Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mortifera - Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera. 84/100.

I’ve always been weary of romantic art. Whether its film, literature or music, the romantic genre has to be very unique in order to appeal to me and the idea of enjoying a romanticised music entity is almost unthinkable to me. I’m a lover of all things dark and depressive, especially when it comes to the various art forms. Even elements of art like paintings, or photography, they have to consist of dark themes in order to appeal to me unless they have an outstanding element of natural beauty that deserves praise regardless. When I came across Alcest for the first time with ‘Le Secret’, the idea of enjoying romantic music didn’t seem like such an odd idea after all. Though I do consider Mortifera to have some of that romantic idealisation within their structures, the band seems to enjoy enabling contrasting sounds to work together in harmony to astounding affects. Obviously, the sound of the band is inspired heavily by Neige. The vocals, the guitars, almost everything about the projection, today at least, screams Neige influence. The man has his fingers in many pies, but before he became a figurehead of lush black metal, his ideas were something of a novelty amongst black metal circles.

Given the fact that the French are known for being romantic people, living in a romanticised country, bands like this probably shouldn’t surprise outsiders, but they do. Its not often that black metal and romance are associated unless we’re discussing older generations of black metal and how they themselves are romantically idealised by fans for being somewhat better than they were. There is an irony that exists within Mortifera’s projection however and that is because the band, apparently, considers their music to be a form of depressive black metal and whilst I can buy into this to some degree, I wouldn’t necessarily associate it with the majority of depressive bands as Mortifera’s sound is in stark contrast to the vast amounts of bands that exist within this overused sub-genre. Elements of the guitar work definitely fit the bill for depressive black metal, but there is enough variation within the soundscapes, a la ‘Epologue D'une Existence De Cyrssthal’, to suggest that there is a lot more to this band than initially meets the eye. ‘Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera’, the debut and only full-length record from the band who are now on hold for the foreseeable future, is a piece that defies the depressive restraints and seemingly takes influence from elsewhere in its attempt to rid the scene of cries of repetition and a lack of creativity.

Even the instrumental song, ‘Epologue D'une Existence De Cyrssthal’, suggests that Mortifera could have gone on to be one of the leading bands within this field if they had stuck around and if Neige had stayed on. This acoustically driven instrumental song is as lush as black metal gets though, strictly, it wouldn’t fall into the black metal category if it were not on the record as it takes influence from neo-folk music. Elements like this remind me, somewhat, of early Ulver records when they meshed black metal and acoustic folk together to fulfill a purpose of divinity. Its in songs like this that gives Mortifera a wide range of comparisons. People have likened the beauty of this song, and the rest of the music, to bands like Opeth and again, Ulver’s early works and this is an indication of how wonderful black metal can become when you attach an edge to it that doesn’t necessarily seem to fit with its harsh remnants in the grand scheme of things. When it comes to the best songs on the record, ‘La Revenant’ and ‘Ciel Brouille’, the Alcest method of shoegaze meets black metal on the epically tragic romantic tale of ‘Le Secret’ becomes clear once again.

Unfortunately, though these aforementioned songs may be amongst the best that depressive black metal has to offer, given the Neige influence on proceedings (its difficult to escape his influence on this bands sound), there are moments when the transition from the Alcest driven soundscapes, towards a depressive black metal conclusion are lost in the haze of the shoegazing guitars as they monotonously overpower the other elements. These elements include the unusual whispered vocals that offer only a small impact upon the melancholic melodies of the instrumentation and the uninspiring guitar work on efforts like ‘Abstrbve Negabvtiyon Rebssurectyion’. The record even ends with a Celestia cover, which seems rather pointless given the associations and ties to the band that Mortifera has. If they were ever going to include covers on future records, if there are any, I would hope that these songs would come from bands that aren’t associated to this one as then would we have more of an indication as to how solidly Mortifera’s musicianship can be given the fact that they would be operating out of their comfort zone. Despite the worthlessness of some minor moments, the record operates tirelessly within brilliant structures that are reminiscent to ‘Le Secret’ on songs like the lavish and luscious ‘La Revenant’ where Neige’s vocals are at their best once again with his distinctive screams of desolation amidst striking beauty. With a perfectly attuned production style, the clean and harsh elements of this majestic piece make this an instant hit.

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