Mortem are among two handfuls of extant bands still versed in the art of riff-based death metal. No synthetic asides are to be found in their oeuvre; mood and atmosphere are instead created through perpetual motion, and an innate aversion to stagnation. Deinós Nekrómantis is grim, occult, and tempered, but at no time do these attributes seem to be the band’s concerted mission statement. Rather they are a natural emanation of what the Mortem collective perceive and know true death metal, and indeed metal at large, to be. As such, there is an innocence – dubious though the usage may be in this context – about this music; Mortem are most patently unconcerned with ongoing happenings in the genre, couldn’t care less about thumb-twiddling debates over musical evolution, but much like an artist assured of his craft, continue refining the palette at their disposal. One does not accuse a classical composer of not being innovative enough; that which is to be savored is found in the core components themselves. Mortem, to me, are classical death metal composers in the most righteous sense of the word.
A previous post had alluded to the theatrical propensity behind Mortem‘s music. These ideas – the dramatic nature of the music, the perpetual will to motion as an emanation of the musical ensemble’s collective will, and surety of conviction – all tie in together as indispensable parts of what makes the Mortem identity. When I want to draw parallels between storied, spiritual works of the Western canon by writers like Dante, Milton, and Bunyan, and metal, it is not bands with extravagant horn sections and spoken segues that my mind turns to; rather it is bands like old Morbid Angel and Mortem that are guaranteed to invoke that comparison. Here’s the thing: when the music is truly potent, the well-acquainted listener is perfectly capable of making the necessary associations without having them explicitly spelled out for him. Insinuation is abstract by definition; just like how organic stimuli while sleeping give the mind impetus to conjure associated dream-images, musical insinuation plants the germ of an idea in the listener’s consciousness, trusting him to nurture it and bring it to full accomplishment.
Mortem get this and it’s what makes them a poignant band. Deinós Nekrómantis, like previous albums, is steeped in early metal tradition, so those with a distaste for conventional metal techniques in death metal will find something to criticize here. Influences from Slayer are ubiquitious, so are certain Rigor Mortis mannerisms, but, really, Mortem are one of a kind when it comes to assembling their occasional homages into a distinctly evocative experience. When metal writers talk of how death metal borrowed the narrative proclivities of progressive rock while dismissing its bloat, and then combined those progressive tendencies with the riff-as-virus nature of traditional heavy metal, it is a band like Mortem that they are referring to. Seen in this light, the musical, and literary, possibilities open to the acute death metal practitioner seem practically endless.