Here at the (less-than) gilded halls of the Sleeping Village, us highfalutin peasantry have a certain appreciation for potential. There’s something endlessly exciting about coming across something that bodes well--be it a band who have steadily improved across a bevy of albums, or a demo that hints, not so subtly, of greater things to come. Today, we examine the curiously entitled Querent ov Self, a demo EP from one-man-black-metal-band Mortem Cultum. Lest ye be confused, Mortem Cultum’s first effort falls squarely in the latter category: this intriguing little demon of an demo reeks of potential. Over two days of intense listening (involving a feverish nap, no less!) I’m quite convinced that this outfit’s next endeavors are, without a doubt, going to do their fair share of damage.
This all isn’t to say that Querent ov Self doesn’t stand up on its own feet, free of future projections. Built on a foundation of simple yet bone-rattling riffage, ghastly rasps, and drums that lend a certain rolling thunder to the proceedings, the tracks presented here exude a jubilant momentum. Even acoustic closer Manifestations in Scorpius I avoids stagnation--compared to its blackened predecessors, it’s a gentle current, but a current nonetheless. Forward motion is crucial, especially so in the confines of a stereotypically oppressive and heavy-handed genre. Across the first three tracks, I’m reminded of the adage that black metal is just surf rock with distortion. This should by no means be taken negatively, ‘cause damn, surf rock is catchy as hell. Eternal Blasphemy, in particular, has a delightfully bouncy braggadocio. Compulsively listenable. Not, let it be known, a bad quality. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
There are certainly improvements to be made, of course, but nothing so absurd that a little extra attention the next time around won’t help smooth over. While vocals are generally a strong suit, there are several odd moments on Journey to Agartha where the sneering delivery vaguely reminds of College Humor’s overblown take on Batman’s phlegm-ridden rasp. A mite distracting, but not enough to derail an otherwise crushing track. On a similar note, transitions between riffs and passages are occasionally marred by a certain abruptness, but over time, as Mortem Cultum’s production garners additional attention, this issue ultimately seems of little concern. Generally, the mix feels appropriately muddy, given the fetid underground from which Querent ov Self crawls. Much like our attachment to the hand-me-down cassette aesthetic in genres such as speed or thrash metal, an imprecise production job is practically what this particular brand of black requires.
An epic quality pervades the demo as a whole--a fitting soundtrack, perhaps, for the impishly demonic figure featured on the cover. For black metal, it’s punky in execution, adventurous, and pleasantly light-hearted. For black ‘n’ roll, it’s sharp and just a little bit dastardly. Querent ov Self is a regrettably brief ride--I really can’t get enough. Needless to say Mortem Cultum exudes the potential we villagers crave. Highly recommended.