The Stargate


Earache Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I got an e-mail recently from reviewer Paul Hanson, who happens to write for more magazines and sites than just "The Daily Vault." "Hey," he said, "did you get that new Mortiis CD? Does that disc suck, or what?" Okay, now I had a reason to listen to bump it up in the "to be reviewed" list.

When you look at the cover art for Mortiis's latest disc The Stargate, you expect this to be a CD filled with speed-freak death metal and brutal screams passing for vocals. At least that's what I was expecting -- until I put the disc in my CD player, hit "play," and proceeded to slowly watch my jaw drop.

Two minutes passed, then four, then eight -- this couldn't be all building to the fierceness, could it? Or is this melodious, Gothic-like music I hear the basis for Mortiis's work? There is rarely a guitar to be heard on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Stargate, and this disc brings to mind memories of such works as Glenn Danzig's Black Aria - that is, albums whose message isn't in lyrics, but in the picture that the music paints.

Does it suck, as Paul suggested? Not to my ears -- though it needs some variety. More on that in a minute.

One could easily question whether this music is demonic or "black metal" -- and I would dare to say "no" to both labels. Granted, the stories in the liner notes for each song suggest that the meaning of the music and the stories is up for individual interpretation -- but I don't see anything particularly dark or threatening about either.

Yes, the music on The Stargate is plodding, and is very Gothic-like in its structure. I guess that would qualify as being "dark." But it's nowhere near the demon-feast I expected the first time I popped this into the player. If anything, its operatic qualities will surprise the listener -- and I found it to be an intriguing listen.

This isn't to say that The Stargate is a perfect album. If I had one criticism to level against Mortiis, it would be that he needs to inject some variety into the songs he's creating. Often, it seems like the same rhythmic pattern is being hammered home until it gets to the point of overkill. What starts off as a song I'd get interested in like "World Essence" is quickly reduced to so much repetition that I find myself losing focus. Fortunately, on later cuts like "Army Of Conquest / The Warfare (Ever Onwards)", there is this variety thrown in -- otherwise, this 13-minute track would have been a chore to listen to. With the change-ups, it passes quite quickly.

The Stargate is definitely not an album for everyone, nor is it the kind of demon-drooling material you'd think it would contain based on first look at Mortiis himself. (Would you buy a used car from this man?) But if you can get past some of the repetition of musical themes, you may find that Mortiis has created an album that dares to break the mold of traditional heavy metal and tries to merge it with the classical and Gothic worlds. The thing is, he nearly succeeds.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Earache Records, and is used for informational purposes only.