Review by Fernando on November 16, 2023.
Those in the know need no introduction to Italian occult metal titans Mortuary Drape, but for those not in the know, they’re cult legends within extreme metal and are often seen as a missing link between the first and second wave of black metal. Regardless, these guys are legends, and despite some considerable time gaps between albums in the span of two decades, the band have finally released their long awaited sixth studio album Black Mirror through the extreme metal powerhouse that is Peaceville Records.
The main thing to expect from Mortuary Drape is a vintage style of black/death metal that’s very steeply rooted in classic 80’s metal akin to Mercyful Fate, and early death metal, but what makes Mortuary Drape unique is their distinct Italian musicality. Their music is of course very brutal and raw, but they have a sense of psychedelic melody and some subtle progressive leanings that evoke the music of the prog band and horror composers Goblin, and more importantly a very distinct funeral like atmosphere that’s the result of all those other elements, though Mortuary Drape don’t make frequent or extensive use of synths and keyboards beyond their 2000’s output.
All that to say that they have a sound that’s pretty much unique to them, and have gone on to inspire countless of bands that want to break away from the second wave Scandinavian black metal mold, and even after almost three decades and with frontman and founder Wildness Perversion being the only remaining original member with a long list of collaborators that have come and gone, is this new album more of the same quality Italian occult black metal, or has the band done something else?
The best thing about Mortuary Drape’s distinct sound and aesthetic is how you can easily identify it once you get into them and as such aside from hearing the improvement in production quality and the music becoming more dynamic, and for Black Mirror while the band still do what they do best, funereal black/death metal, this is also their most straightforward and refined, and their most progressive record yet, in terms of production this album is crisp and impactful, the bass and drums in particular are a major highlight, as long time member S.C. gets to shine with his meaty and complex bass lines that add to the band’s proggy and psychedelic leanings, while drummer M.T. also adds to the musical complexity, and does a damn good job at adding a dynamic rhythm to the music and without over relying on blast beats, and considering he played with prog metal band Aleph, to say he is skilled and talented would be to grossly undersell how good he is on the album.
The guitar work of D.C. and S.R. is also a major highlight, while the bass and drums do the more muscular complexity on the music, the guitars don’t slouch at all, as D.C. and S.R. get to shine with their riffs and especially their soloing, anyone who enjoys good riffs must listen to this album because D.C. and S.R. Not only satisfied, they excelled, and this is without a doubt their best guitar work in the band since they joined in 2010. And last but not least, that leaves the band’s mastermind Wildness Perversion, the man of course has unmistakable vocals, his guttural growling is as good as it ever was, and remains consistent after so long, the biggest praise I can give him is not just how he has manage to keep his vocals as intense and feral as they are, but they successfully fit with the band’s new found refinement, and he even gets to branch with some demonic chanting sprinkled throughout the album.
To conclude the best aspect of the album as a whole and what’s the biggest display of the band’s development is their more doomy and psychedelic flourishes, which is particularly strong in the second half of the album, be they bridge sections with the aforementioned demonic chanting of Wildness Perversion as heard on ‘Rattle Breath’ and ‘Nocturnal Coven’ which is also the band at their most melodic and proggy, or the dark psychedelic intros of ‘Mistress Of Sorcerer’ and ‘Fading Flowers Spell’, and best showcased in the haunting closing title track, the band truly display a knack to make dark, entrancing metal without sounding cheesy or disjointed.
Overall, Mortuary Drape continue to be an exemplary band in terms of both their legacy and their willingness to continue expanding and tinkering with their unique sound and style, which is commendable in it of itself considering that if Mortuary Drape wanted, they could stop recording music altogether since their standing is pretty much secured, but because they continue writing and recording, and taking their time doing so yields some excellent music worth listening.
Rating: 9 out of 10490
Review by Vladimir on November 14, 2023.
Last year, we were graced with the amazing EP Wisdom - Vibration – Repent by the Italian black/death metal veterans Mortuary Drape, and now fast forward to present day, lo and behold, a new album is on the horizon. On the 28th of October, three days before Hallow’s Eve, their sixth full-length album Black Mirror was unleashed into this world by Peaceville Records, to once again remind us that All The Witches Dance. Have the witches danced once again until the eve of Samhain? Let’s find out…
As we start things off with the first track 'Restless Death', you hear the creeping death slowly coming towards you with the macabre piano intro and whispering vocals that will cause shivers down your spine, until the scythe strikes with thrashing guitar riffs, d-beat drums and ghoulish vocals. This is the grand moment where the notorious evil of Mortuary Drape’s music conquers all as the cold wind blows out the candles and everything goes dark. Something that has always been the strong suite in Mortuary Drape’s songwriting is their ability to convey such black magic atmosphere unlike any other black or death metal band out there, be it due to the necromantic nature of their heavy riffs, the eeriness of the open string chords, or the vocals by Wildness Perversion which still sound as wicked as ever before. Something that really struck a chord with me on their previous EP was the brilliant cover of 'Nightmare Be Thy Name' by Mercyful Fate, and even this time you can still hear the traces of Mercyful Fate influences throughout each track in all its occult heavy metal glory aside from the black metal as the central point. Something that many people will notice about Mortuary Drape, even on Black Mirror, is that the band still remains very much musically distanced from the majority of black metal bands that incorporate the established second wave and even third wave style, which is in my opinion what always made their music great even to this day. Black Mirror certainly keeps that tradition going, even the general songwriting still manages to feel quite rich and complex despite its overall simplicity, rather than taking the “keep it simple and stupid” approach which would lead to the point where you might as well skip on the entire album because it’s so predictable or one-dimensional. If one could picture what the album feels like, it would be best described with the promo video for the sixth track 'Rattle Breath' which contains footage from the 1992 silent horror movie Häxan, where the double-bass drumming and blackened riffing goes hand in hand with the themes of occultism, devilry and black magic practice. The great thing about this album aside from the death and darkness in the music is the stylistic consistency from one track to another, where no track feels unwelcome or like a drastic departure from the rest, thus keeping the general feeling of Black Mirror on the same level from beginning all the way to its end. The highlight of Black Mirror’s stylistic consistency is the fact that it doesn't feel lackluster at any given moment, as each song goes the ball does not drop and the individual strength of each song shines. Production-wise, the album sounds very heavy and well produced for a black metal release, where the instruments such as guitars and drums sound banging all the way through, but the louder bass guitar certainly does wonders to give the album an additional dose of aggression.
Mortuary Drape has never failed me with any of their releases, and they certainly did not fail me with their new album Black Mirror. This album was definitely worth checking out and it is an absolute blast with immense vibes of nocturnal and necromantic horror that has been creeping in their music for a long time. Mortuary Drape has left their mark in the Italian metal scene and the global black metal scene in general, and Black Mirror serves a great example that they are indeed worthy of their status.
Rating: 9 out of 10490