Spiritus Mortis – The Great Seal Review

In the darkness I lurk, watching from a distance for that first glimpse of what I know must eventually arrive. But how long must I languish in this grim limbo? My hunger grows exponentially as weeks stretch into months without succor. In anguish, I raise my fists to the Heavens and cry out. Where oh where are the great doom albums of 2022? Where are the classic doom-inspired platters designed to crush me ‘neath oceans of despair and mammoth riffs? Aside from the winning debut by Early Moods (God, I hate that name), there’s been little to slake my unhealthy doom desires. Thus I pinned a great deal of miserable hope on the return of Finland’s Spiritus Mortis. Silent these last 6 years, their 2016 outing The Year is One was a glorious trip down memory lane to the 80s mausoleum, full of nods to Saint Vitus, Cathedral, and Reverend Bizzare. Can I still count on them to give me the bleak sustenance my accursed soul demands? The Great Seal is their long-delayed follow-up and lineup changes see Reverend Bizzare’s Sami Albert Hynninen vacate the vocal slot to work with his Friends of Hell project. In his place is Celesty’s Kimmo Perämäki. Beyond the lineup shuffles which also include a new drummer, their style has shifted further towards the epic end of the doom spectrum, sounding more in league with Solitude Aeturnus and Crypt Sermon than Saint Vitus and the other 80s doom-mongers. What does this mean for the doom ghouls out there skulking in the eternal gloom? Step into the half-light and all will be revealed.

Where much of The Year of One had a heavy 80s doom vibe, sometimes almost perfectly replicating the moods and styles of Saint Vitus and Pentagram, opener “Puputan” is more in line with upbeat works of Candlemass and Memory Garden. It’s doom with a healthy infusion of traditional and power metal, but it still brings the hammer at well-chosen moments. Beautiful guitars layer polish and melody over the funerary segments and Kimmo does a good job delivering doomy vocals with an urgent edge. His soaring refrains hit that doom sweet spot and establish he means serious business. A fine and rousing piece this is. “Death’s Charioteer” is more of the same, but with a bigger Solitude Aeturnus vibe percolating through its dead veins. Kimmo even does a fair job approximating Rob Lowe for much of the song’s glum runtime. The riffs plod and plunder and the mood is graveyard-ready. Spiritus Mortis still has it, folks. Songs like the brilliant “Feast of the Lord” dole out all the larger-than-life doom drama anyone could want, and closer “Are You a Witch” sits in the beloved olde timey space where Briton Rites and Count Raven once dwelled.

Elsewhere. “Khristovovery” is a regal number that shifts abruptly into 70s Sabbath worship at the midpoint as a riff that could have/should have appeared on Master of Reality rolls in to flatten the disbelievers. The consistently strong, engaging material on The Great Seal makes the inclusion of oddball number “Martyrdom Operation” all the more baffling. Unlike its album buddies, it’s a hard rock-oriented number with a main riff that sounds like Deep Purple at some points, and like AC/DC at others. Making things all the stranger, Kimmo’s vocals warble between Roy Khan (Conception, ex-Kamelot) and Lord Jørn. It’s not a bad song in itself, but it sounds very out of place here, like it belongs on an entirely different album. Sitting as it does between several grandiose doom songs, it feels like a very strange inclusion and it disrupts the album’s flow rather significantly. Aside from this morbid curiosity, the remainder of The Great Seal is very good to excellent and the album’s 44 minutes is the ideal length.

Jussi Maijala and Kari Lavila return as a dynamic guitar duo steeped in the ways of the doom world, and though they shift focus from the 80s, they still deliver all the rich, creamy goods. Heavy riffs, melancholic trilling, beautifully downbeat solos, they’re all here in abundance. They bring a great deal of polish and class to the material and everything feels refined but still heavy. Aside from his missteps on “Martyrdoom Operation,” Kimmo Perämäki delivers a top-notch performance, ranging from classic doom singing to more aggressive and throat-grabbing efforts as the songs require. I still prefer Sami Albert Hynninen, but there’s no downgrade for vocalizing here. The band is sharp and much of the writing is high-quality and dead-on.

My doom urges quenched for now, I can finally rest. The Great Seal is a highly enjoyable slab of doom delivered by those who love it as much as I do. Maybe if we are really good, Spiritus Mortis won’t make us wait until 2028 for their next effort. We can be good, right? RIGHT?

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart
Websites: spiritusmortis.com | spiritusmortis.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/spiritusmortis.official
Releases Worldwide: September 16, 2022

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