It's no secret that Sweden is a top tier metal country. Hell, I'm reviewing this while wearing a Candlemass Nightfall t-shirt. Appropriate for the genre here, as well as the locale. Mortalicum, based out of Sundsvall, comes from an area of Sweden with very few recognizable bands. The best known is probably Setherial, who have nothing in common with the Heavy Doom that Mortalicum cook up. 2010's Progress of Doom, from a critique standpoint is a good first debut for a band which has a serious talent for welding memorable hard rock moments onto the Doom and Stoner Doom chasis which gives the band the power that would appeal to metalheads. With Progress... Mortalicum creates the vibe of a hardworking garage band that plays local bars whom everyone wishes would just get that one huge break so they could all of a sudden play to stadiums. They really epitomize everything I find endearing in great Heavy Metal, especially when it's slightly on the Doomier side. Lyrically, Mortalicum are clean and sharp and direct. You can actually belt out right along with the vocals because Henrik Högl has great inflection and pronunciation. Musically they are extremely tight, hit all the the right notes at the right times and fill down time with riffs and fills that sound like those parts NEED to be there. They conjure up similarities to a lot of bands but none so much that they sound like a worship band.
While all the tracks here are really good, it's fifth and sixth tracks which really make Progress of Doom something that deserves to take residence in many record collections. "Power and Control," absolutely undresses me, makes me sweaty and uncomfortably excited first. With a simple, yet decisively killer riff that wouldn't be far off of something on Jaguar's Power Games, the force and emotion behind the music empower a set of lyrics which are eerily similar to something I've written for a future project in the same vein. It's like these guys stole the song I wrote. That's fine because they've done a better job than something I could have done anyway. The hefty weight of a simple memorable structure, lyrics about greedy assholes that care for nothing but themselves - lyrics about people which everyone generally both hates and also has first hand experience with - and Henrik's everyman vocal quality just drives home the point that there are a lot of pissed off people that find better ways to express their frustrations than shooting up schools. This is probably the most pissed off track on the album.
Opting to keep the album on the right track, "The Voyager" follows, more in line with the jammy vibe mentioned earlier. It's got more of a modern Pentagram or Monument-era Grand Magus touch - a touch which becomes more readily apparent on the follow up album - to the movement of the track and the placement of details. Either way, "The Voyager" rocks hard and tough and nasty, even though it's a really upbeat, individualistic track. The repetition of lyrics in the track is a bit more than necessary, omitting maybe one or two of the refrains would clear up some room and breath in the song, but honestly, I've got little complaints about a song with lyrics like "From the shoulder of Orion, I have seen your wars, Fighting the endless battle, Trying to save your souls." The repetition and ease at which this song sinks into your head would make it about as good of a choice for compilations and radio play as it would be a good idea for pizza places to serve cold pizza during the summer months. The only problem with both "Power and Control," and "The Voyager," is that the tracks are so strong it leaves the final tracks vulnerable to expectations. That's exactly what happens here.
"Revolution in Vain" sounds incomplete for some reason. The foundation isn't bad. The opening riff doesn't build really at all and it leaves the song with an immediate dullness somehow. The verse riffs would fit at home on Candlemass' self titled album. Something about both "Darkness All Around" and "Inner Peace" make me feel as if these are a demo track or a scratch track or something. Backing vocals in "Darkness All Around" sound flat and out of place. Fortunately, the final ten minute culminating track "Damnation of the Soul" is a perfect solution to the end of this album, as it flows gently, yet uneasily dark from my speakers. The talents of bassist Patrick Backlund and drummer Andreas Häggström on Progress of Doom are not to be neglected though and both really round out the band's sound notably. Backlund, in particular, has a lot of clout with the band's sound. Mortalicum's debut sets them up well for their sophomore effort, The Endtime Prophecy which, I know, is excellent and also leaves them with a lot of opportunity in the future if they wanted to do a bit more of a down and dirty doom beast, as the guitars and vibe of this album is more in line with that.