MORTUUS – Diablerie (2022)REVIEW

Lungs opened and afire with the smoke of black henbane, temples sweating yet stilled by wormwood tea, a sepia vision eases in breach of a gratefully poisoned mind disturbed by the wilding portal of ‘fear’ that’d reveal its hidden beyond — In vacuous emptiness brought to life by floaters and restlessly glazed thoughts a wandering depth perception vacillates in translation of distinct, charismatic coda. This ending tirade appears eternal, not for the sake of dirge-und-drang being inordinate beyond the natural laws of life and death but for the sake of habitat and creature never sharing the same mind in earnest, their timelines purposefully out of sync to imbue a sense of suffering to the dependent, animalistic man as they crumble under the irrepressible and invaginating need for willful control of anything more than the ‘self’. Though we have only prepared for sorcery and misdeeds in channel of natural source with this meditation rather than acted upon them, this third full-length from eastern Swedish black metal duo Mortuus acts as goading sermon to push deeper into the realms of personalized and long-developed hidden magicks. ‘Diablerie‘ is less a hypnosis demonstrated and more a steady exasperation of the will, a corrosive streaming set of four curses, devastations set direct to ear without any particularly pleasing, audience-directed performative aspect.

Formed in Umeå circa 2003 adjacent to vocalist, guitarist, and bassist J. Kvarnbrink‘s exit from Ofermod and drummer M. Hinze‘s stint in Ondskapt this duo’s intent has largely been fabled as part of the variously regarded “orthodox” black metal movement which no longer bears any serious explanation nowadays beyond specific Satanic themes and perhaps guitar techniques being common within various spheres of influence in the first post-millennial decade. The uh, likely marketing driven emphasis within journalism surrounding the band’s early works revolves around the idea of death worship as an earnest spiritual practice, which can be interpreted either in the Orwellian sense or simply in terms of early second wave black metal derived mentality with serious Satanic (or related) belief as central theme or muse; I’d always assumed this group’s focus was relevant to the Draconian current and personal practicum to some degree but I’d rather wonder than know direct spiritual answers in any case.

More importantly the somewhat original, gloomed-over sound and patently steady mid-pacing presented by the duo on their self-titled debut 7″ (‘Mortuus‘, 2005) landed quite well next to their kin during a period of explosive notoriety for their label The Ajna Offensive, causing a lot of anticipation for their eventual debut full-length at the time. ‘De Contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie Laboribus ac Adorationis‘ (2007) did not disappoint in terms of delivering a direct continuation of the songcraft and style found on their first EP, an doomed creation fraught with morbid presence, ascetically divined detail and a droning affect which has held up well in the years since. It is perhaps their best known release and ultimately set the bar high for subsequent releases, which have been spaced out to one album per 6-8 years since. The feeling of that first album, its mood and pacing specifically, was left largely undisturbed for their second record (‘Grape of the Vine‘, 2014) which is my personal favorite release from the group thanks to a bit more ringing dissonance here and there, an ideal album artwork, and a beautiful treatment of the collective guitar tone which rang enormously resonant. ‘Diablerie‘ is comparatively wide-open spaced, plenty of breathing room for choral synth and rollicking sinister beats to witness in resound, the intent being a live in studio or, more in-person rendering without any glaring sense of studio thickened essence. With this in mind we can receive this third album while unfortunately letting go of the ‘warmed to the point of madness’ aura of the previous record and anticipating a stark-yet-kicking coldest ghastliness as the new symptom expressed today.

The general obsession with the finer acts of this generation of black metal artist on my part stems from songwriters whom are (or, were) able to consistently anticipate and subvert the usual audience reaction, having heard it all themselves and placed their own curvature ‘ready one step ahead of the typical classicist listener. Not all, or many, acts are so aware of their demographic and are simply writing for themselves rather than ramping up in ambition yet a presupposed cleverness of craft is the high standard expected, in this sense Mortuus have a good idea worth repeating today, now in deeper exploration of tonal ambiance and subtle guitar voicing. Though they have few directly comparable stylistic peers in contemporary black metal due to their disinterest in normative heavy metal movements and the usual atmospheric black metal voicing, ‘Diablerie‘ still bears their signature doomed lilt but, eh, now in an (again) droning aspect, a certain mental nausea of repetition and organically fed movement deployed by a reserved hand. The effect is not going to outright impress a lot of first-time listeners whom aren’t sure what to expect from Mortuus specifically, as the run-on fragmentary nature of certain phrasing can stretch a full ten minutes with too-subtle melodic motif wherein only the mood is crystal clearly set. This is particularly notable within opener “Threefold Harrowing of Hell”, a piece which simply ‘happens’ without an involved ear to feed back into it, yet there is some reward for appreciating these gracefully uncomplicated motions on their own terms.

With hardly a half-second breath, the kick into “Diablerie” serves a reminder of what these folks have been notable for since their first record, albeit without any sort of abrasive sound design to skull the listener with beyond commanding vocals shouted downward. The guitar arrangements on this piece in particular imply a classic Scandinavian black metal shape and trailing, ominous statement in its creeping glory. You won’t find the harried bursts of groups like Flagellant and Celestial Bloodshed here but Mortuus are still speaking a similar language minus any particularly forceful chord hammered upon. The spell intensifies as the resonance of each piece becomes additive to the experience as a whole with the tracklist reaching its moodiest most ‘black metal’ souled apex in the groaning, miserable “In Graves Remote Even the Worthless Have a Meaning”. This is where I’d direct listeners seeking the new sort of mastery an artist is presumed to have achieved in the space of 7-8 years of development, the build up to the spoken/chanted section ~4 minutes in being one of the best Mortuus have served to date from my point of view.

Diablerie‘ is everything this Swedish black metal project is known for and yet it isn’t a big, boldly threshing riff album, nor is it the complete atmospheric fixation that their previous two albums were despite being altogether similar in render and style. As such it is hard to make a case for a new Mortuus album unless the listener is already at least generally in the know per their intentions and familiar with their style notes throughout the years. What matters on my end as a listener is that the mood is thick, palpably set outside of time and howling its curse into a darkest void (see: “Furnace of Sleep”) by way of an unique rhythmic verve and lead guitar voicing. What was not obviate to start does ultimately reveal itself in the full listen and in this sense Mortuus have impressed on par with their past releases. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):W.T.C. Productions
RELEASE DATE:May 13th, 2022

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