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MORTUARY DRAPE - Spiritual Independence (12" LP)

United States | Heavy/Doom
Price Range:   $19.95 - $22.00
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Brand new full length from the Italian masters of occult darkness.

"Returning to haunt the crypts ten years after the sadly rather lacklustre Buried in Time, Italy's venerable Mortuary Drape have delivered a fine return to form in the shape of Spiritual Independence. Dating back to 1987, with the potential exception of the aforementioned predecessor, Mortuary Drape have carved an impressive legacy based on a sound which, while identifiably black metal, draws more from the melodic sensibility of traditional heavy metal than any of the usual genre tropes. This in itself has always been one of the major appeals of the band: a sense of dynamism and understanding of the elements contributing to engaging and memorable songwriting. Throughout the album this element shines through again and again. The band demonstrates an admirable ability to make a riff last just exactly as long as it should, neither abruptly appearing then vanishing nor outstaying its welcome and becoming leaden or plodding.

Largely based around the interaction between eerie clean guitar sections interposed with fantastic 'galloping' riffs reminiscent of NWOBHM at its finest, there is a wealth of twisted and abstract riffing somewhat reminiscent of the likes of Ved Buens Ende or Fleurity which adds to a claustrophobic and surreal atmosphere throughout. It could even be argued that the debt owed to Mercyful Fate is worthy of exploration - an ability to combine genuinely catchy and musically adventurous riffs with profoundly dark subject matter in a way which accentuates both aspects. The standard of musicianship on Spiritual Independence is praiseworthy, with an unusual (at least for black metal in 2015) emphasis on bass lending a sense of fluidity to the songs in conjunction with the first appearance of founder Wildness Perversion on drums since 1995. Special mention must be made of the lead guitar work throughout. Whilst quite technical in its execution, it nevertheless manages to cross the line into self-indulgence nor outstay its welcome in any way.

In keeping with their previous releases, this is indeed an atmospheric album, albeit without the usual signifiers that go along with 'atmospheric metal' in the form of elements taken from outside the metal world. The writing throughout Spiritual Independence is strong enough to have no need to rely on ham-fisted spooky interludes or crudely realised samples to create a genuinely sinister atmosphere. The necromantic trappings of their back-catalogue are there in force, if not to the degree of the notorious album cover of 1995's 'All the Witches Dance'. In terms of theme, Mortuary Drape has always been an interesting prospect, focusing on necromancy, tomb-worship, and communion with the dead rather than, on the whole, the standard fire-and-brimstone approach to the occult. In a certain sense there are significant overlaps with other Mediterranean black metal acts, most notably Rotting Christ and Varathron in their respective infancies. While this is apparent in the melodic sensibility in common between them, it's also arguably visible in terms of the lyrical focus. In an environment where Christianity is so deeply embedded (in a way it's certainly not in most parts of Northern Europe), to reject it is to invite a profound disconnection with the rest of society. One striking aspect I have always observed about bands from that part of the world as it relates to black metal is that there exists a profound ambiguity in their handling of Satanic subjects. It's rarely as aggressive and confrontational as elsewhere, instead accentuating an aspect by which the practitioner of the dark arts risks sanity and salvation. In that respect, it differs fundamentally from the vision implicit behind orthodox black metal as expressed in Northwestern Europe, in which the subject is either a willing servant of dark forces or engaged in a struggle against the forces of universal order. Neither is it particularly similar in outlook to the less-reflective 'war metal' bands found throughout the world in which, to generalise, Satan is expressed as a personification of destructive forces (or, to be less charitable given some of the more puerile artwork and lyrics on offer, simply a 'Goatzilla' figure complete with gasmask and bullet belts, vicariously destroying Christendom in a rather sad wish-fulfillment fantasy for suburban inadequates). In the final analysis, whilst the lyrics on Spiritual Independence certainly betray the fact that they are not written by a native English speaker, they certainly illustrate a certain sincerity which is admirable." -Heathen Harvest

Track List:
01) The Hiss
02) Lithany
03) Once I Read (Marble Tomb)
04) Natural Death (1930-2011)
05) Mortal Remains (Your Bones)
06) Immutable Witness
07) Black Candle
08) Ignus Fatuus (Deaf Space)
09) 1600 Gnostic Year
10) Spiritual Independence (The Farewell)

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