I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. Imagine, if you will, a head-on collision. Darkthrone circa 1993 crashing headlong into the weirder end of Horna. Throw in a pinch of Darkthrone‘s own stranger days to create a one-man band. Nihilistic black metal with a slight crust, spat out single-handed by Shatraug himself. Now crank the bleak melancholia up to 11. Everyone got that? Congratulations, you’re pretty much listening to Mortualia.
Yes, most of it’s been done before. And yes, the kvlt aficionados of this world will be able to reel off the influences like the five times table and greatly enjoy doing so, but that’s not the point. After all, is cake any less satisfying when you know exactly what’s in it? No, and neither is Mortualia any less enjoyable for wearing its origins on its metaphorical sleeve. In fact, if anything, it’s rather refreshing. It’s perfectly possible to produce accomplished, enjoyable music without reinventing the wheel (or, as is more common, claiming to), and most of Mortualia is just that. Straying just far enough from the black metal template to be interesting, there’s an atmosphere here that sucks you in and deposits you in a grey, menacing landscape full of half-heard noises, screams and gritty, dirty guitar noise.
As should be the case in any black metal album worth its salt, Mortualia needs to be taken as a whole – some of the tracks don’t work brilliantly alone, but they combine to make a competent, mostly enjoyable whole. ‘The Blue Silence’ opens with a hypnotic, pulsing drone that could almost, but not quite, be called repetitive. It subtly changes every so often, making it seem far shorter than its epic run time of nearly eighteen minutes, and segues almost flawlessly into the bleak loneliness of, well, ‘In Bleak Loneliness’. Initially more of the same, the underlying melody gradually becomes more complex and shifts to the front of the sound, resulting in quite a different track that, like its predecessor, settles down into a slightly repetitive pattern and stays put until ‘Cold and Grey’ – the shortest, and probably the most distinctive track on the album – kicks in. The refrain at the back that repeats throughout most of the track is about as close as an album of this nature will ever get to catchy. It’s not immediately obvious how distinctive it is, but I’ve found it earworming its way into my head more than once since first listening to this album. The exaggerated drums at the end are unnecessary, but not overly intrusive.
In comparison, there isn’t a great deal in mammoth follow-ups ‘Devoid of Warmth’ and ‘Forgotten Soul’ to get too excited about, but there’s not a lot to criticise either. There’s a default sound here that makes up rather more of the album than it should, and good as that sound is, by the time you’re over halfway through it starts wearing ever so slightly thin. However, there is definitely something to be said for music that does what it says on the tin, and as a fairly straightfoward bleak atmospheric black metal album with a few fairly obvious outside influences, Mortualia is perfectly listenable. It isn’t revolutionary or earth-shattering, but sometimes music doesn’t need to be either. Mortualia does what it sets out to do, has a couple of interesting ideas on the way, and doesn’t do a great deal more which, just occasionally, is fine by me.
Moribund Records’ Website: http://www.moribundcult.com