Albeit mostly known for his main projects Horna and Sargeist, Shatraug has a ton of various side projects. Of all those, Mortualia is the one focusing on desolate atmosphere, torturing repetition, dragging tempo, the vision of a hopeless future: in other words, depressive black metal. The self-titled debut was originally released back in 2007 but it is now getting a re-release treatment by Moribund Cult, though I am basing my review on the original Northern Sky Productions version of which I’ve possessed a copy for a couple of years already.
Mortualia doesn’t fall to the most common problems of depressive black metal. Whereas many contenders turn out to sound just pitiful in their angst, this album does not dwell in self-pity at all. This is cold, distant, murky, and with a great dose malicious melodies and riffs withouht any clichéd over-melodic tunes. The first monster, ”The Blue Silence” clocking at seventeen minutes, is probably the most melancholic piece of the bunch, followed by another similar track ”In Bleak Loneliness”, after which ”Cold and Grey” kicks in with murky menace: gone are the wistful sounds of the first tracks. The minimal ”Devoid of Warmth” is a strong addition to the whole, but pales in comparison to the last piece, ”Forgotten Soul”, of which beginning riff is so damn dramatic that it truly chills.
To elaborate the album’s sound further, you can probably already guess that Mortualia isn’t professionally producted, and that is only good. Both drums and guitars are quite remote sounding but without any unnecessary amounts of reverb. Shatraug’s vocals are very, very high-pitched and semi-clean wailings which might turn off some and, to be honest, I wasn’t very keen on them at first, but they’ve grown on me over the years. I still prefer his sound on the next full-length Blood of the Hermit on which he gets raspier, though.
If you’re looking for a proper and authentic piece of depressive black metal, I would recommend Mortualia. Perhaps it is not a cornerstone album of the subgenre, but a worthy addition to anyone’s collection who claims to be a fan of the style, as the ringing coldness and joy-killing desolation is surely to make an impact. In case the vocals are too much to bear, then look into Blood of the Hermit, and even that glitch has been then fixed.