photos by Marcin Studzinski
Whoever scheduled the release of Dira Mortis‘ new album on Christmas Day 2020 had a wicked sense of humor. The album, whose title is Ancient Breath Of Forgotten Misanthropy, will be discharged that day by Selfmadegod Records. It has many interconnected themes, but one of them is the use of religion by powerful forces to dominate, intimidate, and divide the masses, and in their hypocrisy to use it as a cover for evil. Lyrically, the album also calls for resistance, lest we be led deeper into an abyss of misanthropy in which humanity continues to be a plague of hate unto itself. Merry Christmas.
On the other hand, in many respects this new album is a great way for many of us (and we mean died-in-the-wool metalheads for whom Christmas has no religious significance) to celebrate the day, particularly this year, when gatherings of friends and family are downright dangerous (or outright prohibited) and when the year as a whole seems like such a godforsaken mess, and offers such powerful proof that people have become dangerously alienated from each other in more ways than simply physical distance.
What the album provides, in addition to particularly relevant lyrical themes, is the work of a veteran band whose talents give death-metal-heads other reasons to rejoice.
Over the course of seven crushing tracks on their third full-length, this Polish group channel influences that bring to mind the likes of Incantation, Immolation, and Autopsy. They bring to bear spine-shaking heaviness, ravaging ferocity, monstrous vocal expulsions, turn-on-a-dime tempo dynamism, and a rich panoply of riveting guitar solos that traverse a wide range of moods with compelling effect.
The album is book-ended by a pair of tracks produced by £ukasz “Zenial” Szałankiewicz. The opener, “Legions Heading For Eternity”, reveals shimmering electronics, the ethereal female vocals of Elene Aladashvili, and a rumbling percussive pulse, translating into sound (in the band’s words) “the eponymous ‘breath’ that passes through all ages,” heralding anxiety and uncertainty.
“Worship The Terror Of Madness”, the album’s first full track which follows, in turn provides the blueprint for much of what follows. It’s both breathtakingly explosive and chillingly frightening. It combines skull-busting drumwork; rapid-fire riffing; shrieking, wailing, and skittering solos; and spine-tingling growls and screams, producing an amalgam of vicious frenzy and thunderous, stomping grooves, of blazing chaos and mauling physicality — and in its slowest moments a feeling of dismal, morbid hopelessness.
The multi-faceted, ever-changing onslaught of “Worship…” becomes the hallmark of the other tracks, which expose listeners to the talents of a bone-smashing rhythm section, multitudes of blood-freezing guttural roars and unhinged shrieks, and the interplay of unchained savagery and soul-fracturing oppressiveness. When the band cut loose with drumming that spits bullets at a high rate of speed, coupled with obliterating blizzards of tremolo’d riffing, the effect is one of eye-popping ferocity. When they pull back, the music is capable of sinking the mood into sepulchral pits of dread and despair.
It bears repeating that the soloing in the music is a vital, stand-out ingredient in the dynamism of the songs. There are times when it’s just wild, a channeling of lunatic ecstasy that helps propel the most turbocharged attacks into red zones of savage mania. And there are other times when the guitar seems to cry out in grief, to become hauntingly soulful and forlorn, or to shine like supernatural incantations.
It also bears repeating that the songs will regularly inflict tremendous body blows. Thanks in large part to the immaculate skills of drummer Vizun, whose continuously changing speeds and patterns are a big reason why the album is so electrifying, the band are never too far away from the kind of grooves that will jolt you to your core, crack your neck, and pound your head flat.
Dira Mortis chose to make each song a trip. They’re longer than average for a death metal album, and the band use the time to make each track a thrill-ride — right up to the haunting outro track, “The Altars Fall”. As the band say, “The story we tell, slowly fades away like a smoldering candle …” And what a story this album has been.
It’s entirely possible that Dira Mortis do wish peace on earth and good will among men and women, but judging from the album it’s also likely they don’t believe that will happen naturally or through divine intervention. It will require a determined fight and an unquenchable spirit, and this raging, riotous, yet somehow even poignant album would make a good soundtrack for what is required.
Ancient Breath Of Forgotten Misanthropy was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Roslyn Studios with producer Krzysztof Godycki. It features cover art by Bartłomiej Kurzok. And it’s available for order from Selfmadegod Records now (CD and digital). Merry Christmas.