I have some fairly disparate opinions about this album. On one hand, i think it does a fantastic job creating an atmosphere using a swath of black metal elements we all recognize and enjoy to varying degrees. Mordskog describe themselves as a melding of all sorts of second wave elements and it’s true; you can pick out all sorts of influences throughout the nine tracks here. On the other hand, there’s this strange love of cocaine that just seems silly and, if indeed necessary to the music, not well integrated. Maybe it’s the fact the worship isn’t better obfuscated by stranger, more abstract references in the lyrics; maybe it’s the fact you called it “yeyo” in your press release and I still haven’t stopped laughing at that. Whatever it is, the substance worship doesn’t work for me. Let’s talk about what did work though because there’s a bunch.
Like I mentioned above, Mordskog take a whole heap of second wave black metal influences from around the world and forge them into a unified being, creating a sound that’s familiar but also foreign. Nothing here is going to blow you away in terms of originality, let’s lay that out from the beginning. There are no guitar runs that will blow your mind like or strange instrumentation choices to make you go “hmm.” We are treading well worn paths at this point, some might consider them highways, but the second wave worship is done so well that you can almost forgive them for not pushing at the boundaries.
Given the pedigree and influences of this album, it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if it sounded like it was recorded on a ghettoblaster in someone’s basement-cum-jam-space. Hell, that’d almost be expected. Not the case with “XIII” though, whose production value sounds far higher than it probably deserves to be. For one, the drums don’t have that seemingly ever-present in black metal wet cardboard box tone, instead filling the space provided with a full sound. Again, technique wise they hit all the targets when it comes to black metal drumming but this isn’t Revenge so there isn’t much to write home about in the percussion department. The guitar is a similar beast, effective in its sharp but somehow warm attack but doing nothing beyond what you would expect.
The vocals are the highlight of “XII,” with an Attilla Cisar feel to how they drip from the vocalist’s throat, evil and deliberate. While they lack a dynamic range, the vocals hold a theatricality that really makes the music backing them seem more than the sum of its parts. They manage to create an atmosphere of strange ceremony, incorporating spoken passages and chanting to add mystique to the proceedings. And who doesn’t like a little bit of mystique with their black metal?
I’d recommend this album if you are sick of listening to your second wave records on repeat, but don’t expect much more than an ‘member-berries style ride through nostalgia land that will more likely than not leave you with a desire for something a little more boundary pushing. Grab it from Werewolf Records.
– Scotty (@drunkgraveyard)