Sonus Mortis - Propaganda Dream Sequence - (8.5/10)
Published on March 21, 2014
There are two surprises listening to Sonus Mortis’ debut album Propaganda Dream Sequence. One is that this symphonic death metal with so many elements and instruments is the work of just one man. The second is that man, Kevin Byrne, is not from Italy, Finland, Germany or Greece, but Ireland. Hardly a country known for its symphonic death metal, but maybe that’s about to change…
Kevin was previously bassist with Irish melodic death band Valediction. I’m not sure what led to the radical transition from lowly bassist to multi-talented one-man band, but I’m rather glad it happened.
This is probably closest in sound to bands like Rotting Christ and Septicflesh; there are clear differences, but these make as good a reference point as any. At times the sound becomes quite dark, at others it strays into more doomy territory, but most of all it is excellent symphonic death metal.
Although never sounding like a full orchestra playing, as bands like Therion can on occasion, there are various symphonic elements throughout the album, such as violin, piano and keyboard. These instruments often create a sound that feels like a film score, but it blends seamlessly with the heavier, more typical death metal sounds.
There is also variation in the vocals used. There’s terrific deep growling, with occasionally intelligible lyrics, as well as great clean, slightly hushed singing. But that’s not all – there are also more wailed growls and other clean vocal styles. The guitar work is another highlight. While there are no solos as such, there are some nice leads, evident on tracks such as “Automated Future” and “Decompression Countdown”.
Another plus point is that unlike many other albums of the genre, there’s no need for a pointless ‘intro’ track here; yes, there are atmospheric keyboards at the start, but they flow perfectly into bruising drums and guitar and only add to the enjoyment of the first track. It’s good, and it stays that way. Byrne is not only a great musician, but also an accomplished songwriter and sustains the quality throughout the album. The lyrics and song titles might create a sense of gloom, the music does quite the opposite.
In terms of highlights, I could point to most of the tracks here. However, “Automated Future” is possibly a cut above the rest and is a good place to start.
“Scolecophagous” is slightly frustrating – it comes ever so close to being a classic of the genre, bringing many of the diverse elements of Sonus Mortis’ sound together superbly, but the solitary piano at the end of the track just goes on for too long and loses some of the impact of the song. It’s a minor misfire though; only the difference between a great song and a fantastic one and it’s still one of my favourite songs of 2014 so far.
Incidentally, “Scolecophagous” means “the eating of worms”. Which is nice.
The only other slightly negative point is the length. The album does go on for a long time and while the quality rarely dips, it could be a little shorter and is probably best digested in chunks. Having said all that, the shortest tracks, i.e. those under or around 3 minutes, are the most ordinary and there’s very little fat that could be trimmed anywhere else.
Any gripes are almost insignificant, as there’s not a bad song on this album. Kevin Byrne has done a splendid job on his debut solo release. I know there are plenty of one-man extreme metal bands out there, but this is probably the most impressive I’ve heard.
A remarkable achievement.