There is a darkness that exists within each of us. Some are better equipped to cope with it than others; while certain people get through life hardly noticing its presence, there are those for whom it is an all-encompassing and ever-present threat. For the latter, life is little more than a series of nightmares. There is no such thing as normal; rather, one must suffer in Hell from birth 'til death and perhaps beyond. Released in January 2007, Mortualia's self-titled debut connects with this inescapable darkness and acts as the voice of those that dwell at the fathomless depths of torments unnumbered.
Many willl likely have never heard of this project, yet still be quite familiar with the brilliant and tortured mind behind it. Mortualia is but one of the countless ways by which Shatraug, best known for his work with Horna and Sargeist, channels the dark force that dwells within his very being. This material is beyond dismal. The atmosphere is so bleak and hopeless than one can almost feel it pulling at your chest, draining the very life from you. The dreary guitar riffs slowly and methodically wrap around your neck, like a noose, and begin to hang your pathetic carcass in awaiting the glorious end when all horrible nightmares shall cease. The cold and sorrowful melodies act as the gun in your mouth... the razor making its way across your wrists and throat. Nearly every song clocks in between 14 and 20 minutes in length, with repetition serving a critical purpose in these grim proceedings. The goal, of course, is to make sure that every last drop of blood has escaped your veins, leaving no doubt as to whether or not the body is left as lifeless and empty as your existence in this realm always was. The compositions, sometimes, sound as if they were adapted from normal Horna material, yet slowed way down. Whatever the case may be, it is done to brilliant effect. Even Shatraug's vocals, which leave a lot to be desired, somehow work within the context of this album. The tortured screams are accentuated by otherworldly moans and other miserable sounds. Through the sound of his voice and the tone of the riffs, one gets the sense of a man with a war raging in his head; a constant struggle between life and death, with the former appearing to be on the losing end. It hardly seems possible, yet the darkness manages to become even darker as time passes. Just when you feel able to survive its cold and remorseless stranglehold, its grip tightens ever more. As this music slowly marches forth, much like a funeral procession, the darkness tears your flesh open and squeezes your heart as the blood flows freely. In such a state of despair, you may look around to see if someone might save you and that is when the realization hits that this Hell is a personal one and that you must suffer it utterly alone. This is hinted at, quite well, with the title of "In Bleak Loneliness". In fact, this one song may be the last that you hear of Mortualia, as it is so wretchedly sorrowful that few may live to experience the remainder of the album.
The sound of this record suits the material well, keeping in line with the sort of production achieved for the later Horna albums, placing most of the focus on the guitar riffs, though slow and winding they may be. The drums are audible, but so devoid of life that one would be hard-pressed to really notice after a few minutes. The vocals are buried just enough to allow for Shatraug's voice to blend in with the rest, though still high enough in the mix to have the desired effect. Everything here is done with precision, from the playing to the recording.
If you are a follower of this man's other works, such as Horna and Sargeist, then this will likely please you. However, it must be stated that such a monumentally miserable record is not for all. This goes far beyond the trendy DSBM nonsense that has been spewed forth by countless American bedroom projects, lacking atmosphere and sounding drenched in modern technology. This horribly depressing music has something that most of those 'bands' do not and that is a sense of authenticity and a genuine connection to the darkness that promises to consume us all.