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Sonus Mortis – Hold This Mortal Coil

Sonus Mortis
Hold This Mortal Coil
by Gary Hernandez at 08 January 2020, 3:29 PM

SONUS MORTIS is Kevin Byrne. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Byrne launched the Symphonic Death Metal project in 2013. On January 20, 2020 he will release his fourth full-length album, “Hold This Mortal Coil.” The album, musically and lyrically, is a rich study of the unfolding/evolution of mankind from vacuous and meaningless discord into the endless stillness and silence of death. While the album is outwardly focused on the transformative power of death, it also provides some stark social commentary about the state of the world. I mean when you reach the point where your position becomes “well, let’s just let death sweep in and clean the slate,” your faith in mankind’s ability to right itself is pretty much nil.

Musically, the compositions are complex with Byrne cranking out a variety of tempos and movements, creating a suitably bleak landscape for his alternately harsh and clean vocals. Like much Symphonic Black / Death Metal, the album is best appreciated upon full immersion. Progressively building in atmosphere and momentum, each track seems to extend into the next, creating a fluid narrative. Byrne is a proficient musician who doesn’t hide his talents in the grey maelstrom. His guitar work — riffs, lead solos, acoustic flourishes — is probably his strongest suit, with his torrential percussive attacks coming in a strong second. His performance on bass holds the foundation well enough, but the production mix isn’t rich enough to truly showcase it. His skills on synthesizers are limited to basic layered renderings, e.g. don’t expect a Jordan Rudess (DREAM THEATER) performance.

Standout tracks are “The Descending Dealate,” which is also supported with a video; “Tota Mora Certa Est,” (trans: More certain is the whole) which is one of the more successfully nuanced tracks; and “My Road Has Red Veins” with its scorching lead guitar solos. With that said, some tracks suffer from over ambitious orchestrations. For instance “Join the Separated Symbiote” succeeds with its dark, epic overtones and the full acoustic break at mid-track, but falters with its distracting synthesizers and overly long duration. “Valediction,” with its spoken-word narrative that sounds like a bad Timothy Leary lecture comes across a bit didactic, though it is probably meant to be ominous and foreboding.

All together “Hold This Mortal Coil” is a good effort. It is Byrne’s shortest album to date, though with the eight tracks coming in at just over 55 minutes, I wouldn’t say it is abbreviated in anyway. The album comes across as a philosophical treatise rendered across eight related vignettes, all with a similar message. For fans of Death Metal, the message isn’t particularly new — it’s the basis of the subgenre, after all. The delivery, however, the delivery is something you’ll want to hear.

Songwriting: 6
Musicianship: 6
Memorability: 5
Production: 6


3 Star Rating

1. Metamorphosis
2. Hold This Mortal Coil
3. The Descending Dealate
4. Monolith
5. Join The Separated Symbiote
6. My Roads Have Red Veins
7. Tota Mors Certa Est
8. Valediction
Kevin Byrne – All instruments, vocals
Record Label: Independent


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