Of all the legendary bands making comebacks in the last few years, Mortuary Drape is surely among the most welcome around here at THKD. It’s been ten long years since the Italians last released a full length, and given the fact that there’s not another black metal band on Earth (or beyond) that sounds quite like them, that’s far, far too long. Of course, some misgivings are understandable considering the band that now surrounds drummer/vocalist/mainman Wildness Perversion consists of more recent initiates into the Mortuary Drape uh, fold, but rest assured fiends, Herr Perversion’s still got it on Spiritual Independence; in fact he’s still got it to the point that the album stacks up damn impressively next to stone classics such as All the Witches Dance and Tolling 13 Knell.
What’s always set Mortuary Drape apart from the black metal masses is their keen ability to perfectly balance headbang-worthy riffs with a ghastly atmosphere, and nowhere is this more evident than on tracks such as “Lithany” “Mortal Remains (Your Bones)” and “Ignis Fatuus (Deaf Space).” The band’s riffing hews closer to classic mid-tempo thrash than it does the Scandinavian second wave, and yet the music remains effortlessly, endlessly black. This isn’t some rehash of what came before, this is the vintage Mortuary Drape sound brought into the present in all its morbid glory.
What’s really striking about Spiritual Independence is the obvious amount of time and effort Mortuary Drape put into bringing it into being as a truly stunning manifestation of their craft. Each of the album’s ten tracks possesses its own character; the band has always been about making a powerful impression through quality songwriting rather than overwhelming extremity, and it is this approach that makes it one of the year’s most memorable metal recordings, as well as one that can stand proudly next to the band’s storied back catalog. Rather than attempting to bulldoze you from start to finish, Mortuary Drape give their songs the time and space to breath, like pestilent flowers slowly coming into bloom.
In addition to great songs, Spiritual Independence also features the best production job of the band’s career. It possesses the same haunted, shadowy vibe as the band’s early recordings, bringing back the grit and grime that was mostly lost on 2004’s Buried in Time, especially on the guitar tone front. That said, there is clarity aplenty, and it’s always a joy to be able to hear what the bass guitar is doing on a black metal album. Perversion’s vocals sit perfectly in the mix and never overwhelm the instruments, his sinister croak guiding us through the maze of nightmare scenarios Mortuary Drape have erected here.
Being released on a small label so close to the end of 2014, Spiritual Independence runs the risk of getting lost in the year-end shuffle, but I urge those of you that worship the band’s prior classics and quality black metal in general to seek it out ASAP. Mortuary Drape have yet another very special album on their hands here, it would be a damn shame to sleep on it. Absolutely timeless stuff.