Spectrum Mortis – Bit Meseri – The Incantation Review

Baal has become a figure closely associated if not identified with evil, thanks to the influence of Abrahamic religions. But it is in fact a cognate of the older, Mesopotamian term Bel, which simply means ‘Lord,’ and was often used to refer to Marduk, the supreme god in the Babylonian pantheon. This is where Spectrum Mortis—who allegedly formed “under the sign of Baal”—and their latest LP Bit Meseri – The Incantation come in. That incantation, the Bit Meseri, is a real ancient Mesopotamian ritual, undertaken for the purpose of purging demonic forces from a home. It calls on Marduk, among other divine figures whose names provide most of the song titles in this album. Despite this explicitly anti-evil origin, Spectrum Mortis seem to embrace the devilish connotations of invoking these ancient gods. Their music bears this out, by being in equal part ritualistic, evil-sounding, and shrouded in dark atmosphere.

Through a medium of heavily atmospheric blackened doom, Bit Meseri mainly succeeds in communicating its occult inspiration. There is something of the ancient near east in the lilt of the guitars, reverberating against dusty darkness in quieter passages (“Utu-Abzu,” “Uanna”). The music also holds a distinctively ceremonial air that recalls Praise the Plague in its cavernous grandiosity (“U-Anne-Dugga”) and Behemoth in a near-warlike march, and guitars that parody church organs (“An Enlilda”). Intro “An,” and outro “Shamash” plant the listener in the time and place with echoed acoustics, and their evocation is not totally wasted, as the back half of the title track picks up the refrain as a kind of mid-way interlude—though their necessity still remains dubious. All this, plus a pleasingly rich and clear production, sets the stage for a decent, immersive record. However, Spectrum Mortis don’t totally maintain their terrifying grip, and so while certain elements loom black and terrifying, the rest is smokey, indistinct, less effective.

Bit Meseri is at its best when at its most atmospheric, accentuating its tenor of dark spiritual invocation. This is Spectrum Mortis’ one (very) good card, and they play it well, until its power runs out. The doomy cavernous exaltation of aforementioned “Utu-Abzu,” “Uanna,” and “An-Enlilda” works well through interplay of spooky ascending and descending riffs and mysterious fades into stripped-back near-silence. Descents into blackened death, complete with maniacal layered howls and shrieks are frantically chilling in some instances (“Bit Meseri”) but less potent in others (“El Sol de Eridu”). Scattered spoken-word (“U-Anne-Dugga”) will either enhance the effect or take you out of it, depending on your preference. There are also subtle nods to atmospheric disso-death (“Bit Meseri,” “Uanna,” “El Sol de Eridu”) that are satisfying enough, but lack that spiralling descent-into-the-abyss tenor. In the case of the former two tracks, this is saved by a transition into eerie blackened doom. In the latter however, an emphasis on the frantic and a less malevolent tone make this lack more noticeable.

Nonetheless, the whole album contains enough of this ritualistic intrigue and urgent melody to make it enjoyable. It is simply pulled down from greatness by two main factors. First, most songs are a tad too long, and lose the potency they have been painstakingly crafted to hold by becoming repetitious. Second, it feels a little front-loaded—the best cuts all falling in the first half—and so the whole itself also loses some potency as it continues. It’s not an especially long listen, landing around the forty-minute mark, intro and outro included, and so does pass by fairly fast. It can therefore be forgiven for having long songs (even if they are thus not as good as they could be). Though on the other hand, it becomes that much more frustrating that the high calibre of “Utu-Abzu,” for instance, is not sustained. Actual vocal and instrumental performances across the board are solid, and I can’t emphasise enough how well-produced this is. Were this whole album composed of songs like “Utu-Abzu,” or “U-Anne-Dugga,” this could have turned out very differently.

Spectrum Mortis have something special. When they’re on form their music proves to be evocative and deep. At these moments, they exemplify blackened doom done well. While they haven’t got it all right yet, I’ll be keeping an eye on this mysterious group of acolytes for their future rituals.

Rating: Good
DR: 81 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Listenable Records
Websites: spectrummortis.com | spectrummortis.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/spectrummortis
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. All the tracks proper are 7; the average is brought up by the intro and outro which are each DR 10.
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