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Doom metal mastery - 80%

Pratl1971, April 20th, 2010

Finally, someone seems to have captured Trouble’s sound to a very effective degree. In the virtual bottomless pit that is doom metal, Trouble clones are everywhere. Too bad they aren’t memorable enough to stick around. I sincerely doubt Spiritus Mortis will have that problem if the noise around them gets loud enough.

Spiritus Mortis is listed as a doom metal band, which is apt considering they are one of the better bands spitting out slow and ornery metal music. Once again, Finland graces us with one of its finer exports to date: metal. While gothic metal seems to be all the rage post-Nightwish over there, a few gems in the rough are appearing here and there to balance the scales more evenly. While not necessarily haunting or dark, the music on the band’s third full-length, The God Behind the God, is past interesting or competent and nestles somewhere between amazing and excellent, a happy medium in which to rest. For a band that has been kicking around the scene for two decades it’s time for a refresher on them and their latest effort.

Not since Great Britain’s Warning issued its masterpiece Watching From a Distance has a doom offering surprised and entertained me like this one. After a couple of vocalist changes, one of which was the stepping back of bassist and long-time singer Teemu Maijala, finding a permanent fit in the always stellar Sami Hynninen seems to have done the trick. Along the lines of a repressed or subdued Warrel Dane, his style is not overpowering, yet is strong enough to catch your attention and hold it as he bellows through tracks like “Death Bride” with incredible ease. If you might require additional proof of his prowess, just remember him as Albert Withcfinder from the underrated and amazing Reverend Bizarre, a fellow Finnish doom band. It’s so good to hear him back at the doomy microphone. Not bothering with the typical “doom” sound that currently washes itself through the current market, there are no deathly growl vocals here as Hynninen doesn’t need them, nor does the band. The simplest formula is what works.

Standout tracks include “Curved Horizon”, “Death Bride”, and “The God Behind the God”, but the CD as a whole carries in it a sinister feel without really needing to embellish the point. Especially cool is the “Heavy Drinker” track, which is something Sabbath might have attempted way back in ’69 with the first album. Tony Iommi would love that groove in there, no doubt. Also interesting is the opening track, “Man of Steel,” which is not about Superman should you be wondering…or maybe it is? Either way, it’s good and a little speedy in all the right areas.

While Candlemass often comes up in my doom reviews simply because they set a post-Sabbath standard we all have come to see as the second coming of doom, there seems to be no rip-off here with Spiritus Mortis. As usual, nothing new can be implemented in terms of stylistic modes, but adding to an already long and illustrious list of the brooding metal bands can only help the lineage if done well. I’d recommend that doom fans of all types check out the CD and see just what an incredible sub-genre it is when cared for properly.

(Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com)