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Momento Mori (2004)
 

Mordant formed in Sweden back in 1997. After releasing a couple demos and the Suicide Slaughter E.P., they finally got around to recording a full-length album in 2004. Released on Agonia Records, Momento Mori is a surprising slab of old school Black Metal that places them alongside the likes of Aura Noir, Desaster and especially Nifelheim, in keeping the ancient flame burning.

From the very beginning, it is evident that Mordant is firmly rooted in the spirit of the 80s underground scene. They play a very primitive style of music, and this album sounds as if it could have easily been released 15 or 16 years earlier. The songwriting is bereft of any real traces of modernity, which is a very positive thing. The arrangements sound very natural and nothing is out of place. With a variety of tempo changes, they do enough to keep things interesting while also maintaining a sense of uniformity. The songs are filled with memorable guitar riffs and vocal sections, from the refrain of the title track to the eerie solo in the middle of "Necrophiliacs from Darkness of Hell".

The production suits the style perfectly, being quite raw yet clear enough for the full scope of their creativity to be appreciated. For some, this may be considered demo quality, but this is exactly what this type of music should sound like. It's not overdone, yet it's not grating on the ears, either. The focus is primarily on the guitars, which is right where it should be. The vocal delivery is also in the rougher, old school style, being very harsh and not smooth or processed like so many modern bands seem to prefer. They are placed high enough in the mix for their effect to be fully felt, and add a lot to the atmosphere. There is a strain of desperation that permeates many lines, such as the refrain from "Right Hand of Lucifer". This approach adds so much to the feeling that is being conveyed, and lends a sense of purity to the whole affair.

As much as I like this band, it is impossible to ignore the fact that, at times, they sound just like Nifelheim. The overall style is pretty much the same and especially the way they utilize the creepy lead solos and guitar harmonies, such as the intro to "Message to Devastate". It gets to a point where one has to wonder if they simply share the same influences, or if they are drawing this inspiration from Nifelheim, themselves. I'm not one to claim that all bands have to be adding something entirely unique, as there is a strong necessity for maintaining traditions within Black Metal, and it's not as if there are 200 bands that sound just like this, these days. All in all, they do an excellent job with the style they've chosen to implement and I wish I'd known of the existence of Momento Mori during the lengthy break between Nifelheim's Servants of Darkness and Envoy of Lucifer. To be fair, Mordant displays a little less of an old Bathory influence, with more Thrash in its place.

In the end, this album proves that there is still quality music being released, though in relative obscurity. It seems that, for the most part, the only good new releases are those that carry on the legacy of the past. Pick this up and listen at full volume!
 
(13 Dec. 2010)

 
 

Mordant's sophomore record, Black Evil Master, was released in November 2011 and was the first L.P. to come from this band since 2004's Momento Mori. Despite offering up a very solid album, firmly entrenched in '80s Speed and Black Metal, the band was plagued by line-up troubles and just could not get things off the ground. Following the Back from Hell demo, it seemed as if Mordant would finally pick up from where they left off, yet they soon fell silent again. By 2010, after years of setbacks, the band rose from the grave to begin working on their second album.

From the very beginning of Black Evil Master, it is clear that Mordant sought not only to make up for lost time but also to improve upon what came before. The songwriting shows even more '80s influences, with riffs that are reminiscent of Motörhead, Venom and Bathory, while also injecting dark and nocturnal melodies that remind one fellow Swedes such as Necrophobic, Watain and especially Nifelheim. The latter appears to be an extremely strong inspiration for Mordant, with a lot of the same type of lead melodies and just the overall approach. Musically, this is a very strong record and each song stands on its own, quite well. It is full of memorable riffs and vocal patterns, as well. Just one listen is enough for songs like the title track and "Total Inferno" to become embedded in your brain. An ominous and haunting atmosphere is present, throughout the entire album. This is aided, as well, by the vocals, which are sort of distant and raspy. The style suits the music very well, hearkening back to the First Wave of Black Metal. The same can be said of the songwriting, itself, which is a good combination of Black and Speed Metal, showing a good amount of intensity and passion in the execution. There are no blast beats and the songs rarely get up to such a speed that would necessitate them, anyway. The tempo varies, over the course of the album, with the fastest parts never exceeding that which would be commonly found on early '80s releases.

The production is not as harsh as one might imagine, based on some of the descriptions. Everything is rather clear and the sound enables the pure nocturnal atmosphere to consume the listener. Despite all of the old school influences, this sounds closer to Necrophobic's Death To All, as opposed to the recent output of Power From Hell. That said, the mix is just right and the levels are where they need to be. Being someone that really prefers guitar-driven albums, I might suggest that the drums be lowered a slight bit, but that is more of a personal preference and does not really affect the end result. The guitars are certainly loud enough to dominate the record, which allows all of the excellent riffs to be heard quite clearly. The guitar tone is thinner than on the previous album, which works better within the context of the music. Even the bass is more audible than some would expect, but mostly during the slower parts. The vocals are just loud enough to be heard well, without going over-the-top and distracting from the music.

The lyrics are purely Satanic and seem to be kind of primitive, more in line with the old school bands than their more introspective peers. This is actually a good thing, as it is a lot more suitable than the whole trend of bands that delve so deeply into Judeo-Christian nonsense is very tiring. The more straightforward approach of being possessed by the Dark Lord and raping angels is enough to show disdain for the Great Lie without confusing listeners. Many modern bands seem more into the idea of impressing others by showing off how many countless hours they have wasted by studying Judeo-Christian mythology. Mordant takes an approach that some may think of as less intelligent, but it is actually more fitting to the overall musical style and presentation of the record.

Black Evil Master is a great album of Black / Speed Metal, highly recommended to fans of the old First Wave bands as well as the likes of Nifelheim and Necrophobic. It combines old school riffs and arrangements with brilliant melodies that embody the darkness of the night and create a feeling of primitive evil. If Mordant is able to follow up on this, they just may build enough momentum to become as well-known as many of their Swedish brethren. If you liked Momento Mori, you will enjoy this even more. Get this now.
 
(21 Dec. 2011)

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