Finnish doom, you say? Oh, go on then! It is, of course, impossible to mention this branch of the slower, heavier, doomier genre without name-checking heavyweight outfit Reverend Bizarre, so we may as well go the whole hog and dive in to say that Spiritus Mortis has their old singer, Sami Hynninen as their lead pipes-mangler. If then, you’re into Reverend Bizarre, or indeed Lord Vicar, The Puritan or a whole host of other leaden outfits, you’re in for a treat.
All of which is to say that I really, really liked this album. Upon checking Metal Archives, it seems that this is only the fourth record from the band, despite them being founded in the mid to late eighties. Perhaps they had been honing their craft, because this is an exercise in excellence. If you’re a fan of that whole traditional doom meeting traditional heavy metal kind of space, you’re in luck: this channels the likes of that sweet spot between Grand Magus, The Gates of Slumber and the epic sprawl of Candlemass.
“Robe of Ectoplasm” opens in a positive tone, with a (relatively) up-tempo beat, and a hook-laden chorus with a vocal melody that has lingered long in my brain. “I am a name on your funeral wreath” follows, coming across like a Candlemass track played at 33 rpm, but with a more depressing undercurrent, the tasty and weighty guitar licks reverbing with aplomb. “Babalon Working” even manages to break into a trot, nay – a gallop! Despite having a backbone in doom, allowing the pure heavy metal to shine through here allows for the music to breathe more than in many similar albums. “Jesus Christ, Son of Satan” has an utterly infectious riff that kicks it off with the loose, cymbal heavy drums. There is a fearsome groove here that is harnessed by the gritty but accomplished clean vocals of Sami Hynninen, who can flex from a spot-on key clean style, through to a more gravelly, harder tone. “Holiday in the Cemetery”, a black-humoured dirge, is probably the closest to old Reverend Bizarre that can be found on the platter, a leaden crawling ode to depression with a tone to match. “She died a Virgin” is an album stand-out, with a Sabbathian riff that feels like it evolved from the 70’s into a “Thing” like monster. “Black Magic, White Powder” flitters between ethereal whining and grinding doom, while album closer “World of no light” crushes the opposition beneath the sheer heft of its bleak atmosphere.
In terms of the song-writing, with the possible exception of “Black Magic, White Powder”, there are no filler tracks, and albeit many of the tracks here exceed the seven minute mark, you often won’t notice how long they have been playing for, such is the craft on display. Everything is where it should be in terms of the production, with the versatile and bright vocals being high in the mix, while the bass and drums combine with the heft of a two-handed axe to the guts. The record just feels like class; a genre-leader and representative of musicians at the top of their game. I can only hope that Spiritus Mortis don’t wait another seven years before producing their next album, as when I hear the closing organ strains of “World of no Light” through my ear phones, I immediately want more. A cracker.
(9/10 Chris Davison)