MAMORLIS – Sturdy As An Oak (2022)REVIEW

Six tales of warriors, conquerors and debauchery outside of time await! Medieval fantasy stratagem by the hand of a feral axe-slinger, a bushrangers tormented legend, valiant defenders of the hall, battles fought and victims savaged — Ravished in unspeakable ways! A quick reference to the lyrics beset upon all by way of this second full-length from Portland, Oregon-based heavy metal quartet Mamorlis reads as the deep-set and well dug recesses of the fantasy fiction obssessed mind. ‘Sturdy as an Oak‘ pulls from worlds unknown to most (or, forgotten to time) in coloring the magickal traditional heavy metal rollick and thundering they’ve managed herein. It is a rousing journey highlighted by brilliant performances, lively movement and the sharp-eared restraint of a band fully awakened within their sophomore release.

Formed in 2016 between members of doom metal groups Cryptic Edifice and Crimson Altar, the original idea for Mamorlis seemed to evolve out of the dissolution of the former. Their stylistic intent seemed to revolve around the sound of early-to-mid 80’s United States power/heavy metal and its natural extension into epic heavy/doom metal to start… an approach which we could essentially describe as today’s true traditional heavy metal scenery glom in a nutshell but, think of something a bit more active a la ‘Ancient Dreams‘ or early Memento Mori with a of Slough Feg gallop around the edges, hearty and storming heavy stuff. Wailing chorales and chest-hauled Messiah Marcolin-worthy vibrato from vocalist/drummer Alex Noce left a strong first impression on the band’s debut ‘Mamorlis‘ back in 2019, a ballsy and heavy-rocking set of songs that bore a bit of Liebling-esque doom metal swagger under its breath. As it was self-released alongside a cassette from a small French label I’d missed Mamorlis‘ debut but the juxtaposition of then and now has been impressive as the band now leans into a more direct-to-the-point style of heavy metal and focuses on telling tall tales of demented and/or inspiring forgotten worlds.

Whether you are a fan of late 80’s computer games, 70’s pulp fantasy films, or the novels that likely inspired each there is a bevvy of reference primed for fantasy fiction goons (who’re likely in their thirties or forties) within the lyrics of ‘Sturdy as an Oak‘. “Wolfric the Wild” breaks the ice with a bit of an ode to the character in the cinematic C64 game Defender of the Crown (1986) of the same name, a fellow who was honestly not great at jousting but otherwise intimidating in his campaign. The song itself sports galloping movement of early Lord Weird at thier most inspired rhythmic shanties taking a few slick slides into the piratical evolution of early Maiden via the strong-armed rhythms of 80’s Running Wild as its verses rapid fire. This song alone was enough on my part, I was sold on their sound right away and thankfully the rest of the album has much more to say and do as we find heroic bloodshed of a different kind with “Salamandastron” which acts as an ode to Brian Jacques‘ Redwall series “Salamandastron”. With an organ grinding out its major motif to start in glorious fanfare the song seems to detail the battles and major events of the book in question which follows Badger Lord Urthstripe the Strong in a particularly bloody conflict with weasel-kind. The anthropomorphic medieval fantasy series should be a serious source of nostalgia for anyone who was a nerd-ass kid in the early 90’s, as it came highly recommended in young adult fiction, but was probably a bit more hardcore than today’s soft-balled standards. Anyhow, as you can see I spent some time alternating between nerding out on the references to fiction and simply enjoying the style of heavy metal they were playing.

We get more pronounced rhythmic jaunt and melodicism on “The Kurgan”, a reference to the original Highlander (1986) film’s antagonist. Bass guitar performances from Brian Rush (Ænigmatum) have at at this point in the album become major phrasing/highlight for each of these songs and this song had been the one where I’d first take notice. A strong hit of Australian (by way of Ireland) folk melody bookends “Over the Border” which references Mad Dog Morgan (1976), an Australian film/novel about a fellow plagued by his own legend, as this more traditional heavy metal side of the band further develops away from the doom influenced swing of their previous album. Though I want to avoid a complete track-by-track here I have to mention the grand finale of “Journeys of Acquisition/Gor” an eleven and a half minute epic in reference to the extensive “sword and planet” sci-fi fantasy novella series Chronicles of Gor from John Norman, an ‘adult fantasy’ chronology which has produced over thirty five volumes since 1966. They’ve kicked the song off with a keyboard/synth opening entirely fitting of the subject matter, a merging of medieval minds and faraway set debauchery and philander by folks jettisoned off to the cosmos by magic rings. The extended intro does wonders for making this a fine last hurrah for the album and the incorporation of synth into the song itself offers some refreshing new touches to their sound, introducing new ideas nearby the end and leaving me wanting a bit more with each listen.

Mamorlis have put out the sort of record that wouldn’t be possible without some meaningful symposium of folks, who’ve all got their own branding irons forged separately, joining forces in shaping an idea that includes their touch. ‘Sturdy as an Oak‘ is an adventure which reeks of its own whimsical yet dogged traditional heavy metal character because its craft has some experience and professionalism supporting the bigger ideas and well-focused presentation sported. The running order is beautifully slung and the balance of classicist epic heavy metal timbre with muscular hall-shaking thump lands as if dreamed up from a pile of classic LPs, big box computer games, and a room full of well-creased high fantasy novels. Exactly my sort of gig when it comes to traditional heavy metal. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Sturdy as an Oak
LABEL(S):Self-Released [CD]
Cursed Ritual Records [CS]
RELEASE DATE:March 8th, 2022

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