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On the heels of 2010's Progress of Doom, Sweden's Mortalicum respond with The Endtime Prophecy, which, for the most part, carries on in the same style and feel as their doomy debut. With this second album, Mortalicum seem to have increased their consistency significantly with several standout tracks and very little let down. While the band's clear influences and sound are the same as on their debut, bands like Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General and Pentagram, what I like is the similarity to bands like Acrimony, Mountain and Nazareth. Another close comparison would be to Pagan Altar but Mortalicum don't quite have as much depth or complexity yet. The band simply strengthens and rounds out their overall sound here, which says a lot about their direction, considering their first album was really quite good. Most bands consciously look to improve but most fail totally, not making headway on the actual problems inherent in their music. Mortalicum, however, seem to have approached The Endtime Prophecy, focusing on the things that they needed to fix or learned from their debut. Henrik Högl and Patrick Backlund still are the most notable characters here though drummer Andreas Häggström and second guitarist Mikael Engström are no slouches. The whole foursome has created an really excellent release.
Something I don't usually find much to discuss are the lyrics and there is improvement on this front from the debut which was nowhere near terrible but had some moments of frivolity. Considering - once more - the purity at which Henrik's vocals are offered, the content of his words are immensely important to the enjoyment of the album. One of the standout aspects here is how personal the lyrics are, something borrowed from the band's hard rock influence more than their metal influences. Straight from the opening track, "My Dying Soul" - one of my favorites on the album - there is a feeling that Henrik is writing an album meant to speak to others. Everyone is emphasizing with each other through a distance of unknowns. Strangers comforting strangers but you don't feel like a stranger afterwards, you feel like Mortalicum cares. It's the lamest way of describing the feeling of listening to these tracks but, it's appropriate. "I am reaching for something to hold on to but the sorrow is true," or "I have worked my fingers to the bone and my heart is heavy like a stone. Reflecting on the past I have seen a true revelation within." Going through some shit personally the past few weeks, "Ballad of a Sorrorwful Man," has hit pretty hard and seemed to be the perfect description of my emotions lately. Maybe it's one of those times when life and music join for a reason greater than simply being enjoyable music.
Mortalicum have improved on the pacing with this album greatly. We still have rather average song lengths of about four and a half minutes but The Endtime Prophecy runs like an athlete compared to Progress of Doom which ran more like an oiled hog on a treadmill. Noticeable is the alternation of the more upbeat and memorable from the more hard-hitting deeper doom tracks. Opener "My Dying Soul," the title track - which rests nicely in the three-spot - and "Devil's Hand," completes this trilogy of sitting at the prime number spots on the album. Following the pattern though, seventh track, "Ballad of a Sorrowful Man," feels right at home after the harder "Dark Night." It's obvious nod to Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" helps prepare for the longer "Embracing Our Doom" which rounds out the real content of the release. While these are the stronger tracks, and sit better with the overall hard rock / traditional doom style that Mortalicum does so well the harder hitting tracks are much more memorable and fitting than on Progress of Doom. The alternating is fascinating to me because there are listeners out there which might like these prime-number tracks and not the even-numbered tracks.
The alternation makes the album listenable even if you don't exactly like the heavier tracks. Why you wouldn't like those tracks is beyond me though... Starting the even numbered batch is "Revelation Within," which drives cleanly through it's rounds. Högl soars on these tracks similarly to the prime tracks (collective term for tracks one, three, five and seven) but over the harder chugging riffs and heavier progressions he sounds right at home still. Fourth track, "When Hell Freezes Over" is a slower crawling mass that stomps on a pile of groovy legs that makes the shoulders hunch and the neck slowly tense. Wah-drenched guitars laid under the chorus are evident and tie the track back to the psychedelic influences of Sabbath and Acrimony, early Cathedral too. "Dark Night" also is excellent at the sixth spot. The heavier tracks all still have choruses on par with the more up beat tracks, and while it helps the consistency of the album, it also, I feel, my hinder the album from having a single real undeniably anvil-to-the-cranium-heavy, diamond encrusted granite hardened pure doom wallop.
But yeah! Really great album from these guys. If you really like your Traditional Doom, this is a band that seems to be heading in the proper direction with each release. I'm expecting some really great stuff on the next release. Mortalicum have their head - and more important their hearts - in the right spaces it seems. I feel confident that this would end up on my best of list for 2013 releases if I had to put one together. Metal on Metal has a great act here with Mortalicum and I'll be eyeing these guys down for a long time to come. There are not a lot of bands out there that are putting out albums of this consistency and quality. High marks here.
Originally written for Contaminated Tones.
Wow. That's really the only word that comes to mind here. I loved this album. There is nothing quite like a good, hard-rocking doom metal album to pick you up in the morning. That is exactly what this is. Instead of the sometimes plodding, slow-paced doom metal, this is somewhat fast-paced and definitely infectious. It reminds me more of groups like Cirith Ungol and some of Reverend Bizarre's more upbeat stuff such as "Doom Over the World".
"My Dying Soul" immediately kicks things off with a hard-driving riff. Once vocalist Henrik Hogl comes in with his crooning voice, it is evident that this is going to be a powerful album. The vocals are the biggest bright spot on this album. They definitely attract the most attention. The guitar tone on this album is incredible. It is beefy and somewhat bluesy and it fits in very well with the vocals. Many of the tracks have kind of the same structure. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part many of the songs are alike, which is not at all a bad thing here because the songs are so entertaining.
This is not really an album for doom metal lovers. While there is doom metal riffs present, the music is faster and more upbeat. This is more geared towards lovers of traditional heavy metal. The band brings a lot to the table in songwriting and musical talent. There is not a single weak track on the entire album. This is a very good album and possibly one of the year's best.
Now, I'm exceedingly content with the bands Sweden is mustering today. There's a wide range of death metal barbarians whom precede to pen songs with the aesthetics of their primal countrymen and forefathers, a score of traditional heavy metal acts, who, actually don't even sound like throwbacks even though rehash the monumental, mournful tendencies of Mercyful Fate and Maiden, dozens of metal variants who all excel in their own territory, and finally, great number of heavy/doom bands, who, I think was born of the lower, more down tuned and despairing branch of the already common heavy metal treeline, leading to a prodigious array of bands that amalgamate the semi-drowning tendencies of the Mercyful Fate worship with hunky, monolithic guitars, and drowsy, trudging dynamics. Mortalicum are one these so called congealments, fusing heavy and doom together, and adding kicky rock n' roll spice to get things pumping.
Mortalicum are chiefly a hard-rocking heavy metal aspect, but their style is always reminiscent of some less ponderous doom, especially when the bands decides to travel by the light of mid-paced riffs. The hard rock element is really quite an interesting element to throw in because, there always seems to be grooving slam and unavoidable catchiness in the music, and with these bluesy overtones gulping up more than half of the album's brazen inclinations, much of the music is invigorated with a bright, gleaming flame, and thus, deep, suffocating doom sequences scarcely stomp. One other thing that boasts the eloquent propensity and efficiency of the record is the hefty tone. Well, it's not exactly as corpulent or dabbling as a funeral doom tone, but the band has worked out a sublime, bulky heft with semi-bluesy undertones and a strong 70's Black Sabbath vibe underpinning its monotony, so the tone works both as an indulgent implement and a somewhat ponderous narrator.
The riffs aside, there are obviously other things on this album that makes it as good as it is; the vocals being the most momentous. Henrik Högl's vocals are immense, even more megalithic than the guitar stream going under it, and he travels proficiently in high and low notes both, and especially in ''Ballad Of Sorrowful Man'' he exceeds and raises the point of poignancy to a new, escalated level, aplomb and secure with talent and experience. ''The Endtime Prophecy'' has its flaws of course, one being the subtle repetitiveness of the riffs. Yes, even though they have a brisk and catchy efficiency, if you behold their anatomy they really have few traits worth praising, and even fewer that stand out. This, comes from the singular focus on the heft of the tone and the delivery of the highlighted vocals, and therefore the album becomes devoid of variation and proper punishment (though I doubt that was their purpose) through its potent, visceral guitar barrages. Ultimately, though, Mortalicum did a very solid job here, and fans of heavy metal, traditional doom or bluesy metal in general should give this a try for sure.
When Hell Freezes Over
Ballad Of A Sorrowful Man
Now this one is pretty damn cool. Mortalicum are a Swedish act who plays a style of Doom Metal laced with a massive dose of hard rocking Heavy Metal. It’s clear the band bow down at the altar of Black Sabbath, with the guitarist in particular having studied the Tony Iommi handbook cover to cover, however the band also can draw comparisons to acts as diverse as Candlemass, Terra Firma and I sometimes find myself reminded of occult acts such as Blood Ceremony or The Devil's Blood.
The first thing that struck me on The Endtime Prophecy was the massive, fuzzy guitar tone. I’d say it was definitely equal parts traditional Doom and Stoner Doom. The second thing that struck me was how bloody good the singer is. Henrik Högl is a true talent, with excellent delivery and tone. He absolutely owns this album, although never at the expense of the rest of the band. Speaking of which, there are some mega tasty riffs to chow down on here, they take a lot from the 70’s greats and they’re almost always fun, and bouncy. The bass slaps a thick low end right across said riffs, and are backed up via a solid drum battery.
I feel that the appeal in The Endtime Prophecy” lies further to the side of traditional Heavy Metal, and I’d definitely say mileage could well vary for the more wizened doomster. The singing style coupled with the nature of the riffs detracts from dark atmosphere often associated with Doom Metal, and whilst some of the lyrical themes might be dark, it doesn’t bleed through the music. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the music contained is enjoyable - and there’s undoubted Sabbithism’s across the board – I just feel if the album bled a darker atmosphere it could have been a touch better.
For the most part Mortalicum have delivered a quality sophomore album, and I’m finding it difficult to level much in the way of complaints. If you like good old fashioned Heavy Metal with a splattering of Doom then I’d suggest you pick up The Endtime Prophecy. With stupendous numbers such as “Devil’s Hand”, “Ballad of a Sorrowful Man” (yeah, that’s right I’m naming a ballad as a highlight) and the giant riff buffet served up in “Embracing Our Doom” you can’t really go wrong. Plenty of cross-over appeal here, a solid release. Recommended!
Originally written for http://www.metal-observer.com
Sweden has a history of producing these heavy/doom metal throwbacks which use the clean, melodic vocal arrangements. Not that 'throwback' is meant as an insult, per se, since in many ways the 90s and 21st century have seen the genre expand in its array of possibilities. But I mention the vocals in the case of Mortalicum's sophomore The Endtime Prophecy because they proved a hindrance to my ultimate enjoyment of the album, and what otherwise might have been a decent Iommi-rooted riff fest was rendered somewhat average despite the obvious literacy the band has for the 70s and 80s sounds of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and so forth.
Now, before anyone gets angry, let me state that I don't actually think Henrik Högl has a bad voice at all. He hits his notes well enough, his phrasing is fine, it's just that I don't find a lot of character in it that I want attached to this style. Comparable Swedish singers like JB Christoffersson (Grand Magus, Spiritual Beggars) or Christian Lindersson (Lord Vicar, Count Raven) have a lot more intricacy, or a haunting nature to their pipes that I was really missing as I listened through this. In fact, I'd say that Henrik reminded me a lot of multi-instrumentalist/producer Dan Swanö when he's doing his clean tones in bands like Nightingale, and it just doesn't lend itself much of a heavy personality to the music. So, the vocals of The Endtime Prophecy aren't quite hack or talentless, they just don't further the experience with the crushing edge I seek out of doom metal, even that which is as accessible as Mortalicum in general.
As for its production, the album is good and loud with clear guitars and bumping bass-lines that definitely land it at that crossroads between modern tone and 70s aesthetics. Groups like Spiritual Beggars and Terra Firma make for apt comparisons in the songs' dedication to grooves and straight, classic metal, but I also heard some clear influence via Trouble ("Dark Night") or The Obsessed ("Embracing Our Doom"). I rather like the subtle atmospheric touches throughout the record like the distant choirs that inaugurate "Embracing..." or the acoustic outro "The End", in which Henrik's vocals actually seem to match up far better with the music, but these only represent a minority of moments. The remainder of the album consists of pure, driving hard rock/doom played at mid to slightly slower paces, with only a handful of guitar patterns that really stand out. It's hardly ominous, soul drudging or particularly aggressive in nature, but neither was it incompetent or poorly written.