Reviewed: October 2020
Released: 2020 AFM Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
After 20 years and six previous albums, the one-time Finnish sextet Mors Principium Est have whittled themselves down to a mere duo for album number seven, which fittingly bears that as its title. In the time since 2017’s Embers Of A Dying World, drummer Mikko Sipola and bassist Teemu Heinola departed, leaving longtime frontman Ville Viljanen as the lone survivor from the band’s 2003 full-length debut and British guitarist Andy Gillion as the only other full-time member.
But lineup changes are nothing new to Mors Principium Est, with their roster boasting at least a dozen former members. And with Gillion as the main songwriter, the band don’t really miss a step with Seven. With session drummer Marko Tommila in tow, Mors offer up an often feisty batch of symphonically tinged melodic death metal.
“A Day for Redemption” and “Lost in a Starless Aeon” get things off to a rousing start powered by Gillion’s surging guitars and spry flourishes and Viljanen’s imposing rasp. Gillion is certainly a busy guy here, crafting opulent harmonies, trading solos and building brash, brisk layers of riffage, while also providing the orchestration. It makes for a huge sound overall that rarely feels overblown since the energy level is largely retained throughout – the instrumental interlude “Reverence,” which actually sounds more like an outro even though it sits dead center here, being a notable exception.
Up to that point though, “In Frozen Fields,” “March To War” and “Rebirth” keeps things moving right along. These guys definitely don’t wallow in the melancholy like some of their countrymen – remember Sentenced? Man, those guys could bring the misery. Though Viljanen laments that “laughter used to fill my days, now only sorrow knows my name” on “Starless Aeon,” much of the material feels rousing and triumphant, not unlike Amon Amarth, given the frontman’s wolverine tenacity.
There’s not much let up on the back half of Seven either. Though “At the Shores of Silver Sand” is punctuated by epic, dramatic choruses, the orchestral whimsy of “The Everlong Night” is offset by a blast-beaty finale and Viljanen’s emphatic roar. And the grand finale “My Home, My Grave” follows the gothic sweep of its intro with a Dimmu Borgir-like blast off that is downright exhilarating – again, not something that is often said of Finnish metal.
Mors Principium Est seem to almost live by the meaning of their name – “death is the beginning,” in Latin. After losing their rhythm section, the band have come back sounding stronger and more vibrant than ever. But one more departure and the band essentially becomes a solo project for whomever remains, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.