Mortuus’ dank, dizzying black metal revels in death, begs for its arrival on ‘Grape of the Vine’

MortuusIt’s going to get dark, spooky, ugly, and horrific soon in America. Or at least that’s what a majority of the population thinks. I always find the Halloween season a little bit silly, especially when the religious dorks rise up and protest what is a pretty cartoonish, harmless season. But elsewhere, real terror awaits.

If you want to look into the true face of death and evil, look no further than Mortuus, the long-standing Swedish black metal band that will have no problem causing chills to go up and down your spine. Their freshly released second full-length “Grape of the Vine” has arrived after years of their minions waiting for an answer to 2007’s “De Contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie Laboribus ac Adorationis.” That’s one hell of a mouthful of a title. Anyhow, this seven-track, nearly 50-minute excursion is painted all over with the stench of death. It’s a nightmarish soundtrack of your body expiring and what’s left being sent on a suffocating journey through a darkness full of mysteries and perhaps danger. The record is chilling from front to back, and they establish a dank atmosphere that relies more on psychological punishment than it does overwhelming you with power and speed.

Mortuus coverThe band is made up of two musicians, that being vocalist/guitarist Tehom, and bassist/drummer/backing vocalist M. Hinze. Together, they work to create a dark vortex of hell that might take some getting used to. It might not suck you in right away simply because they eschew convention, with sticky melodies and any hooks completely absent. Instead, the vocals often sound like a running diatribe, designed to provoke the forces of evil, while the music rains down like blood, getting in your eyes and causing your lips to stick together. It’s not a comfortable experience, but it is one that’ll feel a lot different than the ones on which most modern black metal bands take you.

Frosty instrumental “Layil” opens the record with ominous playing, drums throbbing hard, and guitars spilling all over the place, instilling a foreboding atmosphere into the proceedings and leading into the furious title track. There, guitars chugs, maniacal growls sting your senses, and the music drives a dizziness that could leave you trying to regain your footing. Most of the track is a slow burn, with drubbing compositions and driving vocals that sound accusatory. “Torches” has a scintillating lead guitar line that knifes into the beginning of the track, and a calculating pace meets up with monstrous howls to blow fire into your face. Some traces of tangible melodies slip into place, giving the track the slightest hint of accessibility, and the final dose of storming glides into dripping piano that closes the door on the cut. “Sulphur” has fires crackling and a poisonous gust in the air, as the band churns slowly, violently. The song opens up a bit, with Hinze howling, “I hear the devil speak while I lay asleep,” setting imagery from which your worst dreams are made.

“Disobedience” is eerie at first and takes it time setting the scene, but as it goes on, it turnsurh into something cold and prickly. The tracks bleeds slowly, while the darkness sets in thick, and a frozen, deathly melody arrives the make things even more charnel. The song is just ugly, with infernal vocals and vicious mashing dragging you to the finish. “Nemesis” is psychologically damaging and even manages to hit a little harder than what preceded it, with Hinze declaring, “You are prophets of your own demise.” There is a hope for death, if not a worship of it, in the air, and the entire song feels like it’s luring you not just to your grave, but to eternal damnation. The final moments are so destructive that they’re oppressive, and this is the most aggressive track on the whole record. Closer “Tzel Maveth” has a cloudy start, only to have riffs burst from it like lightning. The songs lurches like a slow-moving, deadly lava, and the pace returns to the calculated climb most of these cuts take. The song burns heavily, filling everything with a thick smoke, and mercy is only given in its final moment, when the record meets the demise it promises all along.

When people are reveling in ghouls, ghosts, devils, and skulls next month, remember to give them a break. For they do not know of the true chaos and death that is Mortuus’ music, and most would faint at the first few notes of “Grape of the Vine.” As for you, the hardening of the arteries and exposure to real fright will get you ready for the cold months when everything around you is dead and decaying. Nature is getting ready to take that rotting journey, and everything on this nightmare of a record will have gotten you pretty much prepared.

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