Friday, November 15, 2013

Mortalicum - The Endtime Prophecy

On the heels of 2010's Progress of Doom, Sweden's Mortalicum respond with The Endtime Prophecy, which, for the most part, carries on in the same style and feel as their doomy debut. With this second album, Mortalicum seem to have increased their consistency significantly with several standout tracks and very little let down. While the band's clear influences and sound are the same as on their debut, bands like Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General and Pentagram, what I like is the similarity to bands like Acrimony, Mountain and Nazareth. Another close comparison would be to Pagan Altar but Mortalicum don't quite have as much depth or complexity yet.  The band simply strengthens and rounds out their overall sound here, which says a lot about their direction, considering their first album was really quite good. Most bands consciously look to improve but most fail totally, not making headway on the actual problems inherent in their music. Mortalicum, however, seem to have approached The Endtime Prophecy, focusing on the things that they needed to fix or learned from their debut. Henrik Högl and Patrick Backlund still are the most notable characters here though drummer Andreas Häggström and second guitarist Mikael Engström are no slouches. The whole foursome has created an really excellent release.

Something I don't usually find much to discuss are the lyrics and there is improvement on this front from the debut which was nowhere near terrible but had some moments of frivolity. Considering - once more - the purity at which Henrik's vocals are offered, the content of his words are immensely important to the enjoyment of the album. One of the standout aspects here is how personal the lyrics are, something borrowed from the band's hard rock influence more than their metal influences. Straight from the opening track, "My Dying Soul" - one of my favorites on the album - there is a feeling that Henrik is writing an album meant to speak to others. Everyone is emphasizing with each other through a distance of unknowns. Strangers comforting strangers but you don't feel like a stranger afterwards, you feel like Mortalicum cares. It's the lamest way of describing the feeling of listening to these tracks but, it's appropriate. "I am reaching for something to hold on to but the sorrow is true," or "I have worked my fingers to the bone and my heart is heavy like a stone. Reflecting on the past I have seen a true revelation within." Going through some shit personally the past few weeks, "Ballad of a Sorrorwful Man," has hit pretty hard and seemed to be the perfect description of my emotions lately. Maybe it's one of those times when life and music join for a reason greater than simply being enjoyable music.

Mortalicum have improved on the pacing with this album greatly. We still have rather average song lengths of about four and a half minutes but The Endtime Prophecy runs like an athlete compared to Progress of Doom which ran more like an oiled hog on a treadmill. Noticeable is the alternation of the more upbeat and memorable from the more hard-hitting deeper doom tracks. Opener "My Dying Soul," the title track - which rests nicely in the three-spot  - and "Devil's Hand," completes this trilogy of sitting at the prime number spots on the album. Following the pattern though, seventh track, "Ballad of a Sorrowful Man," feels right at home after the harder "Dark Night." It's obvious nod to Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" helps prepare for the longer "Embracing Our Doom" which rounds out the real content of the release. While these are the stronger tracks, and sit better with the overall hard rock / traditional doom style that Mortalicum does so well the harder hitting tracks are much more memorable and fitting than on Progress of Doom. The alternating is fascinating to me because there are listeners out there which might like these prime-number tracks and not the even-numbered tracks.

The alternation makes the album listenable even if you don't exactly like the heavier tracks. Why you wouldn't like those tracks is beyond me though... Starting the even numbered batch is "Revelation Within," which drives cleanly through it's rounds. Högl soars on these tracks similarly to the prime tracks (collective term for tracks one, three, five and seven) but over the harder chugging riffs and heavier progressions he sounds right at home still. Fourth track, "When Hell Freezes Over" is a slower crawling mass that stomps on a pile of groovy legs that makes the shoulders hunch and the neck slowly tense. Wah-drenched guitars laid under the chorus are evident and tie the track back to the psychedelic influences of Sabbath and Acrimony, early Cathedral too. "Dark Night" also is excellent at the sixth spot. The heavier tracks all still have choruses on par with the more up beat tracks, and while it helps the consistency of the album, it also, I feel, my hinder the album from having a single real undeniably anvil-to-the-cranium-heavy, diamond encrusted granite hardened pure doom wallop.

But yeah! Really great album from these guys. If you really like your Traditional Doom, this is a band that seems to be heading in the proper direction with each release. I'm expecting some really great stuff on the next release. Mortalicum have their head - and more important their hearts - in the right spaces it seems. I feel confident that this would end up on my best of list for 2013 releases if I had to put one together. Metal on Metal has a great act here with Mortalicum and I'll be eyeing these guys down for a long time to come. There are not a lot of bands out there that are putting out albums of this consistency and quality. High marks here.

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