Album Review: Mors Verum – “The Living” (Death Metal)

Written by Kep

Mors Verum – The Living (EP)

Dissonant death metal from Canada

Releasing November 5 via Total Dissonance Worship

Sometimes a promo checks all the boxes and you’re sure you’ll love it before you even press play. Despite them already having two releases in their catalogue, I hadn’t heard of Ontario’s Mors Verum before their new EP The Living showed up in my inbox, but as soon as I read the description I knew I wanted to hear it. A dissonant death metal release for fans of bands like Artificial BrainImperial TriumphantMorbid AngelIncantation,and Ulcerate? Sign me right the fuck up.

Truly, though, I had no idea what sort of listening experience I was in for. There’s a bewilderingly wide range of sounds encompassed by those bands. I wondered if this was going to be the kind of listen where I came away disappointed that it didn’t measure up to the lofty implications of the promo material. Then I stopped the preemptive second guessing and pressed play. Spoiler alert: I shouldn’t have worried.

“Mors verum” is Latin for “true death,” and I’m not sure there’s a more apt way to describe the soundscape that this trio creates. This music is black as goddamn pitch, claustrophobic and terrifyingly abyssal. Listening to The Living is like being stuffed into a cheap wooden coffin and then slowly buried alive beneath layer after layer of mammoth riffs. The guitars have some of the thickest tone you’ll hear this year, opaque as hell with generous distortion, which gives the fat dissonant riffs a massive sound, and the bass somehow feels almost larger. Both of these instruments are handled by Mrudul Kamble (also of Ischemic and Gravitational Distortion), and the man writes some cruel and oppressively heavy shit. The syncopated, heaving main riff of “Death’s” is a standout and is in my top five riffs of the entire year so far, but it’s far from the only chunk of dissonant guitarwork that shines on this EP. There are shades of Replicant’s inexplicable grooviness to be found here, like in the punishing riff under the first set of lyrics in “Purge”—you can’t help but move your body to it. I heard shades of Meshuggah, too, particularly in the swarming insect-like passage just after the intro of opener “Inside”.

The names of the five tracks that comprise The Living combine to form a short sentence: “Inside death’s womb purge the living.” It’s that sort of bleak, desolate darkness that they so successfully embody, the kind that feels ever so appropriate for the dismal era of humanity’s existence that we live in. Vocalist Lyndon Quadros is utterly stygian, growling and roaring dark retching words with surprising rhythmic intensity; his style fits the music like a leather glove. Greg Carvalho, who you might know from proggy death outfit Æpoch, is the man behind the kit and Mors Verum’s newest member, having joined in 2020 and taken those duties off Kamble’s hands. Carvalho is a damn good addition if you ask me—I did my research and checked out the band’s previous releases for comparison, of course—as his drumwork is enjoyably complex and punishing in equal parts, with a greater variety in approaches. 

A note on the production: the members of the band handled their own recording and mixing, and there’s an enjoyable touch of rawness to their tones. I find the mixing specifically to be pretty well spot on, with the vocals in particular occupying a sweet spot of the mix, potent and forceful without obscuring the riffs. It’s worth mentioning that The Living was mastered by Topon Das of Fuck the Facts, and he did an outstanding job outside of one minor complaint: I’m not in love with the overall level in “Womb”, the EP’s unsettling atmospheric midpoint, which seems to be oddly muted in comparison to the other songs. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Living is the definition of an under-the-radar release that will flat out blow you away. Mors Verum’s songwriting is extremely focused in this 23-minute EP format and their ominous, dense soundscape is as black and deathly as it gets. Embrace the purge with me: if you dig dissonant death metal, do not miss this release. 

Favorite track: “Death’s”

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