It’s one thing to be prominent in two different genres of music, but to be considered (by many) to be The Godfather of one is an amazing feat – especially when you leave that genre for several decades and then make a ferocious return as if you’ve never left in the first place. That artist is Mortiis and his genre of dark desires is none other than dungeon synth. Blasting out on the black metal scene in the early 90’s as the original bassist for Emperor, he recorded the infamous ‘Wrath Of The Tyrants’ demo and ‘Emperor’ EP before splitting with the band and creating the Era 1 material of his solo project known as Dark Dungeon Music. I’m not even sure if he knew at the time what an influence those earlier albums would have on the dungeon synth community for generations to come, but he’s inspired a magnitude of artists and labels to create music with the same passion and desire. After the 1999 ‘Stargate’ release, the music of Mortiis began to take on a new form and the dungeon synth sounds were laid to rest…but not forever. Mortiis has finally returned to his roots and has graciously presented us with the magnificent ‘Spirit Of Rebellion’. Although it was intended to be a reworking of the 1994 masterpiece, ‘Ånden Som Gjorde Opprør’, it formed a life of its own and warranted a new title. The outcome is an explosive revival of the Era 1 material and I couldn’t be happier.
The twenty four plus minute long “A Dark Horizon” blasts into a battle worthy anthem with layered keys, pounding percussion and cinematic orchestrations that are film worthy. Depending on the version of the album you get, either the two songs are in a single format, or broken into multiple parts. For the sake of this review, I will reference the various parts of each song when describing the music. Part II of “A Dark Anthem” is haunting canticle with vocal effects that are sure to give you goosebumps. This is just a precursor to Part III which goes full throttle with the electronic vocal effects and pulsating drums as if unavoidable bloodshed is about to commence. However, the tempo changes to a more melodic structure and Part IV finds elements of forest synth as if a scenery of peace has been the vanguard of a mythical village, hidden away deep in a sacred forest. In terms of pure keyboard effects, Part V is the most old-school dungeon synth sounding part in the whole song. This multi-track effort has tons of melody and the background arrangement is memorable enough to stick with you for days on end. This beast of a song ends on a high note as Part VI perfectly summarizes this audio adventure with a welcomed reprise that features elements of the opening moments of the track. The second track, “Visions Of An Ancient Future”, is another top quality musical experience that includes over twenty six minutes of advantageous dark dungeon melodies. Part I is a high-tempo intro with a mix of goth and cinematic qualities. The grandiose elements of Part II are mesmerizing, especially when the electronic vocal chants kick in. The atmosphere continues to grow and remains overpowering throughout the remainder of the track. Part III contains warm elements of forest synth with ambitious effects thrown in to create the perfect medieval ambience. Part IV continues the medieval theme of the last track but takes it to a larger scale with the increased percussion parts. The somber keyboard arrangements create a sense of negotiation between good and evil, as the track continually sways from loud to softer parts. Part V has grim, eerie synth effects that keep this track interesting yet again. As the massive backgrounds continue to play without being overpowering, the dreadful melodies in the foreground carry on aggressively. Part IV is another bold and energetic piece that has an uptempo vibe and a strong mix of all of the elements present thus far in this mammoth of a track. Part VII has a tenacious medieval and fantasy synth vibe and features some awesome percussive sounds and keyboard arrangements. This is not only an excellent way to end this song, but an admirable finale to a spectacular album.
Whether this return to Era 1 material is short lived or an enduring comeback, Mortiis has accomplished an incredible feat – especially after being out of the dungeon synth genre for so long. There is nothing that I would love more than for Mortiis to continue down this path and continue producing material of this nature. If that turns out to be the case and ‘Spirit Of Rebellion’ is just the start, then we are in for a treat, as this album is as good as it gets. If you’re a fan of DS and you’ve not heard this album yet, what are you waiting for? You will not be disappointed as Mortiis once again sets the standard, just as he did nearly thirty years ago.
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