Mortiis' musical career sure is a bumpy ride; my Finnish metal fan friend remarked and played me the dreary gloombient ”Selvmord” album, recorded by Mortiis side project Vond in 1995.
Developing in a pattern somewhat similar to that of Swedish Tiamat, Mortiis has progressed from black metal bassist through creepy ambient one man studio project to the hard hitting live industrial rock band present on ”The Grudge”. This album marks the passing of the mystical persona of Mortiis – even the goblin mask is coming off in the new promotional pics – in favour of a very American flavoured angst.
Mortiis aka Håvard Ellefsen has never tried to conceal his admiration of Trent Reznor (see the Release interview, for instance), but for this recording those Nine Inch Nails have been driven in farther than ever. ”Broken Skin” bears an uncanny resemblance to ”March of the Pigs”, and every detail from guitars and temporal shifts with calm interludes and explosive riffing and on to the vocals are frighteningly Reznorian. There are plenty of such occurrences throughout the album, but maybe that is not exclusively a bad thing. Appearing as a saving angel during this, one of the usual lapses between NIN records (about seven years?), Mortiis can feed the starving masses, and his songs are not bad at all. His new concoction of heavily guitar laced electronica – the going is a lot faster and rougher than on ”A Smell of Rain” – is dynamic and packed with energy. Most songs rock hard and leave a lingering infectious chorus behind while a few songs feature calmer sections, again very strongly NIN-flavoured.
While ”The Grudge” is a strong album that will probably find new audiences for the artist, the charm of Mortiis as an eccentric underground freak superstar is wearing off. There are no traces of the dark fantasy saga that used to accompany him on his albums. If you always thought that was kind of silly anyway, then you’re in luck. I have always admired the integrity of Mortiis in weaving this crackpot fairy tale world around his musical output, even when not caring that much about his music. So I am a little sad to let it go and see it replaced by plain anger and bitterness. ”You bring out the worst in me” Mortiis whines and the only ghosts and goblins left in his life seem to be painkillers and fiendish ex-girlfriends. Oh well. We all have to grow up, I guess.