CD (ltd. 300)
Sol Mortuus is the project of the Yekaterinburg-based musician named Kein, who played in the 90-ies in a well-known underground Russian atmospheric black metal band Thy Repentance and later got carried away by experimental ambient sound. Under this name he has already released the album "Black In The Green Wreath" on a split with Zinc Room (2014, Evil Dead Productions, EDP 014) and a couple of tracks on compilations. Kein is also the author of such projects as Scratching Soil, Carved Image Of Emptiness, Church Of Howling Dog and is a member of Prognostic Zero and Zinc Room.
"Extinction" was recorded in 2014-2015 and dedicated to a life in decay, under a dying Sun, or possibly Three Suns? This is slow, thick and viscous rhythmic ritual ambient evoking spacious desert images (although everyone has their own visions). Aside from the essential synthesizers which play a background droning role here, a lot of acoustic instruments were used in this recording: cello, mandolin, blockflute, kaluka, vargan, buben and various percussion. The album sounds whole, it seems the tracks bleed one from another but at the same time each of them carries its own story built on the interpretations of the ancient Ural legends and tales of the northern peoples.
Three new releases by Zhelezobeton from St. Petersburg, whose interest lies very much in all things dark and atmospheric, and who always surprise me with another bunch of new Russian discoveries. For instance Kein, from Yekaterinenburg, who was in the 90s in the 'atmospheric black metal band' Thy Repenetance, and later on had such projects as Scratching Soil, Carved ImageOf Emptiness, Church Of Howling Dog, as well as being a member of Prognostic Zero and Zinc Room (and yes, I think some of these names are a bit silly). Sol Mortuus is his latest solo project and this time around, on 'Extinction' it is all about 'life in decay, under a dying sun' and to that end Kein uses a variety of instruments, such as cello, mandolin, blockflute (which proper name is actually recorder), kaluka, vargan, buben (I have no idea what these three are, but the latter two might be a Jew harp and a small drum) and percussion. Somehow the music Sol Mortuus created sounds very Russian: there is the ominous big drones, created through the extensive use of reverb on acoustic instruments, and throughout he also uses cleaner versions of these instruments to play along, especially when he starts his more tribal drum patterns. Topped with something that one could perhaps call 'overtone singing'; it calls for the darkness of the Russian soul, long winter nights, endlessly cold plains, and perhaps even some kind of ancient form of tribalism, shamanism or some such. While not entirely well spend on me, I played this with some interest and actually enjoyed it quite a bit.
Kein, a Yekaterinburg based musician, belongs to a certain category of artists seeking to revive music in its ancient form, inspired by the ethnic expressivity of their homelands. Once the guitarist in the atmospheric black metal band Thy Repentance, Kein is now developing other projects such as Carved Images of Emptiness or Church of Howling Dog, and he is also a member of Prognostic Zero and Zinc Room. Sol Mortuus takes guiding indications from the Ural ethos, the region bordering on the Siberian emptiness.
Kein suggestively enacts the windless land on a background of somber keyboards, a mirroring plateau upon which we can hear the beautiful reflections of local instruments, like kaluka, rainstick or vargan. The opening act, ‘Mother Of Windless Land’, is played with simplicity and passion, reverting the melancholy of the block flute sound into an imaginary telling of a curious misanthropic familiarity.
Listeners familiar with neoclassic bands combining technology with ancient instrumentation will find on ‘Extinction’ a soothing atmosphere to rest their nostalgia for times forlorn. Despite the rather grey-toned depressive titles, like ‘Stars That Have Grown Should Be Covered With Blood’, Sol Mortuus rests its music on calming cello chords following a minimal pattern. The shadow falls with the use of drones, extended now and then to a horror degree by alarming reverbs, an attempt to put into music the vicissitudes of those lands, a perfect loneliness petrifying the spirit. As if music is not enough – silence being denominator of this existence – Kein completes the atmosphere with metaphorical titles further deepening the impressions: ‘The Great Wasteland Where Drop Of Water Is More Longing Than Bear Meat In Famine Days’, the third piece, a conjuring of the vastness no one could embrace.
Ritual shamanic rhythms are remembered on ‘Three Skies Impossible To See’, pleasantly nuanced by humming vocals and flutes, and other pagan beliefs are suggested in the song ‘Arkaim’, which is a site in Southern Urals, connoted with an archaic solar temple. The dark ritual sound is allegedly a distortion of a dream-space meant to transfigure this sacred spot. Everything in terms of atmospheres and mastering is professionally done, creating a magical alchemy between the suggested visions and the listener. For some, it will certainly suggest a response to the more sophisticated sound of the Crowley-ian defunct project Endvra.
The narration becomes an incentive, abrasive on ‘The One Who Has Never Seen The Dawn’, a monstrous crawling of drones, and even seems to follow a radical change of register on ‘The Winged Spirit Lifts The Spear’, sounding like a forbidding extreme minimal quartet. This final gift of the record will hopefully be the raw matter for subsequent compositions.
Toward the end of the album my mind went completely blank, extinct. What seemed at the beginning inoffensive and distractively heterogeneous, exhaled in the whole a visceral telluric affection. The Russian label Zhelezobeton has once again made a remarkable choice in releasing this album.
Sol Mortuus is the project of the Yekaterinburg-based musician named Kein, who was in the well-known underground Russian atmospheric black metal band Thy Repentance, and later got carried away by experimental ambient sound. Sol Mortuus' first release was a split with Zinc Room co-titled 'House on the Edge of the Cemetery/The Green Wreath' in 2014. 'Extinction' is his initial solo release. The electro-acoustic music of Sol Mortuus employs cello, mandolin, percussion, block flute, kaluka, rainstick, vargan, voice, synth and samples. About the album, the label says "The album sounds whole, it seems the tracks bleed one from another but at the same time each of them carries its own story built on the interpretations of the ancient Ural legends and tales of the northern peoples." And so there is a good degree of primitive native folk influence here, but I'm getting dark ambient ritual in this electro-acoustic blend. Beginning with "Mother of Windless Land," an atmosphere is set where you can picture yourself on the Eurasian steppes, with ululating flute and the boinging of jaw harp (vargan) over dark ambient background atmospherics. On the next track, "Stars That Have Grown Should Be Covered With Blood," mournful minor mandolin chords are stroked like a zither accompanied by slow hand drum percussion and some abstract flute playing along with deep drone. The impression one gets is a really dark Dead Can Dance instrumental. The title of the next track describes the atmosphere it sets to a tee - "The Great Wasteland Where Drop of Water Is More Longing Than Bear Meat In Famine Days". The thick and heavy drone and deep breathy air is punctuated sporadically by flute, drums and percussion. I'm getting parched just listening to it! Cello leads off on "Three Skies Impossible to See," and with a heavy drone on the bottom, and other sonic elements contributing to this hypnotic, repeating ancient melody, I'm reminded of the Third Ear Band, but this sounds much more primitive. "Arkaim" is a very unsettleing piece, with its steady chopping percussion, and incessant chittering, something akin to Cicadas. The ambiance is broken by such things as the rattling of chains, echoed bowl bells, an instrument that sounds like a wild digeridoo, ulalating flute, and other strange sonic components. Quite unnerving. "The One Who Has Never Seen the Dawn" seems to be the track where all of the previous ritualistic musical incantations have finally produced the manifestation of some demonic presence. There is no doubt of the shamanistic tone of this piece; it penetrates deep into the primordial psyche and brings forth the beast in all its ugly and unholy splendor. Although employing many of the same instrumental elements as the previous tracks, "The Winged Spirit Lifts the Spear" is much more ethereal, far less tethered to the earth and physicality. Perhaps a transcendence beyond the mortal coil is the aim here.
The cinematic quality of the music of Sol Mortuss allows the listener to envision their own story within the paramaters of the electro-acoustic ambiences presented on 'Extinction.' Some may find it disturbing while others will welcome it as an exotic addition to their dark ambient collection. The atmosphere certainly is a unique one, and when the mood is right, and the stars are aligned, a most intoxicating musical brew.