(Metal on Metal 2015)
Swedish power doom trio Mortalicum have been forging their own path for a decade now. A few months ago, they released their fourth album, ‘Eyes of the Demon,’ the latest in the band’s long-term collaboration with Metal on Metal Records. It’s astonishing, and more than a bit frustrating, that a band of Mortalicum’s caliber has toiled in relative obscurity for lo these many years, even as they’ve amassed a discography that is consistently engaging, consistently inspired, and consistently well-done. Mortalicum play a brand of hard rockin’ doom that works from the classic Black Sabbath blueprint, with elements of Trouble and countrymen Grand Magus. If that sonic blend intrigues you, and it should, then read on …
The first thing you’ll likely notice on spinning ‘Eyes of the Demon’ is the scintillating collection of riffs flowing from the axe of Henrik Hogl. Sure, they’re from the Tony Iommi, Bruce Franklin / Rick Wartell school, but they don’t come across as copies even if they’ll sometimes put you in mind of something else (for example, the main riff in “Room of No Light” makes me think of Dio’s “Shame on the Night,” even though it’s certainly no rip-off). Y’know, doom gets criticized for monotony and samey-ness, but Mortalicum are such skilled artisans that they expertly vary tempos and feels, exploring the periphery as well as the heartland of the time-honored doom style. For example, opener “King of the Sun,” is raw, peppy (for doom) and urgent, and “The Dream Goes On” and “The Distant Brave,” each clocking in at 3 minutes, operate in much the same territory. The title track is a piledriving, rockin’ beast through the first two verses and initial chorus, then switches to a towering monolithic doom riff of the highest order. “Iron Star” and “Onward in Time” are epics, riding magnificent riffage for extended playing time (6 minutes for the former, 8 minutes for the latter). There’s even a gentle interlude in the form of “Mars,” which ties thematically into the ensuing “Lost Art of Living.” Mortalicum thus launch a varied attack that remains at all times firmly within the boundaries of doom, without ever getting stuck in a repetitive rut.
The vocals of Henrik Hogl are an integral part of Mortalicum’s appeal. He may not possess a huge rage, but he makes the most of what he has, delivering the vocal lines with passion, emotion and enough melody to get the job done effectively. I think of him as sounding like a cleaner, less gritty JB (Grand Magus). Then there’s the lyrics penned by bassist Patrick Backlund. Whilst most doom bands sing about evil/occult/depressive themes, Mortalicum’s lyrics have considerably more depth and substance, laden with thoughtful notions to ponder for those who dare. Take the chorus of “Onward in Time,” which includes lines like “You will never find a future in the past / Turn away from yesterday / We need to find another way.” Or “Iron Star,” which features the brilliant couplet, “Beyond the darkest night / Lies the brightest day.” Elsewhere, “King of the Sun” is about a fearsome ancient (Egyptian? Mayan?) god, and “Lost Art of Living” muses on the future of humanity from the perspective of “children of the stars” who have left Earth and colonized Mars in search of a better future.
There is a dearth of bands performing this style today, much less doing so at a high level. Mortalicum have the talent, the experience, and the know-how to convince even the most hardened critics. Come on and check out what you’ve likely been missing all these years, and give Mortalicum a listen. Their entire catalog is aces, but ‘Eyes of the Demon’ provides a most worthy starting place for the uninitiated.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~