Mordant formed in Sweden back in 1997. After releasing a couple demos and the Suicide Slaughter E.P., they finally got around to recording a full-length album in 2004. Released on Agonia Records, Momento Mori is a surprising slab of old school Black Metal that places them alongside the likes of Aura Noir, Desaster and especially Nifelheim, in keeping the ancient flame burning.
From the very beginning, it is evident that Mordant is firmly rooted in the spirit of the 80s underground scene. They play a very primitive style of music, and this album sounds as if it could have easily been released 15 or 16 years earlier. The songwriting is bereft of any real traces of modernity, which is a very positive thing. The arrangements sound very natural and nothing is out of place. With a variety of tempo changes, they do enough to keep things interesting while also maintaining a sense of uniformity. The songs are filled with memorable guitar riffs and vocal sections, from the refrain of the title track to the eerie solo in the middle of "Necrophiliacs from Darkness of Hell".
The production suits the style perfectly, being quite raw yet clear enough for the full scope of their creativity to be appreciated. For some, this may be considered demo quality, but this is exactly what this type of music should sound like. It's not overdone, yet it's not grating on the ears, either. The focus is primarily on the guitars, which is right where it should be. The vocal delivery is also in the rougher, old school style, being very harsh and not smooth or processed like so many modern bands seem to prefer. They are placed high enough in the mix for their effect to be fully felt, and add a lot to the atmosphere. There is a strain of desperation that permeates many lines, such as the refrain from "Right Hand of Lucifer". This approach adds so much to the feeling that is being conveyed, and lends a sense of purity to the whole affair.
As much as I like this band, it is impossible to ignore the fact that, at times, they sound just like Nifelheim. The overall style is pretty much the same and especially the way they utilize the creepy lead solos and guitar harmonies, such as the intro to "Message to Devastate". It gets to a point where one has to wonder if they simply share the same influences, or if they are drawing this inspiration from Nifelheim, themselves. I'm not one to claim that all bands have to be adding something entirely unique, as there is a strong necessity for maintaining traditions within Black Metal, and it's not as if there are 200 bands that sound just like this, these days. All in all, they do an excellent job with the style they've chosen to implement and I wish I'd known of the existence of Momento Mori during the lengthy break between Nifelheim's Servants of Darkness and Envoy of Lucifer. To be fair, Mordant displays a little less of an old Bathory influence, with more Thrash in its place.
In the end, this album proves that there is still quality music being released, though in relative obscurity. It seems that, for the most part, the only good new releases are those that carry on the legacy of the past. Pick this up and listen at full volume!