The remarkable new EP by Poland’s Mord’A’Stigmata is named Our Hearts Slow Down. Although the title has meaning in the context of the music, your hearts will not slow down when you hear it. Unless you’re listening to the EP just as you’ve lost your brakes while bending through a hairpin curve on a mountain highway, we can assure you that you hearts will beat faster. You can tell us if we’re wrong — because at the end of these words you can listen to the EP from start to finish.
Black metal is at the core of this music, but whatever instinctive reactions you may have to that genre label, good or bad, put them aside. On this EP, you can tell that Mord’A’Stigmata had a vision that didn’t conform to established forms, and they bring into play a number of diverse musical styles to create a thoroughly narcotic and irresistibly powerful concoction.
photo by Rafal Kotylak (web site here)
Although referred to as an EP (perhaps because it consist of only three songs), Our Hearts Slow Down includes more than 30 minutes of music, with two of those three tracks exceeding 12 minutes in length.
Those two long tracks, “The Mantra of Anguish” and “Those Above”, are anchored by huge, grim, sludgy riffs and propelled by riveting drumwork that’s geared to fracture spines and snap necks. Both songs more than earn the time the band devote to them, and they never lose their magnetic hold on your senses.
“The Mantra of Anguish” moves from a discordant opening into a bleak mixture of those shivering anchor riffs and eerie lead guitar swarming, accompanied by vocals that range from searing black metal shrieks to gritty yells. With a gut-rumbling bass solo in the middle, the band then transition into an instrumental, post-metal-style segment with ringing guitars giving voice to an entrancing melody and a genius drum rhythm that compels physical movement. A stream of otherworldly electronic noise rises and fades at the song’s conclusion, an ambient segment that is both hypnotic and yet also serves as a reminder that this song is indeed a mantra of anguish.
Having already established a talent for constructing long jams that are both fascinating and physically gripping, the band promptly serve up another one. “Those Above” begins ripping and tearing in a whirlwind of blasting drums and alien, minor-key riffs almost immediately, wasting no time in beginning to build a cold atmosphere of ominous threat and heartless malevolence. The music ratchets the tension as the song progresses until it reaches the breaking point, slowing to a doom-stricken processional accompanied by thick, groaning riffs, a narcotic guitar solo, tumbling drums, and manic chanting.
As you know they will, given a song of this length, the band then start to intensify the energy as they again quicken the pace during the song’s second half. And when that happens, prepare yourselves for an extended bout of headbanging as the music’s massive driving rhythm takes over and just rolls like an unstoppable tank, laced with an extended, psychedelic guitar solo and more off-world guitar machinations flickering above all the pavement splitting below.
photo by Rafal Kotylak (web site here)
After the thoroughly galvanizing back-half of “Those Above”, the band switch gears dramatically at the beginning of the EP’s final song, which is also the title track. Bleak, isolated guitar notes set the stage for a gradual unfolding of skeletally dismantling percussion and dire, skull-crushing riffs. Though this song is shorter than its predecessors and a purely instrumental one as well, the band again display a penchant for building a gripping jam, again using the song’s forbidding central riff as the foundation for unhinged guitar soloing and an acrobatic tour de force from the drummer.
Ingeniously written and beautifully performed, Our Hearts Slow Down is the kind of music that warrants the term avant-garde, both generating a mystical atmosphere full of gloom and supernatural threat and also nourishing the taste for massive grooves and body-moving rhythms. As crafted by this talented band, it’s a combination that works exceedingly well.
Ion – Bass, Vocals
Static – Guitars, Synthesizers
DQ – Drums
Golem XIV – Guitars
Our Hearts Slow Down will be released by Pagan Records on September 25. It’s available for order here.