Mormânt De Snagov – Depths Below Space and Existence (2018) REVIEW

Turku based Finnish black metal band Mormânt De Snagov have always been high-functioning melodic black metal starting with their 2010 debut ‘Rise from the Void’ displaying an incredible sense of fluidity typically reserved for progressive metal bands as they alternately hailed the mid-maturation stages of Satyricon and Mayhem with confidence. If you can imagine how much Mayhem changed between ‘Grand Declaration of War’ and ‘Chimera’ you’ll understand how Mormânt De Snagov had taken a bold step on their 2013 sophomore release ‘Derisive Philosopy‘ which retained their signature fluidity and re-imagined their melodic black metal sound into a norm-trashing technical black metal record with plenty of death metal aggression. The deathly chaos and melodic precision created an album of peaks and valleys of interest that was ambitious but never disjointed. That same level of care has been taken on their third album ‘Depths Below Space and Existence’ both in terms of taking another step outside of the box of expectation and into a unique blend of melodic black and progressive death metal.

Graphic design is entirely subjective and while I understand I’m not the sharpest eye on the block, I have an instinctive reaction to album art. It plays a huge part in inspiring me to listen to a band that is new to me. I’ve avoided plenty of great death and black metal bands in the past because of a weird name or a non-serious/cheap album cover. The hardest pills to swallow were perhaps: Carcariass, a brilliant tech-death/thrash band who had a dumb band name and some bad artwork, and Hieronymus Bosch whose tapes were not only ugly but were basically savagely un-mixed demos. Interestingly enough I get hints of each band in ‘Depths Below Space and Existence’. If I can warm up to those two stellar underground progressive death metal bands and see past their ugly album art then I can absolutely do the same for Mormânt De Snagov with their odd name and peculiar ‘better from far away’ album art. Of course this only really applies to marketing to a fool like me, so who gives a shit? My point here is that there can often be deep pools of awesome music hidden by silly names and blah visuals, such as Grizzly Butts.

The first thing that came to mind when I fired up ‘Depths Below Space and Existence’ was Slovakian prog-death metal band Apoplexy and their scratched out semi-melodic tech death album ‘Tears of the Unborn’. The guitar tone and some of the riffs have the same structural influence from Death’s progressive death metal era and each takes feeling from that sort of ‘riff-jammed’ formation of guitar lines and voids all of the hurried drumming. Needless to say Mormânt De Snagov have retained the progressive black/death vision of ‘Derisive Philosophy’ but given bolder strides of technical and progressive death metal influences while amping up their long running melodic black metal threads. The black metallic guitar work has been light restructured into some careful dips into post-metal informed guitar work, at once resembling influence from late 90’s extreme metal and slithering into modern guitar methodology. The central black metal snarl is still there though he stretches himself as the loudest, central instrument on “Battle Neverending” and obliterates the track’s softer moments.

Leaving ‘Depths Below Space and Existence’ on repeat roughly three times in a row was the definite point where I rediscovered their talent for flow and compositions that unfold slowly over re-examination. The way the end of final track easily loops with the intro is a small touch that illustrates the importance of understanding how people actually listen to extreme metal and how to get them to keep listening to your record. “Never Speak Aloud” is structurally relevant to “Resist” as one statement creates a ‘riff-language’ that evolves with each newly introduced element. As a result the second half of the record isn’t wholly redundant and the first half isn’t front-loaded with interest. I will say I generally did not like “Battle Neverending” and largely because it felt like a smarmy melodeath ‘ballad’ and was sandwiched between my two favorite tracks “You’re Next” and “Stories Untold” both of which have a sort of prog-black/melo-Anata feeling. “Writhe Infinite” is very notable here as it exemplifies the band’s excellence within ‘Nemesis Divina’-esque black metal, melodic death, and full-bore death growling dramatics. It is easily the strongest overall statement on the album for my taste.

Records like ‘Depths Below Space and Existence’ do run the risk of appearing like black/death mush upon first impression but Mormânt De Snagov have created enough accessible interest and variation to make the second, third, fourth and beyond listens continually interesting as they blend second wave black metal, melodic black metal, and progressive death metal. If you’re looking for tracks to preview absolutely try “Stories Untold” and “Writhe Infinite” first and go for a full listen after that.

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Artist Mormânt De Snagov
Type Album
Released February 16, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow Mormânt de Snagov on Facebook
Genres

Independent minds will reign. 3.5/5.0

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