Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
Greetings everyone. Welcome to my new series entitled The Dungeon Awaits...
I had a strong desire to create a subseries for another musical passion of mine, dark ambient and dungeon synth music. I want to shine a light on the smaller acts, while still of course reviewing the legends. That leads us to today's review. After 21 years of hibernation from the Era 1 material, Mortiis has finally returned to the genre he pioneered. Spirit of Rebellion is the first dungeon synth album he has released since 1999's The Stargate. While this album is a re-working of his classic 1994 album Anden som Gjorde Oppror, it goes far beyond a mere re-recording, this is an entirely new feel and sound, but while of course keeping true to the original compositions. Welcome to Spirit of Rebellion.
The first thing that comes to mind when tackling this album is how grand it is. While still dark ambient/dungeon synth, it takes on a more orchestral approach. It's more densely layered, rhythmic, and big. The inclusion of the tribal drums may not be a new inclusion to Mortiis' discography, however the inclusion of them on this album was necessary. I truly feel that if they were not included on the album, it would actually suffer. They give the sections more life and more memorability.
As for atmosphere? It's stellar, of course! The male and female choir vocals are gorgeous. I love the way sometimes they play off of each other. Atmosphere is crucial to this album. The segments in each song are so vivid and imaginative that you can't help but become lost in the elegance of them. If there's a great way to describe this album it would be a story without words. That's how vivid these compositions are.
Another thing to add on about this album is the quality of the production. Never before has an Era I Mortiis album sounded so full of life and with crisp production quality. Each note can be heard so crystal clear, including small details. The bombast of the sections in each song gives the album a grandness that I haven't heard in dungeon synth in quite a while. Mortiis handled all of the production, save for mastering (courtesy of Jules Seifert) and did a stellar job.
It's really hard to pick a discernible favorite song, as it's only two mammoth-sized tracks. The best way to listen to this album is as a mood piece, rather than a "song". It weaves through the bombast of "A Dark Horizon" to the more moody and meditative nature of "Visions of an Ancient Future." Each section flows through with such ease and vibrancy that you can't help but feel elated after the initial listening, all while staying engaging and diverse.
It's amazing how well this album flows. The album is 15 minutes longer than the original album and every second is marvelous. Only Mortiis could come back after a 21 year hiatus from the dark dungeon music he created, commit what would be considered blasphemy by extremist fans and re-record an already legendary album, and somehow make it better. I'm not even saying this to blow smoke, I am being genuine in my statement. That's not to discredit the original version: that album is a masterpiece in its own right. I was so stunned by how gorgeous this re-interpretation was that, even before the initial listening session was done, I found myself tearing up during the middle of it. Not because of sadness, but because of how grandiose this album is, and also because this is a special moment for me, and many other fans of Mortiis' work. It's so beautiful knowing that in my lifetime, I was able to see the return of Era I Mortiis, something I never fathomed would ever happen again. For what it's worth, Spirit of Rebellion is a welcome return to the true king of dark dungeon music, and goes beyond that. This is a new beginning for Mortiis, and proves that even after an extended time away from this music, everything comes back full-circle.
Mortiis - Spirit of Rebellion was released Jan. 24th, 2020
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!