===Era II - Mortiis - The Smell of Rain===
Mortiis (his stage name) originally started his career in the music industry playing bass guitar for the black metal band Emperor. From there he moved out on his own and became front man of his own group, also called Mortiis. His musical orientation has switched genre several times and he refers to these different phases as "eras". Era I consisted of classical compositions with a dark, ambient feel to them. Era II saw Mortiis transition into the more mainstream alternative music scene, with The Smell of Rain being the only album released in this era. Era III shows another shift within the alternative scene, with the sounds becoming more influenced by industrial rock.
Although Mortiis is from Norway, all of the lyrics are sung in English which means that they have a wider appeal, and he has a loyal fan base in the UK and throughout Europe. The language can be a little distracting sometimes, as translations do not always seem to come across quite right, or the sentence structure can seem odd thanks to our difficult English grammar. That said, I really like the imagery used in his lyrics and find a lot of the songs to be very emotive and poetic. Because of that I've decided to use this review to pick out my favourite lyrics from each song :)
I discovered Mortiis back in the days when I was growing into a teenage goth and thought that reading Metal Hammer magazine was the best way to keep up to date with all of the latest and coolest bands. I believe Mortiis even used to have his own column in the news section for a while. Anyway, what caught my eye about Mortiis was his look. The group had a very distinctive style, wearing deconstructed outfits finished with layers of straps and ragged tears all dusted liberally with corn flour to give an aged appearance. Mortiis himself also used to wear a prosthetic face mask giving him a goblin-like appearance which is very dramatic on stage. I've seen them perform live a couple of times and they always had great stage presence as well as sounding amazing. The dishevelled look is pictured beautifully in the album art for The Smell of Rain, and it gives a real sense of him being lost somewhere in the wastelands.
1."Scar Trek / Parasite God" - 6:02
I think this album opens on a really strong note, kicking off with a controversial song that poses incredulity at followers of the Christian religion. I myself hold a strongly atheistic viewpoint and so can relate to the message that is being communicated here. The song has a dark electro-pop feel to it, and then ramps up the beat by turning up the drums a notch or two, and distorted rock guitars adding a heavier edge. The lyrics are quite repetitive and the song does feel a little on the long side, but overall I think it's a good starting point. I particularly like the "choir" effect of chanting voices joining in to provide backing vocals as this fits in with the theme of the lyrics.
Favourite lyrics: "We are floating, above the mountains / Watching all the tiny people / How they waste themselves away / Obey themselves away."
2."Flux / Mental Maelstrom" - 6:46
This is quite a long track by any standards, but in this case I hardly notice it as it builds up from a softer start to become heavier and incorporate more layers as the song progresses. I really like the atmosphere that is created by the lyrics, which are very dark and angry. It's the perfect song to listen to if you're feeling the need to seek revenge on someone who deserves it! The repetitive guitar riffs have an almost machine gun harsh quality to them which fits really well with the lyrics and helps to reinforce the tone of the song.
Favourite lyrics: "I want you to descend / I want you to fall down / I want to be the end of everything you've ever done."
3."Spirit in a Vacuum" - 4:53
I think that this track is really quite similar to the one before it, both in terms of the music itself, the way the song is constructed, and also the lyrics. The words have a lovely poetic quality to them presented in simple, short sentences. This song features additional vocals from Martina Binder who has a beautiful, soft and fragile voice. For me this creates a sort of mystical, ethereal feel to the song and this is really the only thing that separates Spirit in a Vacuum from Flux / Mental Maelstrom.
Favourite lyrics: "Mental Maelstrom beckons me, to fall into the core / The Centre of the universe, mocks me forevermore."
4."Monolith" - 3:59
This track takes a more sombre tone and the lyrics are sung in an exaggerated, pained way. This song is heavy on the synth element and the pace is slowed right down to fit with the melancholic mood. There is also the addition of an interesting quote sample about three-quarters of the way through the song: "You ask me if I have remorse for what I have done. How can I, when I don't have a conscience?". This isn't one of the strongest songs in my opinion, and I think it could have been better placed either at the start or the finish of the album rather than dragging the mood down half-way through the CD.
Favourite lyrics: "The Monolith is I. / It was always me. / This world has always been, the place I really lived in."
5."You Put a Hex on Me" - 5:45
This is one of my favourite songs from the album and is an upbeat, catchy track with a good rhythm to it. It has what I think of as Enya(!) style electro sounds to compliment the title line of the chorus. (No, I'm not crazy. Remember Sail Away? This song reminds me of it in places.) This song is about casting a spell against someone and the lyrics really capture the essence of this ritual. I connected with this as I love all things horror, and the topic appeals to me as a fan of voodoo and witchcraft in my fictional entertainment. This has a great underlying beat to it, although it's not really pumped up enough to be a dance track, it's still more of a synth-pop offering.
Favourite lyrics: "In the middle of a circle, sits the one to fear / Maker of all miracles, the one I won't go near."
6."Everyone Leaves" - 6:41
This is one of the saddest songs that I've ever heard and I wasn't expecting it in an album of this type. The lyrics are simple but I really connected with them emotionally. If you've ever lost someone close to you then you will probably find this song to be meaningful and relevant; I certainly did and it still stirs up a lot of feelings in me whenever I hear it. It laments the loss but also encourages acceptance, so although I find it moving to listen to it also helps me feel more positive. The vocals are sung very gently, with a whisper-light touch. There are also some odd inclusions here like pan-pipe sound effects which I'm not sure fit, but they do manage to work somehow. What I really like about this song is that although it is slow and sad to begin with, it does build up towards the end and it feels like there is a real release at the end as the tension becomes greater and the vocals finally find their strength.
Favourite lyrics: "Everyone leaves in the end / Everything dies in the end / It doesn't matter how hard you hold on / Everyone leaves in the end."
7."Marshland" - 4:43
Marshland is one of my favourite Mortiis songs from all of his albums, and I think that this particular song really paved the way for him to develop his style further. With his later works you can see where the inspiration for this song has led him and I like that he has continued on in this style. We're back to a more upbeat sounding track, but the lyrics are actually quite desperate. There is a real sense of confusion and inadequacy, and the way that he describes the Marshlands makes it seem very real. There are lots of layers mixed together here, with the drums looping constantly in the background, and this is overlaid with electro-beats and chanted backing vocals which help it to keep the dark, gothic feel.
Favourite lyrics: "The only way to find myself / Is to descend deeper still." and "I'm stuck and cold where life is plentiful but nothing lives."
8."Antimental" - 6:17
This is another example of where two songs seem to blend into one another. This follows on from Marshland and uses much of the same styling. It has a slightly angrier feel to it, including the line "fist f*** baby" repeated a few times, not sure how this fits in exactly but it does amuse me. A lot of the lyrics are repeated again but this works to good effect, especially when building up nearer the end of the song.
Favourite lyrics: "I've got to stop existing mentally, in places that I do not want to be."
9."Smell the Witch" - 5:43
This song is a good finish to the album and rounds things off in an energetic way. This is an oddly upbeat, catchy track with odd lyrics and an overtly gothic feel. There are chanting choir-like backing vocals, strong drum beats, grindy guitars and even some church bell sound effects, hurrah! I think this pulls the album together, and when I loop this album on my MP3 player it works really well to finish the album off and then link back into the first track again, which is a cool effect.
Favourite lyrics: "Is this how fear smells?"
This album came out in 2001 and I still listen to it now, so it's proved itself as a good part of my limited music collection. I really like the direction that Mortiis took when he started producing this sort of music and it only gets better from here. I'd definitely recommend looking up The Smell of Rain if you're interested in dark, dystopian electro-pop with a gothic feel to it. It's been released several times in small runs and you can find this cheaply on Amazon, with a pre-owned copy costing between £2-£4. A new copy currently costs between £9-£14 depending on year of release.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Scar Trek/Parasite God
2 Flux/Mental Maelstrom
3 Spirit in a Vacum
5 You Put a Hex on Me
6 Everyone Leaves
9 Smell the Witch