08 Sep 2023 - Knut
Signal Rex | Release date: 08 Sep 2023 | Favorite song: La Fé Impura De Un Futuro Envuelto En Llamas
The Spanish black metallers Morta climb up from the underground´s undercurrent flow of Black Metal bands to drag themselves along in the murky terrain of the scene with a vitriolic and sinister release reaching back to the roots of the second wave of Black Metal. It is a mesmerizing 38-minute whirl into the cold (war) world of classic Scandinavian Black Metal.
It is not the first time we have heard from the Barcelonians. They released an EP three years ago as a trio. Now they have become a quartet disgorging their nihilistic and slightly minimalistic music on the Black Metal congregation. 41 years after Venom´s Black Metal and 36 years after Mayhem´s Deathcrush, Morta shows us that Black Metal is very vigorous with this feral release.
The album opens with two minutes of dark ambient with the track”Requiem Por Una España Fragmentada” lamenting a fragmented nation if we decode the title correctly. The requiem is performed by a dissonant wild choir that intensifies towards the end to lead up to ”La Caída De Los Infieles”. This second song sucks you into their cold world of dense and fast repetitive arpeggios with hard-hitting static drums. Here we are at the core of Morta´s take on the genre: the arpeggios and the often lo-fi blasting snare drum could easily suck the air out of the music and make it a boring stereotype. But this is not the case here, the structures are intense and fast and almost without air, but there are always subtle changes in the tonality, in the way the music flows. And just when the harsh vocals erupt, as the music opens up a bit, it underlines the desperate anger and frustration while it spews out the words. I only wish the promo had come with a lyric sheet because both the titles of the songs and the singing make me sure there are some interesting things in there to reflect on.
Throughout the album, the screeching howls from the vocalist sometimes remind you of harsh winds blowing toward you, and in between there are fierce shrieks. The vocalist has quite a range as it levitates from screams and harsh growling to harsh bursts filled with rage and despair. Fused with the dense guitars, drums and bass this is dark, it is cold and it radiates straightforward Black Metal aesthetics. In between the vicious attacks, the bass takes hold of the melodic theme and tries to penetrate the relentless arpeggios.
A short bursting screech from a guitar opens ”La Fé Impura De Un Futuro Envuelto En Llamas” before the onslaught of the dense guitars. At a point short after the start there is a kind of pause as the music widens a bit. The tightness is being released and lets in a whiff of Death Metal from the guitars. The slower drumming and bass follow before a surge back to Black Metal with blast beats and howls and shrieks sounding like someone who is engulfed in flames. There are repetitive parts shifting between faster and slower strokes on the guitars with vocals sometimes in deep growls as the arpeggios surge further. The freezing cold sensation of the sound is lifted by the rhythm section until a sudden halt where the guitar soars in solitary with the dense riffs until the vocals and rhythm section are back to drive the music forward.
This is, in my opinion, how true Black Metal should be performed. Hold back nothing, mesmerize and drag the listener into your desperate and nihilistic worldview, and hold the audience there with relentless riffs, blast drums, and a bass that lays an intense foundation. On ”Estigia” this is done to perfection as the bass holds some kind of melodic sense under the tumultuous music. It is underlining the ebbing and flowing of the music while the harsh windy in-your-face vocals race forward, the riffing guitars rage onward as the bass goes through tidal waves in the middle. This song shows: there are not only relentless blasting snare drums in their music. The drumming is much more diverse than that and using this mode in the music helps to release some of the tensions.
And as with other songs, subtle changes in modulation keep the music from being too monotonous, but still retaining the repetitive aspects we expect from Black Metal. The last half of this song is extremely captive as there is only the occasional hit on the snare drum while the bass gives the drive to the swirling arpeggios. It all crashes in the end echoing out to nowhere - maybe soaring over the river Styx.
The album ends with the instrumental ”Transustanciación Diabólica” that opens with hammering drums and fast riffs and bass lines that drive on at the bottom. The tight close to airless drive is there, but then it opens up with a breather as the guitars hold long seductive riffs until it morphs together again with the impressive speed of the bass and the drums set in blast mode. A great way to end a stirring album.