“Misere Morten”, sorry – “Mortem”, is a brand new full-length from one of the seemingly most hard-working musicians in the Norwegian Goth Metal scene – Morten Veland. Does the adjective “hard-working” mean that his efforts are attractive and engaging? Well, not necessarily. Frankly speaking, after the former TRISTANIA member recorded his brilliant debut with SIRENIA (“At Sixes And Sevens”), every following piece from Morten’s new group was something of a disappointment in my view. The music was like an ultimate example of clichéd Goth Metal including catchy, though trite, melodies, sweet female vocals, bombastic passages and the sound polished as much as possible. Thus, it was not without scepticism that I started listening to the one-man band MORTEMIA.
At first sight it is difficult not to see the obvious similarities to Morten’s musical past. These are simply overwhelming and one could actually start wondering why the guy is establishing and promoting a new band. The catchiness typical for SIRENIA releases and the choir/classical music arrangements, which I associate more with TRISTANIA-era are the trademarks of “Misere Mortem”. At least the listener do not have to experience any female sugar vocals here, which actually is the main difference if we take all Morten’s bands into account. The vocal layers are built on a blend of growls, some shrieks (at times really brutal) and choir singing – nihil novi, as the Latin phrase says, yet this idea has been carried out very well by the Norwegian and his fellow French classical singers. The choir lines consist of nice melodies supported most clearly by the synthesizer section, which seems to give room to the guitars in the rawer vocal fragments done by Morten. The latter instrument bears unsurprisingly the distorted sound one can hear on so many Goth Metal releases and it is rather seldom that the guitars gain on big power or generate a riff, which would make one think “wow, this was great”. As a matter of fact, apart from some solos in the songs like “The Wheel Of Fire” or “The Vile Bringer Of Selfdestructive Thoughts” there are not many things that would deserve special attention in this department. As for the synths, they do contribute to the music being spatial and somewhat epic but actually the final effect might have been much better with a real orchestra. If mixed properly with the rest, these orchestral additions would surely grant “Misere Mortem” a more organic touch and power.
Talking of which, I have already mentioned the polished production of Morten’s SIRENIA albums and the things have not changed even for a bit here. Such warm and somewhat plastic sounds suit classical influenced Goth Metal very good, but on the other hand it would not hurt to try out something different in this matter. In the front we have the choir, orchestral arrangements and a bit in the back there is a space for the guitars and the rhythm section so that the album does not sound too aggressive and each bit of this puzzle is well-balanced with the others.
It is rather doubtful that MORTEMIA will turn out to be a big success in the Goth Metal world as there are too many things here that make the project similar to SIRENIA or (in lower degree) early TRISTANIA, which simultaneously might be considered as Veland’s lack of fresh ideas. On the other hand, I have to say that the new compositions are of better quality than the ones the musician has been coining for the purposes of most SIRENIA albums. “Misere Mortem” is surely a good thing for Goth Metal fans who are never tired of good, catchy melodies and certain arrangements no matter how many times these have already been emerging. Those more discriminating listeners will probably prefer some of Morten’s earlier deeds.
(Online May 31, 2010)