Mortuus Umbra are a black metal band from Tel Aviv, Israel. If you put ‘Israel’ and ‘metal’ together in one sentence, I think one’s mind is at first drawn to the excellent band Melechesh; but Mortuus Umbra have less in common with them than with the burgeoning Icelandic black metal scene. I stumbled upon this band recently when reading about the Oration MMXVI festival held in Reykjavík next year, and decided to give them a listen as the only band on the bill that I was not yet familiar with.
Mortuus Umbra are a whirlwind of aggression wrapped in the cloak of the occult. Off-kilter, dissonant guitars force themselves against the ears, their infectious and eerie melodies demanding to be heard. Mortuus Umbra rarely launch into an all-out assault but when they do it is timed for maximum impact, balanced carefully between slower passages and natural transitions, and it is the dynamics the band weave into the songwriting here that make the songs so strong. The slower passages of dissonant melodies with harsh, barked vocals are often the best moments on this EP, particularly as they flow into the more brutal sections.
There is something very sinister about this EP: the harsh, raspy barks are terrifying in their aggression and rawness; the guitars don’t bash you over the head with downtuned chugs, but instead transport you beyond this plane with intricately written riffs and reverberating chords; and the drums pack enough ferocity to back up the rest of the music, either accentuating the brutality or leaving enough room for ther slower, darker moments to work their magic.
I also appreciate the warmth of the production and how natural it sounds, which is to be expected from the extremely talented Stephen Lockhart at Studio Emissary. The production feels real and genuine, which is very important for any black metal record. This is a very impressive debut EP, even if it isn’t the most unique I’ve ever heard, and I highly recommend that you give these guys a listen because I think they’re going places. If you’re at all into many of the excellent black metal bands from Iceland, such as Sinmara or Svartidauði, or the Irish band Slidhr, then you should find a lot to sink your teeth into here.