Released: 2016, Omnipresence Productions
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The elven one has returned – at least in part. After six years of relative silence, shape-shifting industrial/metal/electronic provocateur Mortiis – the once upon a long fucking time ago bassist with a then-fledgling Emperor – has delivered his ninth album.
And if the press photos accompanying the promo are any indication, he's brought back the elf/troll/goblin prosthetics, along with other rather horrific get ups, for what he has dubbed “Era 0” - which is actually Era IV, if you're keeping score - after largely ditching the masks/costuming for a body paint motif for his last album, Perfectly Defect, in 2010.
And while that should really be neither here nor there, aesthetics have always gone hand in hand with Mortiis' music – going all the way back to his Emperor days. And his mix-and-match ensemble offers some evidence of the mixed bag of music The Great Deceiver has to offer.
The album largely carries forward the Era III sound that showcased crashing guitars and thunderous mechanized rhythms a la Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM – not to mention Mortiis' gravelly shout and bullhorn-like delivery that echoes Al Jourgensen. But there is an ample electronic hue with pulsing synths throughout, swaths of keys often used to fill in the empty spaces and the ever-present programmed beats that hark back to earlier eras. And there are a few surprises, like the acoustic guitars of the western-tinged “Hard To Believe.” The restrained electric guitar hooks of its chorus make it the catchiest song here.
The album opens with the rousing, guitar-driven one, two, three of “The Great Leap,” “The Ugly Truth” and “Doppelganger” before broadening its scope with the brooding “Demons Are Back” and its more pronounced electronic throb. From there, just about anything goes. There's the ebullient synth-pop of “Road To Ruin” contrasted by its grim lyrical tone, the anthemic electro-metal of “The Shining Lamp of God” and “Feed The Greed” and the more revved up “industrial thrash” of “Scalding The Burnt,” the Gary Numan-like confessional “Sins of Mine,” and the Downward Spiral worshiping “Bleed Like You,” which, with its Spartan drone and myriad sound effects, is the most derivative track here. “Too Little Too Late” rounds things out by circling back to the dense, guitar heavy bombast of the opening tracks, though its chirpy synth lines are surprisingly hypnotic.
Curious metal music fans should find enough heft here to make The Great Deceiver worth their while, even though the heavily electronic tracks will likely test their patience. Those mourning the supposed end of Ministry – or who yearn for the days before Jourgensen went off the rails – should dig this as well, not necessarily because it sounds the same, but for its well-constructed amalgam of technology, cacophony and catharsis. Despite all of its artificiality, Deceiver is still pretty heavy in the end.