Embers of a Dying World, the sixth album from Finland’s Mors Principium Est, comes out on February 10th. At first glance of the cover, with its stark colors and crumbling skeletal figure, looks like it belongs on a thrash album. Perhaps because it was designed by Eliran Kantor, who did covers for Testament and Sodom, among many other bands. Don’t be fooled, MPE is still creating ripping melodeath, but now with more symphonic flair and melancholy flavor.
Overall, the album is not as speedy and in-your-face as 2014’s Dawn of the Fifth Era. “Reclaim the Sun,” the first song after the orchestral intro, has more of a grandiose- symphonic sound with huge, dramatic choruses, but also some fast, head-bangable guitar work. While there are quite a few fast-paced songs, the sorrowful atmosphere remains. A fast, yet melancholy, melody underpins “Masquerade,” but also contains a soaring chorus and a very emotive bridge. Although “The Ghost” has some jackhammer riffs and aggressive vocals, slower keyboard and guitar melodies float over them. “Into the Dark” features a diversity of elements, starting with the usual fast MPE sound, but upped drama with a choir, low growled vocals, and a slow expansive chorus, à la Finland’s doomier melodeath bands. “The Drowning” also has more of a melodic death/doom sound, with slower, more pensive melodies and less punchy vocals than the usual MPE.
“Death is the Beginning” is the magnum opus on this album. Of course it is, as it’s the band’s self-titled song (the Latin “mors principium est” translated as “death is the beginning”). It is slow, sweeping, sad, yet beautiful in the grand tradition of melancholy Finnish melodeath bands. Along with the usual snarled harsh vocals, clean female vocals and more extensive low growls further the doomy contrast of heaviness and beauty. The song seems to be about the death of a child and becomes more agonizing with each listen, especially, in the final chorus, as Ville Viljanen screams in grief-stricken rage, “No. We never wanted you to go, we never wanted you to show, what this life would be without you.” The outro of orchestral strings goes seamlessly into the keyboard intro of the next song, “The Ghost,” along with the song title that makes me think the two songs are connected.
The album picks up the pace toward the end. “In Torment” is a blistering melodeath assault after all that sadness, with some windmill-worthy riffage, and roaring low growls. “The Colours of the Cosmos,” another fast song, sounds a lot like “Wrath of Indra” from Dawn of the Fifth Era. So much so, I did a double-take when it started up, wondering if I somehow missed a bunch of songs and am now listening to the other album. This song is not quite as catchy though, and has more changes in pace. Where “Wrath of Indra” was a headlong rush of fury, “The Colours of the Cosmos” has expansive, moody moments as well as racing, pummeling riffs.
While not as speedy and catchy as Dawn of the Fifth Era, it has a broader, more emotionally profound vision. When one looks closer, the cover also reflects the same. It has none of the violence or gore of thrash or brutal death metal. The deathly figure is stately in its intricately painted robes, morbid, yet elegant like a Renaissance painting. It’s a reminder that death has been with us since antiquity.