Officium Triste
Mors Viri

Downcast Dutchmen, Officium Triste, have been wallowing in misery for nearly two decades, releasing four full-lengths along with a handful of EPs, splits, and demos during that time. Despite having been an avid fan of death/doom that whole time, I somehow managed to miss out on their entire output. I have a feeling that every longtime music fan eventually goes through this: you finally hear a long-running band you were aware of but ignored for no particular reason and immediately start kicking yourself for not giving them a chance much sooner. Well, that’s what I’m doing right now as I’m sitting here stunned after listening to Mors Viri, the band’s fifth full-length and their first under the Hammerheart Records banner.

This brand of emotional melodic death/doom is one of the most difficult styles to get right. Everything is riding on the atmosphere. Forced sentiment is easy to detect and will completely derail the experience. Proper flow is also crucial. Too much time spent on one idea can become tedious; too little won’t allow the feeling to sink in. Production style is also a big factor. If it’s too raw, the music’s many layers won’t be heard, but a clinical production will rob it of soul. Talent and experience have catapulted this album over every one of those pitfalls and into the upper echelons of death/doom mastery.

Most of the dismal yet confident emotion is expressed through clean melodic leads, which saturate the entire album. Heavy rhythm guitars provide the sonic weight, especially during the grooving mid-paced death metal passages that regularly appear, but drop out completely at times to allow the ethereal melodies to shine. The drums add interest through multiple tempo changes that range from energetic gallops to funereal plodding while atmospheric keys and synths flesh it all out. The vocals are a standard but competent growl with some well-done spoken-word and clean vocals offering a little variation.

The overall sound is neither old-school, modern, or even regional since their influences come from all over the map. There’s some Wildhoney-era Tiamat dreaminess in the ambiance, Amon Amarth heaviness during the aggressive moments, Mournful Congregation gloom at the slowest points, early Swallow the Sun catchiness in the arrangements, Brave Murder Day-era Katatonia bleakness in some of the melodies, and early Peaceville Three-isms sprinkled throughout the transitions. I even hear some majestic melodies reminiscent of the criminally overlooked Mythological Cold Towers debut, Sphere of Nebaddon (The Dawn of a Dying Tyffereth), in “Burning All Boats and Bridges.” However, none of these influences sound blatant or dated, making this a timeless album that has no obvious home except the world (well, I guess you could say mostly Europe).

It’s hard to choose any stand-out tracks since almost all of them are of equally high quality. “The Wounded and the Dying” is probably the most immediately memorable with its driving rhythm, meaty riffs, and catchy melodies. The only slight misstep is the brief acoustic guitar and piano driven, “One With the Sea,” which doesn’t evoke much feeling compared to the rest of the album, but it’s not offensive and easily excused.

The band claims (as many do about their latest album) that this is their finest work to date. With this being my first full-length experience with them, I obviously can’t currently verify that, but I’m inclined to believe them seeing as I probably would’ve heard more about them over the years if any of their previous albums were this strong. Nevertheless, I’ll definitely be diving into their back catalog to make sure. Even if it’s all half as good as this, it will still be worthwhile.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
April 9th, 2013

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