Artist: Mors Principium Est
Album Title: Embers Of A Dying World
Label: AFM Records
Date Of Release: 10 February 2017
‘Death is the beginning’. A fitting name for a melodic death metal band, I think you’ll agree, for that is the direct translation of the Latin phrase ‘Mors Principium Est’. This Finnish band may then have a rather apt name but it took until 2014 and the release of their fifth album, ‘Dawn of the 5th Era’ for me to sit up and take proper notice of a band that until then had skirted around the periphery of my consciousness without ever fully grabbing my undivided attention.
‘Embers of a Dying World’ is a title that underlines that Mors Principium Est have a certain way with words but as an album, it builds on their excellent previous record ‘Dawn of the 5th Era’ and truly announces the band as a true heavyweight in the melodic death metal genre. Many might already hold them in this esteem but for me personally, this is the true coming of age of Mors Principium Est. This disc is truly magnificent.
What makes this statement even more incredible is that the 2017 incarnation of the band is markedly different from how it was some 18 years since their formation. Comprised of Ville Viljanen (vocals), Mikko Sipola (drums), Teemu Heinola (bass) and Andy Gillion (guitars), the band are without any of the founding members and have seen others come and go in between with a frightening frequency. But the franchise perseveres and they’ve really delivered the goods here.
At its most simple, ‘Embers of a Dying World’ is a procession of one great song after another, where heaviness and brutality is blended with melody, groove and lush symphonics. The latter is most impressive given the fact that the band has not boasted a full-time keyboardist in the ranks since around 2007. As far as I can tell, new principle songwriter Andy Gillion handles the programming and synths on this record, something he has done really rather well as it turns out. In fact, the output on ‘Embers Of A Dying World’ can easily draw comparisons with the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse given the way that many of the compositions are imbued with a very dramatic and cinematic feel, making the listening experience much more three-dimensional and full of drama.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the opening of the record. As is the overwhelming trend with albums I’ve reviewed so far in 2017, ‘Embers of a Dying World’ kicks off with a film-score-like instrumental intro that is surprisingly powerful and melodic, more than worthy as a tension-building beginning. And then in comes ‘Reclaim The Sun’ and with it, begins the full Mors Prinicipium Est assault.
‘Reclaim The Sun’ is aggressive from the outset with a brisk tempo but a grand sense of epic and elegant melody before the verse introduces a scything riff, the kind that I love to hear in extreme metal. It maintains a cinematic and dramatic feel throughout, only briefly cutting away to deliver the ubiquitous guitar solo towards the end. What an opening.
There’s a vaguely industrial feel to ‘Masquerade’ thanks to the programming and I just love the drumming in particular which deploys an on-off blastbeat to great effect. And then the track opens up at its conclusion to unleash a really beautiful guitar solo and accompanying melody.
Choral effects are then introduced on ‘Into The Dark’ to increase the symphonic element another notch. There’s nothing shy or retiring about Mors Principium Est on this album, I can tell you. The nice thing is that as dramatic as the music becomes though, the band never forget that they are an extreme metal band. As such, the riffs are intense, the leads incisive and provocative, the rhythm section pounds and stomps imperiously and the gruff vocals that sit atop the music are wonderfully gravelly and harsh.
‘The Drowning’ is one of the catchiest songs on the record, with a cheeky, bouncy swagger that I find myself drawn to and ‘In Torment’ has a touch of thrash about it, primarily in the central riffs. In contrast, ‘Death Is The Beginning’ adds another layer of variety to the already sophisticated album as it introduces a female vocalist to underline the more ballad-like composition. The song is still heavy where it needs to be, but the tempo is slower and more deliberate, the melodies more gentle and serene and there’s a slightly dreamy feel to it, underscored by a lush string arrangement at the midway point and to close it out elegantly. And yet, to contrast the lighter feel to the track, Ville Viljanen produces his most ear-catching performance when he spews forth a deeper, more guttural growl not dissimilar to that of Dan Swanö.
The blend of a catchy lead guitar line atop more gorgeous symphonics and hauntingly ethereal choral vocals ushers in ‘The Ghost’ really forcefully, before it goes all black metal on us complete with staccato riffing, fast-paced drumming and tinkling piano. This is definitely a personal highlight on ‘Embers Of A Dying World’, made all the better by a full-blown return of that catchy guitar melody from the intro. It’s highly infectious and gives me goosebumps.
‘Embers Of A Dying World’ is closed out by ‘The Colours Of The Cosmos’ and then ‘Apprentice Of Death’, both of which follow the sumptuous and strangely religious-sounding interlude of ‘Agnus Dei’. The former delivers yet more strong catchy melodies whilst the latter rounds things out with one final five-minute blast of full-on dramatic, symphonic death metal.
So there you are. Credit has to go to Mors Principium Est for firstly sticking around in the face of constant personnel turmoil and secondly, for releasing what has to comfortably be their best work to date in ‘Embers Of A Dying World’. For those who enjoy melodic death metal or extreme metal of any kind with a grandiose edge and a polished sheen cannot fail to like this record. For me, it has made a huge impact and is certainly the benchmark for all other melodeath bands to aspire to in 2017. Whether anyone can reach it remains to be seen, however.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day