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Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera (2004)

Mortifera began as a concept within the mind of Noktu, which was only realized once Celestia was (temporarily) put on ice. Rising from the same scene that had long before produced such bands as Mütiilation and Vlad Tepes, Mortifera does well to carry on the same tradition of bleak, melancholic black metal. This is despite the fact that its creator goes against the earliest tenets of the sub-genre, going for a more personal approach that focuses more on negativity rather than Satanism or even the slightest hints of anti-Christian sentiment. However one chooses to look at the beliefs and concepts behind the band, at least they did not fall into the same trap as Deathspell Omega, being consumed by Judeo-Christian mythology on their 2004 effort Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice. Released in October of that same year, Mortifera's debut album, Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera, creates a miserable atmosphere that one can hardly bear.

The album begins with “Fvrahgments”, an instrumental track that starts with clean guitars that convey the a sombre feeling. As the distorted guitars slowly fade in, one gets experiences a sensation not unlike being dragged into a horrible nightmare. The riffs are primitive and hearken back to the days of the LLN, though not quite sounding like a carbon-copy. The woeful bass lines are clearly audible, adding another dimension to the music. As the song progresses, the atmosphere darkens even more, setting the tone for the rest of the album.

The first proper track is “La Revenant”, opening with fast tremolo melodies and blasting drums. This takes the listener on a bridge back to the early-to-mid '90s, with the raw guitar sound doing well to give the material the edge that it needs to really have the most effect. Beyond the depressing riffs, the main thing that one might notice would be Noktu's vocals. His anguished screams seem to be the product of intense sorrow and being force-fed shards of broken glass. Though the riffing style never changes, throughout the song, the drumming gets more relaxed, at certain points. This helps place more emphasis on the gloomy vibe being established by the melodies. There is a clean section, near the middle, though this should not be a turn-off of any kind, as it suits the overall composition.

“A Last Breath Before Extinction” possesses a slightly more ominous tone, with slower drumming underneath the fast-picked guitar melodies. The structure of the song is somewhat reminiscent of Strid, as well as the sort of miserably negative feelings that it conveys. The vocals are not as over-the-top, but still on the more grim side of things. It is obvious that this is an extension of what the French Black Legions began, a decade earlier. The song crawls at a morbid pace, extinguishing all signs of life and hope, leaving nothing but despair in its wake. It is fairly repetitive, but this only serves better to enhance the aura. Ending with a clean guitar section, the song fades into nothingness as you realize just how alone you are in this world.

The next song, “Epilogue D'une Existence de Cryssthal”, is an instrumental interlude that features only an acoustic guitar. It repeats the same few chords, more or less, for three minutes. As a stand-alone track, it is not very strong, but works well within the context of the album. It kind of builds on the desolate feeling that was present at the conclusion of the previous tune.

“Ciel Brouillé” is a mid-paced track that takes its lyrics from Baudelaire's 'Les fleurs du mal'. Noktu's vocals take on a more tortured sound, as heard on the first song. Something about this music manages to reach in and connect with the most horrible thing that we each harbour within ourselves, bringing it all to the surface and amplifying it tenfold. The material seems to be somewhat more melodic, coming off as less raw at times. The vocals really make this, though. That is not to discount the actual guitar melodies, but only to give credit to the great job that was done. So many times, vocalist try to imitate what Varg Vikernes did on the old Burzum albums, only to fail. Noktu's approach is something different, almost bearing similarities to the early work of Tomas Lindberg, mixing it with his own hideous voice. Regardless of influences, it meshes well with the songwriting and production to create something truly miserable.

This song is followed by “Abstrbve Negabvtiyon Rebssurectyion”, which almost sounds upbeat by comparison. The tempo is a little more lively and varied. The atmosphere is rather calming, as opposed to the oppressive aura of the previous tracks. The latter half is a bit more bleak, but still nothing like what came before. Not even the sombre whispers could add enough gloom to combat the black hole of negativity that encompassed the first half of the L.P. That said, this is still a memorable track and features some decent riffs. In some ways, it is a good thing to have at least one song that offers a little bit of a break. The minimal contrast actually helps demonstrate just how mournful the earlier pieces were.

“Aux Confins Des Tenebrss” is an outro of sorts, closing out the original material. It is reminiscent of early Katatonia, with the clean guitar, weeping bass and the downtempo drumming. It is an instrumental, more or less, though some shrieks of torment are included for good measure.

The final offering on this album is a cover of “Fruits of a Tragic End”, originally by Noktu's primary band Celestia. Somewhat odd that it was not included on that band's debut full-length. Either way, it features much of the same, though there is a somewhat more primitive feeling to the songwriting, and one could easily imagine one of the LLN bands recording this, several years earlier.

Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera does well to combine various melancholic elements to create black metal with a particularly desolate and hopeless character. Mortifera builds upon the foundation created by the founding fathers of the Second Wave, as well as those mentally ill members of the French underground of the previous decade), successfully crafting an L.P. that is consumed by raw suffering. It may be slightly more melodic that the output of bands like Black Murder or Mütiilation, but the same dark and gloomy feeling is present at its core. 
(16 Apr. 2012)

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