The first time I heard Mors Principium Est was at the end of 2012 when I discovered that they had been slotted to release their first record in five years in December. Somehow in the course of my metal journey I’d managed to miss a band that few have anything bad to say about. In fact, despite being a bit late to the scene—with a debut record in 2003—Mors is one of those bands that everyone I know seems to either not know or love. And AFM releasing your new record in December? Not helping. This time of year is when lists blossom and we bloggers start going through all the stuff we’ve heard and a lot of the stuff we haven’t: new records have trouble finding their way on to our radars in December. AFM seemed to be telling them: “No end of year lists for you.” Eerily, two years later, also in December, Finland’s best melodic death metal band (yeah, I said it) is back again with a powerhouse of a record that will rock you from top to bottom and likely miss a bunch of end of year lists.
Dawn of the 5th Era is not a ground breaking record, but it is an absolute beast. Its strengths are simple and straightforward. First, it is balls-to-the-wall metal. While the band mixes up feels and builds their songs expertly, they are at their very roots a thrashy death metal band. This means that every minute is laden with headbanging moments, and when it ain’t fast it’s groovy. Second, MPE knocks out great songs. The songcraft that these Finns have is remarkable, similar to melodeath partners in crime The Black Dahlia Murder, they play a blasty Gothenburg death that sounds tough and modern, and isn’t boring for a single second. Mors plays melodic death metal that evokes At The Gates and early Dark Tranquillity, and yet in 2014 they continue to produce records that absolutely slay—it’s because they know songcraft. Tracks build, they lilt, they pound, they surprise, but they never sound tired or lull one into an Insomnicoma; a fate far too common in modern melodeath. Lastly (3rd, for those keeping track), these guys know melody. The guitar work and melodic work on this record is intense and intensely good. Every song is littered with amazing harmonies, beautiful guitar melodies, and razor sharp hooks which cannot be dislodged.
Honing in on Dawn of the 5th Era‘s melody, I’m actually really reminded of a more Slaughter of the Soul-ish Children of Bodom; pull together the different threads, add in keyboard (and lose Wanky Warman), and you’re left with Slaughter of the Hatebreeder and it feels so good. And while MPE rocks Björriffs like everyone else who plays melodeath post-1996, the ability to let melody develop in their riffing over time is something that is unique to MPE. Specifically check out tracks like “Leader of the Titans” and “Innocence Lost,” and you can see how guitarists Andy Gillion and Kevin Verlay seem willing to let sharp melodic moments percolate and develop. By this I mean that they don’t drop a melody and just repeat it, instead a melody will develop over 30 or 35 seconds, which creates a tension and anticipation that makes the riffs straight up addictive. This stuff is sharp, and when they drop riffs like the bridge in “Wrath of Indra,” which are simple, but tense and brilliant, I lose it—horns are thrown, heads are banged, mosh pits are started on the sidewalk to work with unexpecting strangers, and police pursuit is initiated.
And of course, the musicianship of the band as a whole needs to be mentioned here. The two guitarists, you’ll notice, aren’t Finnish—Andy is from the UK and Kevin is French—but the choice to go out grabbing the best guitarists they could find for their band wasn’t a dumb decision. …and Death Said Live was an immense and powerful record, and Dawn of the 5th Era also benefits from a great drummer, a vocalist who—while not adventurous in tone—is evocative, energetic and aggressive, and what I can only assume is a great bass player (because I can’t hear him except occasionally). And while the playing is tight per definition on modern records—because: ProTools—the writing pops with such energy and life, one has to assume that these guys did spend some time putting this together live and that it sounds immense.
Dawn of the 5th Era suffers from a predictable downside being released on AFM: it’s loud—DR 5, basically—so it peaks, and the bass is essentially inaudible. All the artifacts piss me off, but it’s hard to kill good songs. In fact, surprisingly enough, I didn’t even think about just how compressed the album really is until I measured the DR. I assumed it was more 6 or 7 than 4 or 5, but was wrong—still, credit where it’s due, Thomas Johansson—who is involved with Christian Älvestam‘s project—knows how to make his records loud without making them sound too horrible. Take that for what it is, but Dawn of the 5th Age could sound a lot worse, even though it is brickwalled hard.
As a whole, Dawn of the 5th Era is a great record. It’s short and sweet, which means closer “The Forsaken” leaves me wanting more, and it even contains the best instrumental track I’ve heard on a record in a long time (track 8, “Apricity,” which for anyone who is a fan of wanking ’80s guitar feelz, should hit you right in that itch). And while I’m not able to give it the score that its predecessor got, I think it’s definitely on par with that record. Put the amazing melodies, the great songwriting, the tight performances and the fact that Mors Principium Est produced the best At The Gates riff of 2014, and I think you can safely say that this record is a must own.