Reviews of the new albums from Spiritus Mortis and In Mourning
You can go to a beach while I fall into an abyss
SPIRITUS MORTIS – THE YEAR IS ONE
Svart Records | November 11th
Spiritus Mortis was found all the way back in 1987 by the Maijala brothers, Jussi (guitars) and Teemu (bass & vox). Soon they were joined by drummer VP Rapo, and the trio, today a quintet, has kept their doomy pace ever since without any significant breaks or gaps. When I say doomy pace I don’t just mean their music, I mean they’ve taken things rather slow as a band. The band kept looking for a vocalist, Teemu Maijala wanting to focus on bass, but didn’t have one until Tomi Murtomäki joined in 1997. The band released a small string of demos in between those years. Their self-titled debut wasn’t released until in 2004, a measly 17 years after their founding – at which time Murtomäki had been replaced by Vesa Lampi and VP Rapo having taken up second guitar and his replacement having left the band after the recording for the favor of Jarkko Seppälä. The album marked the first time Sir Magister Albert Witchfinder (Sami Hynninen) of Reverend Bizarre appeared on their record. After their sophomore Rapo and Lampi both quit – to be replaced by Kari Lavila on guitars and said Sami Hynninen on vocals. Which brings us to present day and the band’s fourth album The Year Is One.
It’s been a long wait. Five long years since the band last released a song, and over seven since their last recording featuring original material. Now Spiritus Mortis may play traditional doom metal, their compositions not ridden with rueful leads or a melancholic undertone but these are not happy songs. Theirs are not the kind of gloomy epics Candlemass has become known for, nor the playfully frisky proto-doom of Black Sabbath. The Years Is One is slow, heavy and richer in riffs than your favorite generic fantasy tale’s dwarves/dwarfs (depending on the tale). On the map of doom, it’s a hard one to place exactly, loaning a bit of this, a bit of that for it’s own purposes. From monolithic, crushing riffs, shifting tempos not confined to slow to epic atmosphere and occult lyrics, with some rockier, Cathedral-esque cuts, like “Jesus Christ, Son of Satan”.
It’s also rather dry by-way-of production. Very heavy, but not in the same supposedly ball-crunchingly way that has become nearly synonymous with doom metal as of late, especially on it’s extreme fringes. It’s these riffs that are heavy and the production only serves to compliment the fact, not as a crutch. The almost minimalist soundscape is deceptive at first, lulling the listener to a false state of simplicity, as the songs themselves drag on through, not unexpected, but less usual, caverns (I use the word ‘drag’ here, in a rare, positive sense). For example, “Babalon Working’s” ripping solos and double-bass attack followed by carefully melodic riffing.
On The Year Is One, Hynninen redeems his place among the greats of doom vocalists, for perhaps the first time ever, sounding more like a singer than vocalist. His subtle and slow-burning melodies binding the songs together. His delivery occasionally reaching for something akin to Robert Lowe, though much more manic and disturbed one. You’d be hard pressed to find an outright happy doom metal record, but The Year Is One hovers on a level of it’s own – where lines like “invite me to my funeral, all death is pure. Life is disease, and suicide its only cure” aren’t necessarily the darkest ones on offer. Hynninen’s hatred towards existence burns through these lines, lines written by disturbed man tearing his own reality to paper (thank Jeebus the darkness has passed, according to the man himself).
Spiritus Mortis has refined their playing to the bare essential, yet TYIO reveals a more potent work of art with each spin, offering something to instantly latch onto while slowly spinning the majority of it’s web over repeated plays.
Without a doubt one of the finest records to come out this year. Like Spiritus Mortis on Facebook and tell ’em The Toilet says “Sup Duderinos!”
4.5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell out of 5
IN MOURNING – AFTERGLOW
Agonia Records | May 20th
In Mourning conquered my heart in 2012 with The Weight of Oceans, an album filled melodic doom/death goodness, and a bit of prog for the flavour. One of the things that set the album apart was, ironically, the lack of killer riffs and/or melodies, every part had been bent to serve the song, the entity they were parts of. Four years is bordering on what I call “a very much too much long of a time to wait for another album”, and honestly I don’t know whether my expectations grew or became diluted meanwhile. In Mourning’s never been a band to record the same album twice (which is no virtue in my eyes, not in itself), but have always retained the basics and sounded like themselves. On Afterglow, the gothic- and metalcore influences of Shrouded Divine shine with their absence, as does the pronounced doom of The Weight of Oceans – replaced by more prog-like complexity.
Even while it was clear this album was going to be a grower, I could not shake the feeling this album was not going to compare to their previous work. Only the somber, clean part towards the latter half of “Ashen Crown”, followed by melancholic climax stood out instantly, bringing to mind the most glorious moments of it’s predecessor. Like predicted, after a few spins the album began to grow one me. First with individual moments – the short stadium-rock solo at the end of “Below Rise to Above”, the melodic work sprinkled throughout “Call to Orion’s” verses and the brooding, menacing feel of the title-track’s first minute. A few more spins and I found myself bopping my head along, and even awkwardly moshing around my living room in a waltz-like manner.
Then it hit me as improvement over individual parts, such as clean vocals and the aforementioned Prog Ness monster. Whereas The Weight of Oceans had stripped down the use of cleans, they’ve become more frequent on Afterglow – appearing on more songs than not. However, not once are they used to create hooks, or separate a chorus, rather standing as lone moments of clarity amidst the roaring waves. The prog, as perhaps was to be expected, doesn’t appear as “sudden” shifts of time-signature (that “no one” saw coming), self-absorbed, weekend-long wankfests (that no one wanted) or multi-part epics (the movements of which don’t sound like they belong together, or were written by the same guy) but as dedicated growth and cultivation of songs – which, in case you couldn’t tell, is how I prefer it.
Afterglow is not an album full of hooks and ear-worms. Every song needs to be taken in as a whole, and better yet, the entire album devoured in one sitting. Not because some wax-huffing vinyl-nerd who’s obliviously making wrong life choices keeps telling you about the good ol’ times when you couldn’t just skip the songs you didn’t like and had to, like, absorb the vital essences of the creative forces at work. No, you should do it because that’s the way the album is built – these are not songs that give you much on their own, there are nice melodies, memorable parts, some chugging etc. but it’s not until these songs become wholes that the atmosphere and the feel of the album really grow into their full measure.
It is this atmosphere that gives In Mourning it’s recognizable sound, regardless of which part of their sound, death, prog or doom – the latter-most of which is only namely featured here, you pick, atmosphere-centric songs isn’t what you usually expect, not at the expense of melodies and riffs. The other notable difference is the melancholy. You see, it’s not the kind of sorrow and despair that bands like Swallow the Sun are likely to offer, or the hopeless agony found in funeral doom. It’s what one could call pop-melancholy, just sad enough for those gray days, but not sad enough to make you wanna cry, melancholy coated with sugar. And on Afterglow, it’s essential, I find hard to believe these songs would carry their weight as well as they do if it was of any other kind, stripping the songs of their easy accessibility.
Afterglow is a good album by it’s own right, and I appreciate the band’s ever growing taste for progginess, but I hop they’ll be able to couple that with a little more of groin-grabbingly good material that catches immediately by the hallowed nutsack and refuses to let go. As it is, Afterglow doesn’t quite rise up to the standard set by it’s predecessor.