spiritus-mortis_the-year-is-oneThis has been a really good year for doom, with Khemmis, Messa and Northern Crown dropping stellar platters of mawkish mopery, and Spiritus Mortis wants to help send 2016 out with even more funereal notes and appropriately bowed heads. This Finnish doom troupe has been around a while and The Year is One is their fourth album, but somehow I’ve slept on them and am just coming to grips with their material. I feel shame for that, as they’re very good at what they do and even feature Sami Hynninen (ex-Reverend Bizarre, ex-Lord Vicar) on vocals. So what does Spiritus Mortis offer doom-wise, you ask? A bit of everything actually. That’s because The Year of One is like a guided tour through the various sub-genres of doom, from classic to epic and occult, and the band does them all equally well. It’s not going to redefine any of the genres, but what band can with such a fixed, monolithic musical style? Instead, Spiritus endeavors to craft quality songs that play to the genre’s strengths while avoiding the pitfalls. Mission accomplished.

Opener “Robe of Ectoplasm” sports one of the year’s best titles and provides some jaunty, urgent doom with a rock vibe, something like the early Grand Magus material. It’s a great introduction for newcomers and gets the blood flowing without betraying the doomy atmosphere. Then things gets serious with “I Am the Name on Your Funeral Wreath,” which may just be the doom song o’ the year. This slow-motion monster channels all the might of classic Saint Vitus and Sami sounds so much like their original singer Scott Reagers that I was sent scrambling to see if they dug him up for a guest spot. This is classic doom through and through, with mournful riffs and sorrowful vocals doing their best bury you in despair. The mood is grim, the leads are heavy and everything clicks perfectly.

What makes this an interesting album is how diverse the approach is from song to song. “Babalon Working” shifts to a vintage Solitude Aeturnus style and nails it with greater heaviness to the guitars and vocals and something like a black metal vibe rising and falling as the song plods along, unwieldy yet somehow graceful. The riffs really pop and the urgency in Sami’s vocals simmers. “Jesus Christ, Son of Satan” keeps it dynamic, hitting somewhere between vintage Black Sabbath and the amped up doom rock of Cathedral with impressive results, before album centerpiece “Holiday in a Cemetery” reverts back to full Saint Vitus worship and plods menacingly for 10-minutes as Sami provides a dissertation on necrophilia and other niche hobbies that includes the immortal line “You can go to a beach while I fall into an abyss.” Equally lengthy closer “World of No Light” switches gears toward epic, sweeping doom like Pallbearer with hints of Warning in the vocal delivery and yet again Spiritus shows their universality with another killer tune capable of competing for Song o’ the Year. Good stuff!

spiritus-mortis_2016

At 53 minutes, The Year is One avoids feeling overlong despite several lengthy set pieces, which is proof of the band’s writing acumen. The production is also quite respectable, with no compression or loudness issues and a deep rich tone to the guitars.

Sami Hynninen sang on a few of my favorite albums by Reverend Bizzare, but he sounds like a completely different vocalist here, ranging all over the place to fit the moods of the disparate material. I was more and more impressed by his ability as the album progressed and when it ended I was nothing short of shocked. The man really elevated his game and has become the ideal doom vocalist in many ways. His emotive singing really kicks the material up several notches and provides it with a finishing sheen of quality. Guitar tandem Jussi Maijala and Kari Lavila also knock it out of the park with big league riffing rife with emotion. The simple but elegant leads on “World of No Light” are some of my favorites of the year and their heavier work on “Babalon Working” really seizes the ears.

The Year is One comes to us late in the year, but it deserves its place atop Mount Doom with the other big releases of 2016. This has every single thing a doom fan could want with just enough diversity to keep it fresh and vibrant. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go enjoy of deep back catalog. Toodles!


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: spiritusmortis.com | facebook.com/spiritus-mortis
Releases Worldwide: November 11th, 2016

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  • Dr. Wvrm

    The sample track sounds really good. The march to a Steelclad 4.0 average continues!

    • It’s unprecedented!

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Steel Gush!

  • OzanCan

    CHILDREN OF DOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!
    someone has to do it I guess :)

  • tomasjacobi

    Ordered this one immediately last week after reading the very positive review on Last Rites.

  • pfk505

    Will definitely be checking this out, but after the Clouds album all 2016 doom releases are destined for 2nd place at best. Tis been a great year for the genre!

    • Yeah, that thing is huge too! Review upcoming.

      • pfk505

        Really glad to hear that! They deserve the attention.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Sounds good, still bummed that Northern Crown don’t release their music on CD, liked what I’ve heard of them.

  • Bas

    Steel you should also check out Opium Warlords, which is Sami’s solo project. There he is all over the place with his vocals. Truly bizarre stuff with some very experimental things, but also some crazy heavy doom tunes.

    • I’ll check them out immediately. Thanks for the tip!

    • doom-erik

      The last Opium Warlords album was really good, one of the best releases of 2014. Haven’t heard the earlier albums, but as far as I understand it they are more removed from Reverend Bizarre than the latest one.

      • Bas

        I would say ever further removed… at least ‘We meditate under the pussy in the sky’ is a bit more freaky and has no amazing doom tracks like ‘The Self-Made Man’ from the last one, but I still like it. I never hear the first one though..

  • Scourge

    I’ve really been looking forward to this one and it doesn’t disappoint!

  • ArtifeX

    This year is dooooomed. That’s why Trump won XD. Well at least he’s fun, our president in Mexico is a real disgrace (Political comments off). On topic: Holiday in the cemetary sounds good on my iMac crappy speakers, I guess it will sounds GREAT at home. Btw Steel, according to your unicorn explanation, that band photo needs definitely an unicorning.

    • ArtifeX
    • Oscar Albretsen

      There’s going to be a huge influx in the number of American doom/metal albums getting released these next 4 years.

      • ArtifeX

        That’s not necessarily a bad thing, US Doom is great, especially when it’s flavored with a bit of epicness.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          I definitely agree. Almost all of my favorite doom metal albums the past 5 years (at least) were American. I recently read that Pallbearer is getting close to releasing a new album. (drools)

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Always reminds me of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
    I’m partial to Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer, but this is a good’un too.

    • Antorus

      Oh man absolutely! Never made that connection before

      german romanticism ftw

  • Monsterth Goatom

    This is like Crypt Sermon on steroids.

  • Chris

    I lasted all of about 2 minutes into the embedded track. Loved the tune, but I’m guessing that vocalist is what you would call an “acquired taste”.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Kinda like Geddy Lee meets Brooks Wilson in a 30-70 mix, respectively. I like it.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Have you ever been to a Finnish beach? Falling into an abyss might actually be the fun option.

      • some dude

        Not true! Behold:
        www[dot]youtube[dot]com/watch?v=Nh8CfWEnSJ8

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          I stand corrected!

  • Innit Bartender

    After a week of sub-par album art, first Van Gogh and now C. D. Friedrich… AMG staff likes to tease us art lovers…

  • The Unicorn

    Yeah, this is good. That new Khemmis is insane Steely man. Nice review my friend. Horn(s) up.

    • Horns and hails from the Steely Man.

      • The Unicorn

        Am I imaginging this, or did I have you on LinkedIn as a legal-schmegal kind of guy too?

        • It’s possible. I’m an attorney by trade and a metal blogger by choice.

          • The Unicorn

            Yep, its you. Trial season, fun fun.

          • Stalker!

          • The Unicorn

            Hey now!!

          • [not a Dr]

            You should send yourself a don’t cease and don’t desist letter about all the unicorning that’s not taking place.

  • I needed some good doom with a little bit of evil to it in my life.

  • Eli Valcik

    speaking of a great year for doom ya’ll should check out Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s album “y proffwyd dwyll”

  • Cuck

    Looks like pride rock from lion king

  • Dagoth_RAC

    I know him because his “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” was the cover art for Maurizio Pollini’s performance of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy. Which is a great piece of music if you don’t mind 20+ minutes of solo piano. Although that is fairly compact by Schubert standards…

    • Antorus

      Angry Cvltvre Guy

  • basenjibrian

    I am really digging this. It made trudging on a treadmill at faux 3000 meters bearable this evening!

    • Treadmill ov DOOOOM!

      • SegaGenitals

        Dreadmill!

  • Dudeguy Jones

    Ohhhhh shit, its almost Reverend Bizarre!! What rock have I been janking it under all this time? This is great stuff! Hows the older stuff sound?

  • doom-erik

    I wasn’t even sure it was Sami singing on that embedded track. Sounds great. Always liked his vocals, but he is taking it to the next level here. Didn’t really get into the previous Spiritus Mortis album, but judging on what I heard from it so far it may well be one of the best doom albums of 2016.