Release Details

LABEL Svart Records
RELEASED ON 11/11/2016
  • The Year Is One sort of snuck up on me. I’m glad it did.

Spiritus Mortis

The Year Is One

posted on 11/2016   By: Dave Schalek

I’m about to commit an act of heresy. Although I appreciate what they’re doing, bands such as High Spirits, Sumerlands, Eternal Champion, and so on, just don’t quite do it for me. Traditional heavy metal that doesn’t stray too far into power metal is enjoying a renaissance at the moment, a renaissance that seems to have sort of snuck up on everyone. With a few exceptions, though, for whatever reason, many of these bands just don’t click for me; or, at least, for any great length of time.

Initially, I was sort of puzzled by my reluctance to be totally on board given that I grew up on a steady diet of Iron Maiden, Dio, Judas Priest et al when I was a kid back in the 1980s. I should be all over this, right? Well, in 1983-84, my tastes got increasingly more extreme. Black metal, death metal, etc. took hold. I still paid attention to the heavyweights, but I never could give newer traditional heavy metal bands, or their power metal offshoots, my full attention as I always wanted something heavier.

Riding along on this renaissance, though, is a slightly heavier version of traditional heavy metal, one that dovetails into melancholic doom metal. I’m taking about bands like Crypt Sermon and Khemmis, amongst others. Given that my all time favorite band, to this day, is still probably Black Sabbath, it’s no surprise that these are the bands within this renaissance, traditional heavy metal bands with just that oh so elusive touch of doom, that I find myself gravitating towards. Add Finland’s Spiritus Mortis to that list.

I might as well go ahead and own up to another moment of heresy by admitting that I’ve not heard of Spiritus Mortus, even though its largely credited with being the first Finnish doom metal band, having formed as long ago as 1987! Although labeled as doom metal, Spiritus Mortis straddles that line between traditional heavy metal and melancholic doom, sitting comfortably alongside such classic heavyweights as Black Sabbath and Candlemass. Crypt Sermon and Khemmis are kindred souls, but Spiritus Mortis doesn’t shy away from lightening the load a bit and adding plenty of melody and hooks to the mix.

The Year Is One is only the fourth full-length album from Spiritus Mortis. Prior albums were released on obscure labels, but, kudos to Finnish label Svart Records for giving The Year Is One a wide release, exposing Spiritus Mortis to a global audience. The Year Is One is loaded from top to bottom with simple, but very catchy, riffs and a slow to mid-paced tempo that anchors the sound. But it’s the soaring melodic, yet richly delivered, vocals from Sami Hynninen (Reverend Bizarre's Albert Witchfinder), who joined in 2009, that elevate the band’s sound to a higher level.

Spiritus Mortis plies the thematic waters of the 1980s Satanic Panic with spooky references to mysterious rituals that probably took place just a few blocks from Sunset Boulevard. Instead of tinkering around with the Orthodox Satanism of bands such as Deathspell Omega, Spiritus Mortis evokes a vibe rich with Hollywood silliness mixed up with the carnival showmanship of Anton LaVey; that is, the same sort of vibe that was present when people such as Sammy Davis, Jr. was one of LaVey’s hangers on. Electric Wizard plays around in the same sandbox, and Spiritus Mortis delivers its shtick with the same sort of convincing, but with tongue planted firmly in teeth, gusto and enthusiasm. Aiding the cause and adding to the appreciation of the atmosphere are the clearly enunciated lyrics from Hynninen.

The final package is a good one, and is tailor made for that listener just like me, one who’s sort of stuck in between traditional heavy metal and metal’s heavier forms. The Year Is One sort of snuck up on me. I’m glad it did.