Animus Mortis - _Testimonia_
(Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum, 2014)
by: Chaim Drishner (9 out of 10)
"What reward is a banquet of red wine and bread, when you hunger for life but on death you are fed?" (Sabbat, _Dreamweaver - Reflections of Our Yesterdays_ album, 1989, track "The Best of Enemies")

This album takes the gleaming, glorious aspects of life and through the prism of death-hunger transforms these very life-affirming sounds into something sinister and morbid. A morbid curiosity about life beyond this life? A fascination with the big enigma of what lies beyond this existence? Probably so. For Animus Mortis, an intriguing and mysterious Chilean assembly, manage to twist and blacken the very infrastructure of modern rock 'n' roll and modify it into a death-worshiping artifact of epic proportions.

_Testimonia_ isn't a black metal album per se, unless you consider blastbeats as the hallmark of black metal (hint: they are not!); this album is brimming with blastbeats, but so are albums by so many other post-black metal bands out there, many of which lack the fundamental aesthetics or spirit (or both) of black metal. Not this one though, not _Testimonia_. This album is different.

Animus Mortis are neither Liturgy nor are they Wolves in the Throne Room; neither a pronounced post-rock band with metallic pretenses (read: hipsters) nor are they Cascadian-sounding copycats. They are not as pronouncedly melodic as Fen or as avantgarde as Pensées Nocturnes.

_Testimona_ is that barren aftermath plane -- a void, a vacuum -- where metallic rock becomes black metal; where mundane music becomes a tool for rituals and sacrifices. Animus Mortis' post-black metal / shoegaze / post-rock is dark and sinister and enigmatic -- all three major elements that are mandatory ingredients in a good musical creation. After all, we are (and hopefully you are too) the seekers of music that's dark, sinister and enigmatic, and not much else.

_Testimonia_ provides these three components and introduces them into the fabric of its gorgeous riffs in hefty quantities. That's probably the main reason why this album sounds so 'blackened'; it's because of the spirit of the songs, the depraved ambiances that engulf each song with a shroud of vapid sentiments and visions of an eternal funeral procession. The music is eerie, for a lack of a better word, theatrical and truly transcending. The wailing, atypical vocals, performing on a grey backdrop of galloping, sharp and intricate riffs that are mainly guitars-and-drums driven -- reshape and modify the whole listening experience into something far more unique (and sinister) than just listening to some good old heavy metal.

Not in the least orthodox, yet not reaching the avantgarde status, this album is amazing in how far it is removed from the basic aesthetics created by the founding fathers of black metal, yet how 'black metal' it still very much sounds.

Two bands pop up in the mind immediately upon hearing even the first couple of minutes of the opening track: Negative Plane (_Stained Glass Revelations_ era) and Urfaust. The former, due to their unorthodox grasp on the concept of the black metal sound -- and the latter, for the vocal arrangements: ritualistic, hypnotic and unique, with very little of that 'black metal' screech present. But the music, especially the more sublime moments when coupled with those precise, clinical blasts, may also remind you of Mare Cognitum; there's something spacey and ethereal inside the realms of this vast album, a universe within a universe; a darker shadow within a shadow. Listen to Mare Cognitum's atmospheric wonder _Phobos Monolith_ from the end of last year, and you will definitely draw some parallels.

But _Testimonia_ also exhibits an exquisite emotional burden; an infinite sadness; grief and loss; abandonment and failure. So instead of the brightly burning, all-consuming hatred, one is going to experience (and endure) the pangs of solitude, unraveling of the self and an acute urge for the initiation of a soul-searching process.

The lyrics are as enigmatic as the music is, written in what could be perceived as a stream-of-consciousness method, but the reading -- even if not coherent as to what message those assembled words bear -- is a spiritual experience, especially when coupled with the experience of listening thoroughly and allowing the music to pull you in, into those strange dimensions that beckon and lurk on every corner, pulling you in further and deeper by intangible tentacles of filth and death and pain.

The texts are all nuances on the theme of transformation and transcendence, written with a religious fervor, begging us all to leave our earthly flesh behind and delve into the realms of the spirit; deadly, psychologically altering ritual texts about the demise of the self, calling forth self-immolation for the purpose of discovering higher states of existence. The lyrics are effectively dark, ominous and Satanic without even mentioning the cartoonish devil for a single time -- the explicit becomes an understatement; the trivial becomes a message that is to be read between the lines.

Any fans of the aforementioned Negative Plane, Urfaust, Mare Cognium or even Nightbringer are strongly advised to pay this marvelous album a visit. This is not yet another post-black metal product, but a journey into the dark strata of consciousness and into the heart of humanity's undying aspiration for transformation and shape-shifting made flesh by the art of sound. If that's not the essence of black metal as the embodiment of spiritualism -- we wouldn't really know what black metal is all about.


(article published 8/7/2015)

4/6/2008 A Marouchos 8 Animus Mortis - Atrabilis (Residues From Verb & Flesh)
4/7/2006 A Marouchos 3.5 Animus Mortis - Thresholds of Insanity
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