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Mortis Dei (1996)

Hailing from the US, Forest of Impaled was a lesser-known band that started in the early '90s. Though they later went on to play a mixed style of music, they began their career playing pure black metal. These guys were part of the wave of bands that came along in the middle of the decade, taking cues from the music that was slowly making its way across the Atlantic. Released in 1996, the Mortis Dei E.P. is probably their most listenable work.

The material is rather average, if one is truthful about it. The thing that makes this most interesting is the fact that the band is American, since that lowers the standards quite a bit. Compared to the likes of Judas Iscariot, this is quite an amazing release. The music is played in the northern style, with strong influences from the Swedish scene. This is most obvious in the somewhat melodic sense of the guitar riffs. However, make no mistake, this is not pretty by any means. Throughout the five tracks presented here, the band does well to create a grim, nocturnal feeling. Many of the melodies are rather unorthodox, with odd timing that is likely to throw you off. This is most evident in "Beckoning Midnight Dreams" and "Mystic Sight of the Infernal Horde". Despite varying paces that are found, this mini-album consists almost solely of tremolo melodies. The vocals are fairly typical, with a raw and hateful sound, but nothing that would make the vocalist stand out from his contemporaries. The only real complaint here would be the drumming, as there is often a bit too much going on. It never gets completely out of hand, but the guy could certainly have kept things a little more simple, without affecting the music. There are also a couple points where some very low-key synth appears, just to accentuate the atmosphere, and it is done pretty well.

This E.P. has a really good sound to it, as the production is clear and seems to be about the same quality as many of the full-length albums that were coming out around the same time, back in Europe. One would almost think the music had been recorded in the Old World, as the production is similar to that obtained by the likes of Cardinal Sin, Vinterland and others that were releasing music in 1996. The guitar tone is cold and possesses a sharp edge, really enabling the riffs to have the maximum effect. Unlike most American recordings, the production does not favour the low-end and one does not have to worry about a thick and warm sound, here. The only thing that could stand to be changed might be the percussion, which might have benefited from being a little lower in the mix just to ensure that the drummer's hyperactivity does not distract. The double bass is particularly noticeable, much like on Immortal's Pure Holocaust and Blizzard Beasts.

Mortis Dei is a very solid release that features very solid songwriting and tight playing, bereft of the sort of mistakes and inadequacies that one might expect from a US black metal record, around this time. It is filled with memorable riffs and each song possesses an identity of its own. As well, the style of music is pure and not corrupted by the usual American tendencies to slip into death metal. This material has a very strong Scandinavian influence and could easily be mistaken for a Swedish band. It is not entirely clear whether or not this E.P. is all that essential, as it is sort of average by European standards, yet it is very impressive when put alongside Judas Iscariot or even Absu. Either way, this is definitely worth giving a chance.
(7 Oct. 2012)

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