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Sonus Mortis - Past Lives Award winner

Sonus Mortis
Past Lives
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 22 November 2021, 6:16 AM

SONUS MORTIS is an extreme metal band from Ireland, who formed in 2013. In truth, it is a one man project by Kevin Byrne.  "Past Lives" is his fifth full length album, in addition to releasing a demo in 2013. I discovered the band when I reviewed 2016's "Hail The Tragedies Of Man," and was floored by it; Byrne's mix of various elements of metal always results in a potent creation I didn't review last year's "Hold This Mortal Coil" but found it rewarding as well. It was a slower paced and more moody album, especially compared to this newest release.

This album is much more immediate, with each song having a singular vision to move forward at every opportunity. Along the way, these songs also bring along a ton of memorable moments because each song is absolutely stuffed to the brim with speedy riffs, melodic lead guitar, slick keys and just solid as hell song writing that raises the action high, grabs you and doesn't let go. Overall, this album leans more towards melodic death than the doom and blackened elements that marked the previous album. The keys, while present and another highlight, aren't quite as symphonic as previous releases. But they are used just as effectively but, more importantly, they are used smartly. The keyboards are front in center when they need to be or regulated to a support position as it is called for. So many bands use keys for the sake of having them but "Past Lives" uses them where and when they are needed and the amounts are adjusted accordingly.

Past releases have been more focused on atmosphere and settling into a mood rather than a more intricate approach to the music but "Past Lives" has a much greater focus on guitar and rhythmic structures. The opening track, "A Chuisle Mo Chroí," fades in with a heavy bass tone building under increasingly melodic guitar. A flurry of drums brings the perfect moment for a galloping riff to push the song forward. By the time a minute and a half has passed, all these instruments, plus Kevin's well rounded death growls, have intertwined together into a massive movement of musical energy. The chorus is catchy as hell but not over used; the music bursts from it as multi layered waters just gush out like a flash flood of notes.

"Everfall," immediately grabs the ears with the robust bass drum complimenting the riffs. This grows into impressive harmonies that run alongside the galloping rhythm guitar and bass. There are magical moments where a sudden burst of speed sends all this down in a very direct way but Kevin's song writing is smooth enough for the music to lead back into more open spaces without it sounding disjointed. Around the three minute mark, the tempo slows and the bass and keys creating a melodic tapestry that sets up a guitar solo that in turn leads the song back to a faster movement. This is just one of many ideas that showcase how each piece of "Past Lives" is connected to the other one and they all work together to keep the album as a whole moving.

"Screen Servitude," is frantic and urgent as hell. A scream pierces the sky and then the bottom falls out. The subtle keyboards sprinkle magic across the upper layers while a face melting rhythm and massive bass roll across wit unending fury underneath. It just doesn't quit. At the 2:37 breathes further life into a song that already had plenty with a rousing riff and devastating double pass. An exciting guitar solo kicks off with a harrowing scream as the song ends while senses attempt to recover.

The final track, "The Devouring Design" is unrelenting.  The melodies are dizzying and the drums and bass just further hammer them in. The entire six minutes of the song is one gigantic wall of sound that builds wider and taller as more and more material is thrown into it. At the 1:19 mark, every instrument does a blast beat and my mind almost broke from the pressure. A little over the halfway, mark a keyboard passage offers a brief respite from the carnage but the song returns to that wall of sound, time time with melodic hooks that reach out like vines to grab. "Hail The Tragedies Of Man," is still my favorite SONUS MORTIS album but “Past Lives,” comes close to knocking it down a notch . This album is fun yet consistently engaging with stellar guitar work, all held together by excellent craftsmanship.

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

4 Star Rating

1. A Chuisle Mo Chroí
2. Everfall
3. Past Lives
4. Dissident Fury
5. Screen Servitude
6. Become Static
7. The Last Fragments of Earth
8. The Devouring Design
Kevin Byrne – Everything
Record Label: Independent


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