Heavy metal as an artform can be grandiose and gigantic, something that feels larger than life that can take you to places in your mind you never expected to visit. As time has gone on, the metal tree has spawned so many different branches, each one a backbone of a specific style and the bands that formed from that approach, that it’s sometimes hard to dig down into the roots where it all began.
Speaking of origins, doom metal has many bands that helped build its lofty castle, not all of them as notorious as your Sabbaths, your Vituses, your mass of candles. Finnish band Spiritus Mortis deserves to be in that same conversation, their formation some 35 years ago looming large and solidifying the selections from their home country. They have returned with their fifth album “The Great Seal,” and as is the case with so many bands, they’ve gone through a roster upheaval since their last record, 2016’s “The Year Is One.” One of the biggest is the addition of new vocalist Kimmo Perämäki (he did a turn in 2004, so maybe new is a stretch) who replaces Sami Hynninen (formerly of the Reverend Bizarre), who turns in a masterful, dramatic performance on this record. The rest of the band is rounded out by longtime guitarist Jussi Maijala and equally tenured basisst Teemu Maijala (who also handled vocals for nearly a decade), guitarist Kari Lavila, and drummer Jarkko Seppälä on a record that reminds the world this band always had a stranglehold on bringing something massive and powerful to the table. “The Great Seal” is a steady reminder of that fact.
“Puputan” opens delivering driving riffs and Perämäki’s singing that borders on sinister, bringing the perfect vibe to this record. Gothy keys thicken as strong soloing darkens the mood, the chorus melts with emotion, and the slashing power disappears into the night. “Death’s Charioteer” chugs hard as gravelly singing changes the mood, and the fog thickens and adds to your mental confusion. Strong leads chew into muscle, the singing haunts, and the burning terror exits like a mist. “Martyrdom Operation” brings swaggering guitars and a heavy Deep Purple vibe, punchy and slithering, clashing with vintage thunder. The leads scorch flesh as Perämäki hits some ridiculous high notes, making adrenaline flow as the final fires fade in the dirt. “Skoptsy” smokes with prodding guitars and an evil cackle, as the full picture fully blossoms. “The fruits of sin shall be removed,” Perämäki howls as the chorus swallows you whole, the balminess gets thicker, and tremendous soloing melts your face off your skull.
“Khristovovery” starts with guitars mauling and breathy vocals, a classic doom metal storm forming shockingly quickly. The chorus wilts flesh and then the pace speeds up, taking on a Maiden-like gallop that gets the blood flowing. The soloing is a blast to the system, blistering and leaving your flesh amply bruised. “Vision of Immortality” is heavy and sludging, a more monstrous being that gets nastier as it goes on. The singing is even more forceful with Perämäki wailing, “I’ve seen 1,000 planets, I’ll conquer 1,000 more.” That leads to a final push that wades in power and aggression, taking us full bore into “Feast of the Lord” that begins with a rich and tasty riff that reeks of Sabbath. It’s another one that lands body shots, putting you to the test, swinging into more sullen passages that push the emotion and darkness before giving way to final wordless calls. Closer “Are You a Witch” is plodding and haunting, taking you deep into the shadows, the verses oozing oil and evil intent. The chorus digs into your bloodstream as the psychological elements increase, and some bluesy guitar work causes steam to rise and your body temperature to skyrocket. Strange speaking sends chills down your spine, the pressure mounts, and the energy gradually fades, soaking into the earth.
Spiritus Mortis continue to etch their legend as one of the finest classic doom metal bands ever to creep out of Finland (or anywhere), and key lineup changes not only didn’t derail the band, they added to the power reserve. “The Great Seal” is one hell of an adventure, a virtual lesson plan into what makes this type of music work, and why only the special bands are capable of creating something truly memorable and exceptional. This is a record that can unite longtime Sabbath fans and those still taking their first lessons in doom, as there is so much flowing nectar that everyone can be nourished.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/spiritusmortis.official
To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/en/product/spiritus-mortis-spiritus-mortis-the-great-seal/1677813
For more on the label, go here: https://svartrecords.com/en