Bergen is a charming city located on the west coast of Norway. It’s Europe’s utopia, a haven from scum and villainy and home to wonderful landscapes, picturesque architecture, politeness, order, harmony, and BLACK METAL! Tortorum claim to be from Bergen although the two founding members of the band are from the UK and Poland. Despite this, the evilness that resonates from the name Bergen is undeniable. I’m shaking as I type this and I haven’t slept since I received the promo because I fear the terrors that Tortorum may summon. Rotten. Dead. Forgotten. is a mini-album straight from the demonic depths of Hell. Proceed, if you dare.
“All Suns Black” follows the not-really-spooky introduction instrumental “Iao Al.” I’m not sure if I received a dodgy promo copy or not because there is the most ridiculously jarring transition from the end of the instrumental opener and the second song. The sound abruptly cuts off and there is a blatant change in tone and frequency. I’m baffled as to how it went unnoticed. It’s as if during production the band sat around and thought “eh, no one will notice, right? Let’s get drunk.” It’s a real shame that such a blatant and careless mistake was made because “All Suns Black,” the first proper song, is a decent mid-paced, black-metal romp with twisted and gnarled vocals groping for breath against solid, but rather generic, riffs and varied blast-beat infested drumming. Production wise, despite the major blunder at the opener, the album sounds decent enough but even the most masterful of productions would not have been able to salvage much.
“Night of the Witch” opens with a similar reverb-heavy, slightly off-key arpeggio that trudges into realms of mid-paced desperation and despair. I feel like I’ve heard this song a million times this year already. It has a mix of the straightforward late 80’s black-thrash groove and more recent “unorthodox” sounding black metal. Although it’s not bad it’s not really that good either. The song does nothing to really spark any form of excitement or energy. The basslines are bubbly and interesting enough, the riffs are catchy, the vocals snarled, the drums drumming, but that is ultimately it. It’s like a pet goldfish: it keeps you mildly entertained for a bit until it spends the rest of its life just sort of floating around gloomily, wallowing in its lonely and dumb misery. You can tap the glass, probing, encouraging, really wanting it to do something interesting, but in reality, as I should have known, it’s too simple-minded.
Maybe I’m being too harsh here, but I can’t rid the stale lingering taste from my mouth. The mysterious and cryptic approach, when done properly (ala Dodecahedron and Deathspell Omega) can lead to some incredible things, however, Tortorum fall severely short. “Life is the Enemy,” for example, is a truly meh song. It washes through various bland stages of dissonant riffs and barnstorming drumming before fading out without having built towards anything of merit. This is my main gripe with Rotten. Dead. Forgotten: the songs are aimless. Final track “Black Mantra Mysteries” is similarly stagnant. Despite the occasional interesting turn, like at 4:10, where the lead guitar moves into more melodic vistas, the song surges blindly head before fading to black.
Penultimate track “Lucifer Victrix” slows things down. This is a good thing, allowing the song to breathe and an atmosphere, sorely missing, to temporarily emerge (although it soon retreats back to whence it came). The vocals are the crowning glory of this dying king. They’re varied and full of bitterness and venom – the torturous blurts in “Night of the Witch” a prime example – though occasionally, unintentionally, they become comedic and distracting. A spoken word passage at the five-minute mark of “Lucifer Victrix” is a clear attempt at adding drama and variation, although it taints, rather than spruces up proceedings, sounding more like the sore-throated shouts of a drunkard trying to find his keys. Similarly, distracting echoing gutturals towards the end of final track “Black Mantra Mysteries” are, once again, less epic and more comedic, sounding less malignant and haunting and more like the dumb shouts of a caveman trying to break into a coconut with a feather.
Rotten. Dead. Forgotten. is an aptly titled album and it stirs up little emotion. I feel completely apathetic. Rather than blossoming in my mind and opening up new areas for discovery and enjoyment listen after listen, it rots, withers, and leaves a morbid mess on my frazzled brain. Next!