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Mortem Atra – A Dark Lament

Mortem Atra
A Dark Lament
by Santiago Puyol at 06 January 2020, 9:26 PM

Coming from Limassol, Cyprus, MORTEM ATRA is a Melodic Death Metal band with Doom, Symphonic, Gothic and Alternative elements in their music. "A Dark Lament" is a vaguely conceptual work that presents several characters going through different emotions, moods and experiences, sometimes related to mental health issues (depression, obsession, identity crisis), sometimes with a penchant for the evil and the occult.

"Prologue" functions as an introduction into the world the album portrays, the thread that ties together this 10-song record. Theatrical, heavily electronic and percussive battle music functions as a tapestry for a dramatic spoken word. The music feels straight out of an action film. It leads perfectly into the tense "Frozen Illusion," a song filled with tasteful guitar work from Marios Gavrielides and Valantis Paulou. Synthesized strings contribute to the melodramatic feel, while Takis Gorestoned shines with abrasive growling.

A melancholic music box ostinato introduces the very best track of the album, "The Puppet." The music box melody keeps playing underneath distorted verses, keeping a vulnerable aura infused into the song. An exercise in tension and release, the heavy verses get an exquisite counterpoint into the beautiful piano-led chorus where Chris Papadjiakou layered soft vocals almost lulls the listener into a mournful trance.

"A Voice" lets its subtle alternative influences come upfront, mixed with more symphonic and theatrical elements. Another vulnerable chorus provides great contrast to the vocals, while the guitarists make the most of another technically impressive solo.

A little rambling from Antonis Papas’ drums evolves into a nasty groove on "Evil Rise" while Papadjiakou contributes more symphonic synth work throughout the track. Despite staying in a comfortable zone for a while, three minutes in comes an exciting instrumental breakdown, followed by a dark shift in mood. Evil rises for sure on the second half of the song.

"Hymn of Doom" comes next, living up to its titled with slow chugging guitars and a groovy bassline courtesy of Aris Ioannou. The Doom Metal influences of the band appear clearer than before in one of the slowest tracks of the album. A noisy solo cuts through the gloom, adding a palpable despair.

"In Superstitious Breath" brings back the melodrama with sinister clean guitars and theatrical synths. Clean vocals by Gorestoned come as a surprise this late on "A Dark Lament" and certainly add a timeless feel to the song. Its melody goes vaguely Middle Eastern, and everything climaxes on a heavier note, with haunting, deep and anguished growls.

Alternative and Gothic influences resurface on both "Mirror" and "Harmful Obsession.” The former gets full-on power ballad for most of its length, being extremely vulnerable; Papadjiakou’s vocals and piano playing contrast with Gorestoned’s desperate growls. The latter happens to be a lovely symphonic duet, with sinister and dizzying guitars, that ends up morphing into a crushing finale. The transition from clean vocals to growls is expertly done; a perfect example of the band’s clever songwriting.

"Depressed" is a powerful closer filled with sentiment. Inspired by real life tragedy and as a homage to those fighting against cancer, this makes for a powerful, honest and emotionally exposed finale. Gorestoned’s choice not to use harsh vocals somehow makes it even more compelling. The songwriting seems to take a note or two from the best of 1990s-era METALLICA.

I could do with a little less compression when it comes to production considering how dynamic the record can be. Still, everything feels crisply clean when it needs to and rawer when the music asks for it, so it is a minor complaint.

Mortem Atra deliver an emotionally exhausting record, but also a vital one. Its darkness and openness make for a difficult but rewarding experience, especially if you are on the right mood and paying attention to the concept. Lyrics are interesting but never too complicated, which works to the band’s favour.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. A Dark Lament Prologue
2. Frozen Illusion
3. The Puppet
4. A Voice
5. Evil Rise
6. Hymn of Doom
7. In Superstitious Breath
8. Mirror
9. Harmful Obsession
10. Depressed
Lineup:
Takis Gorestoned – Vocals
Chris Papadjiakou – Keyboards & Vocals
Marios Gavrielides – Guitars
Valantis Paulou – Guitars
Aris Ioannou – Bass
Antonis Pappas – Drums
Record Label: Pitch Black Records
     


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