Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mortalicum - Tears From The Grave

Some argue there is a total lack of good metal being put out and refuse to listen to anything beyond their frame of reference as to when "good metal" ended. They're undeniably wrong. How many people can you think of that refuse to listen to anything beyond 198? Luckily for me, Mortalicum, for their past two albums have been a beacon of quality in a now-saturated market of Doom Metal and Traditional Doom. While many bands barely manage a single good song on with a release, Mortalicum have been able to put out entire albums of powerful Doom and Heavy Metal without flinching. Their new album is no different. Tears From The Grave picks up at the same spot where The Endtime Prophecy left off. What is noticeable about Tears From The Grave is how Mortalicum have slowed down yet again. Much like the drop in speed between Progress Of Doom and The Endtime Prophecy, yet again the material slows down just a tad bit more. While there are a couple of faster tracks, for the majority of this albums run-time, we're moving at the speed of snail. It's not a problem though, in combination with the turndown in speed, there is a decisive jamminess and garage-rock feel to these songs. Songs like the title track move through long sessions of solos and instrumental parts like a garage band rehearsing riffs to find the perfect take. Opening the album we get a big ole "Yeah!" from guitarist / vocalist Henrik Högl.

I would put it like this: if The Endtime Prophecy were Pentagram, then Tears From The Grave would be Day of Reckoning. It's a different vibe, a more relaxed feel in sound and production. Perhaps Patrick Backlund's very noticeable bass on this record draws out that smoothness and fluidity. The clarity is excellent and the production and mixing are superbly done but Henrik's vocals can at times be pushed too far back in the mix and taking the backseat, especially in songs like "Spirits Of The Dead" and "The Passage." Even so, with the great separation between instruments, it's astounding how 'together' Mortalicum sound on this release. They fill in the record really well and something as minor and unnoticeable for most listeners won't affect the overall effect this album should have. Andreas Häggström's drums are very natural sounding, with little done their overall timbre. The kick drum is particularly massive and the cymbals are bright. The clarity is very noticeable during moments of harmony and leads. Each note can be the focus of attention.

Highlights for me are very definite, as they had been on Mortalicum's previous two albums. "The Endless Sacrifice" is a top-quality starter with a huge memorable intro riff and resounding  chorus. It's very similar as a starter on this album as "Guiding Star" was on Progress of Doom - starting us off very doomy and primes the album. "I Dream Of Dying," other than being another of those-cult-classic in the making tracks, shows Mortalicum sweeping through one of the grandest instrumental sections of their catalog yet. Both screaming leads, solos and a mellowed out Sabbathesque transitional section akin to the middle of "Damnation of the Soul" off Progress of Doom are expertly paired together like a fine wine and entrée. "I Am Sin" is also a huge track, though once again mid-tempo, moments impress a sense of urgency and energy. The verse riffs end with bluesy guitar runs. Sweeping choruses once again appear here also. In addition, the lyrics across the album are generally well written as well and worth some time. "The Passage"'s are particularly of interest to me, as we've all contemplated our own demise and the life beyond. The subject matter in the other songs is also similar but each song focuses on something a little different, the angles and perspectives shedding different light on death, dying, being dead, laying in coffins and other funerary interests. It's standard fare, yes. But it's done really well and with heart.

This is a strong album. Tears From The Grave is confident in itself and it's contents. While there are comparisons that can be made, it really doesn't need them to be enjoyable, or described and I'd expect less name-dropping of similar bands and groups from reviewers that take the time to listen deeply to this album. While The Endtime Prophecy may be a slightly better album overall, with Tears From The Grave, Mortalicum have honed their sound ever-so-slightly without losing ground with their penchant for excellently composed songs and memorable moments. It's easy to feel the weight of Mortalicum here both through the instrumental material as well as the subject matter. You can get the feeling that these are three guys from a down out in bumblefuck Sweden that live dark and morose lives but In reality, this is a band of three genuinely nice guys that can really pump out some quality heavy doom that is dark, thoughtful and engaging.

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