Rigor Sardonicous
Vallis Ex Umbra de Mortuus

If Joe J. Fogarazzo were to walk into a headhunter’s office one day in search of a job, the agent would likely ask what his skills and qualifications are. And he would be able to list off his audio engineering degree, his music degree – and his three years spent studying mortuary science. And of course, as any good headhunter knows, that means Joe (along with bassist Glenn Hampton) would be perfectly suited to form a funeral doom band.

Named for the ’60s horror movie Mr. Sardonicus (which I just rented from Netflix within the last year, score points for me), Rigor Sardonicus isn’t content with playing mere doom – this is as sludgy and rotten as it gets. Fuzz-choked guitars plod along at the speed of a walking corpse (the Romero style, none of this running zombie shit), but it’s the vocals that really nail the mood. They’re not just deep – they’re a sick, tuberculoid gurgle, as if Fogarazzo is slowly and unsuccessfully trying to eject bloody chunks of lung.

Musically, Vallis Ex Umbra de Mortuus is straightforward, but hypnotic and effective. A chanted intro (backed by a tootling recorder, no less) starts the album on a confusing note, but then “Silens Somnium” comes in and starts dragging itself through the muck. Before long, there’s a childlike call half-buried in the mix – it sounds like someone crying from a pit in the basement while their abductor goes about his awful work upstairs, gurgling to himself all the while. “Put the lotion in the basket,” he would probably say.

As this and the next few tracks plod along at the same speed, they create an interesting effect – the ponderous, crushing guitars and vocals are so steady in their pace and atmosphere that they seem to drift into the background and become the percussive backbone. Meanwhile, the drums, which are more active – a steady trickle of cymbal taps, the occasional metallic clang or bassdrum hit – become the more expressive element to listen for. All the more impressive considering that the drums are programmed, and they sound perfectly organic and well-thought out. After awhile, Rigor Sardonicus picks up the pace, creeping towards an old-school death metal vibe. “Alveus De Somnus” features a simple guitar chug, and “Prophecies – Preapocalyptica I” approaches an actual riff and achieves a good groove. The remainder of the album returns to corpse-speed and finally grinds to a halt.

As you can expect, Vallis Ex Umbra de Mortuus evokes more of an experience than an active listening session. There’s just enough melody and variance to move things along, but it’s not aimless, either. More importantly, Rigor Sardonicus succeeds in crafting an oppressive and enveloping atmosphere, especially given how few elements they’re working with. I don’t listen to a lot of funeral doom, but I’ve had this on repeat for the last several hours and it’s become rather enjoyable (especially the vocals).

Recommended for you funeral doom fans out there – or anyone curious about what is, according to the band (and correctly so), one of the most underground of underground genres.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
June 6th, 2008


  1. Commented by: LoftComplication

    i ran into a review of this the other day, I had never heard of the band before. I will be checking this out soon.

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