Your Insanity
4. Salvation from Being
5. Crown of Creation
7. Towards Perdition
Zarathustra is one of those bands that just keep improving every step of the way. To be honest I wasn't expecting this from them. Their very first releases weren't very good in my opinion and their last few releases have been really good, but nothing I would say blew me away before. Then we come to “In Hora Mortis.” This album is immense if nothing else, and has a wonderful grandiose design behind its inner workings. I’m going to throw this right out in the beginning, if you’re looking for a Black Metal album to get this year (2006) then by “In Hora Mortis” you will not be disappointed in the least.
“In Hora Mortis” translated is pretty self explanatory as “In the Hour of Death.” This is the first Zarathustra I've experienced that exhibited any superior essence. Granted their last mini-CD “Contempt” was powerful and very well done, but lets be honest it was for the most part standard Black Metal. “In Hora Mortis” brings Zarathustra to a level of maturity I was not expecting them to be making anytime soon. I thought they were going to be a band that never stunned the listener with something new or made them really think hard about what the musicians were accomplishing. Well Zarathustra has shocked us all with this, and has launched them into the running for album of the year. They seriously came out of left field and I was surely not expecting it in the least!
This album is musically somewhat difficult for me to define because there are so many varying elements from so many other bands that it blends into something rather interesting. Zarathustra however have put this on an epic scale, writing far longer songs and not performing straight forward blast beat ridden Black Metal predominantly. Instead you can hear the guitar work focus more on creating an intense atmosphere that brings the listener into the Zarathustra world in the hours of their death. I don’t know what it was, but ever since Hurricane joined the band on vocals I really started enjoying their material more and more, and this progression has launched them into a much more respectable location in my opinion. They've also been brought down to a four piece losing M. Ghoul on guitars and leaving all the guitar work up to Kerberos. Maybe Kerberos wanted to bring Zarathustra into this progression and M. Ghoul did not feel that was something he wanted.
However, from my perspective maybe it was entirely the correct move to make for the band. For “In Hora Mortis” to come out so well produced and so immense sounding (possibly due to recording at Necromorbus as well) and using a myriad of reference points that I can’t even remember which is more prominent. I only hear one random riff sound that’s reminiscent of another band then immediately switches to another reference. The song easiest to pinpoint is “Towards Perdition,” because the obvious Immortal influence is overwhelming. This track could’ve easily worked its way onto “At the Heart of Winter.” I do enjoy Hurricane’s vocal performance a lot more than Abbath's to be honest, but guitar wise this is pretty much a blatant rip off of what was displayed on “At the Heart of Winter.” The only point where I’ll let this slide is in the fact that we will probably never hear the likes of “At the Heart of Winter” again. However, it somewhat throws off “In Hora Mortis” because you have a whole song that draws from one other band rather than the hundreds that are found drawn upon in the other songs, so it has a somewhat out of place feel as the closer of the album. This is a great song overall… but where the other tracks sounded so fresh and so fierce, this one has a strange feel overall, but I guess it works as a closer because it leaves the listener slowed down to a more melancholic pace rather than a blasting onslaught like some other tracks.
I think they have also been listening to a lot of Mörk Gryning lately as well; this album is far more melodic. Or maybe they listened to Seth’s “Era-Decay” because I hear elements of that in certain sequences. Or the opening sequence of “Souls Ejaculation,” can’t you hear the Thorns guitar structuring? Or how about the sound effects interlude that bears some reminiscence to the ambient groups that are similar to the likes of Atrium Carceri. Either way, I hope this somewhat emphasizes the sources they may have drawn from.
Not only has the music matured, but the lyrics on here are very intriguing. They make the listener question what exactly it is that happens upon reaching the moment of death and the aftermath that could happen. It’s interesting to note that I think Hurricane is exploring this from the standpoint of his own death if he were to die. There is also some influence conceptually from the movie Donnie Darko in my opinion and this is given away in the lyric line from “Odem” as “These dreams in which I am dying are the best I have ever had.” This was a line from the song in the soundtrack to Donnie Darko and it was played more than a few times in the movie, so I think there is some clear influence from that movie lyrically.
This is on my must have list and I have listened to this numerous times since I've purchased it. I may find I continue to listen to this time and time again because it really is that good of an album to listen to. At least when it comes to Zarathustra I know what I'll be listening to. Remember if you are a Black Metal fan this is an immense album to get and you will scarcely be disappointed in the outcome especially if you are a fan of all the bands whose names I dropped in this review. Zarathustra is proudly a non serviam Black Metal band and this is their opus in honor of death and all the passing of life.