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This is what black metal should aspire to - 90%

Abominatrix, December 1st, 2003

In the early 80s, Mercyful Fate created a particularly vicious, well-played, very melodious style of metal that was full of great riffs, yet somehow managed to be evil as fuck. These days, surprisingly few black metal bands still adhere to Mercyful Fate's ideology of music making. Yes, it's great to have a raw and simple approach to create dark and evil moods, but it is very possible to convey oppressively (or exultantly) satanic atmospheres through a celebration of metal's roots and a love of accomplished musicianship and skill, so long as the band doesn't sacrifice that feeling of morbid blackness for the sake of virtuosity. Very few modern bands can do this, and those that do seem almost never mentioned when the subject of black metal is brought up.

The fact that barely anyone seems to know who Mortuary Drape are, though they've been around since 1986 (granted, they didn't produce an album until several years later), is perplexing and shows what little regard for musical and ideological integrity and intelligence the purveyors of this scene (mostly record labels, I suppose) really have. But then, perhaps Mortuary Drape are content with their very small fan base. I suspect not, though. This album was originally released on Nazguls Eerie productions, but there were some disagreements surrounding the release and as a result the band and label parted on bad terms and this album ended up not really getting the promotion and recognition it deserved (not that any of Mortuary Drape's albums did). There is a reissue floating around though, which is the one I am about to review. I strongly urge everyone who reads this and thinks they might be at all interested to track down anything you can find by this band. They deserve your support.

What we have here is a brand of black metal that is free of most of the modern trappings associated with the genre, yet isn't exactly a throwback in any way. Mortuary Drape have always walked their own path, and you might say that if Mercyful Fate had been the biggest influence on modern BM, rather than Bathory, more bands might have reached MD's evolutionary level. Solid, midpaced to fast riffs, precise and creative drumming (the way this guy uses the cymbals is amazing) and reverberating, deep and strong growls leading the incantations of necromancy and obscure occult subjects that are this band's main lyrical drive. Each song contains many devious hooks and patterns that will force the listener to take heed, whether they consist of catchy vocal phrasings, subtle bass tricks or what I call the quinteuplet riff that is sort of the trademark on this album. The latter style of riffing pops up in a good many of the songs, and sounds great, though it may be a little overused. it's basically a single palm muted note or chord, a short rest and then a rapidly picked series of five of the same note or chord. It's like the much flaunted "thrash triplet" times two, or something. after a while one sort of becomes desensitized to the power of these riffs, since they're flying at the listener with such regularity, but luckily, Mortuary Drape have a lot of other tricks up their sleeves. Each song includes some well played solos, some of which have a really oddball sound to them but most of which are just pure heavy metal. As with all other Mortuary Drape releases, the bass work of Wildness Perversion is quite prominent, though it's not nearly as loud as it was on the previous album, the equally excellent "All the Witches Dance". Perhaps the only real flaw is in the recording, which gives the drums a nice loud attack but seems to relegate the guitar a bit too far to the back of the mix. The production does serve the vocals well though, as they sound absolutely commanding.

"Obsessed By Necromancy" starts off the album, and it is a good track, though not one of my favourites. This trend of starting out the album on a somewhat less than great note would continue onto the next record. However, the positive side of this is that if one finds himself drawn in by this first track, which isn't too hard given the powerful nature of this music, the album only seems to get better as it progresses. Anyway, "Obsessed by necromancy" does feature the first appearance of the Quintuplet Riff ™ and a nice melodic solo toward the end, but it's "Wandering Spirits" that really picks things up. A slow, brooding opening passage (MD really likes doing those), which explodes with a guitar shriek into whipping thrash riff propelled by ferocious drumming. The instrumental section in this song is great, possessing an almost NWOBHM feel to it before diving into a vaguely folky sounding bit that is sort of reminiscent of Japan's Sabbat. "Necromancer" is yet another highlight. I think this track originally appeared on their "Doom Returns" demo from 1989. The song is given a new twist though, and a real nasty groove and catchy chorus, in which you can hear a very quiet keyboard playing an eerie, probably horror inspired melody. These little subtle twists are one of the things I love most about this band. Whereas lesser artists might try to bolster atmosphere with sickly sweet, overly symphonic synthesizers, or theatrical vocals, MD just does it. no ridiculous flair, no flourish…just a perfect juxtaposition of metal power and occult vibe. One gets the feeling that Wildness Perversion and whoever happens to be in the band at the time (they seem to have had a crazy amount of lineup changes) really are confident in what they do and write music chiefly for themselves, and a few understanding individuals, which is really the way it should be.

"Secret Sudaria" is an ambient intro for "Cycle of Horror", which, along with "Malediction", is probably the most evil sounding piece on the album. We get loads more of that quintuplet riffing, creepy leadwork and craftily used background keyboards. As for "malediction"…this one just has to be heard. I'll just say that it has one of the most chilling climaxes and endings I've heard in a long, long while.

So basically, I absolutely recommend this to anyone who can get into metal with extreme vocals, and enjoys some genuinely twisted, esoteric atmospheres. This is monumental, and although I'm not sure I like it as much as the band's follow-up release, it's a little less experimental and strange and seems to incorporate all of the best things about these Italian black metal gods.