Dungeon synth is possibly the most underground musical genre you can imagine – dark, shadowy, ominous electronica seemingly made just for the pleasure of Nosferatu himself. Any search for prominent artists in this field will be headlined by Mortiis (or Håvard Ellefsen, as his mum would know him), a one-time member of the mighty Emperor and one of the godfathers of the cavernous cacophony. He released a slew of strong material in this vein until the turn of the century when he headed in a more traditional industrial rock/goth direction, but his original vision (including his macabre troll make-up) remains incredibly influential.
1995’s Ånden Som Gjorde Opprør was Mortiis at the height of his powers, the stars aligning to create what some still consider the finest dungeon synth ever released. Upon re-interpreting some of his music for the Cold Meat Industry Festival in Stockholm two years ago, he was inspired to create an expansion and continuation of the classic album, and here we are with what hardcore fans never thought they would see again – Mortiis returning to the crypt.
You can hear that this sound is still very much a large part of his artistic DNA, with the sound evolving from the original album and delving deeper into the murk. That said, the two long pieces of music on offer lack the musicality and focus of his previous work in that it feels as though there are definite ideas and sketches (and great ones at that) throughout, but they were stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster to make up the songs instead of being written as a more satisfying whole. This does rob the overall rhythm and structure of the necessary dynamics, but it is still amazing to see the dark corners of his psyche.
Check out the video for “Visions Of An Ancient Future” here:
Both “A Dark Horizon” and “Visions Of An Ancient Future” are sprawling investigations into the synthy macabre, with definite areas of tasty darkness and creepy fascination (his vocals still make me goose-bumpy), but without the desired arrangement to tie it all together, one’s attention tends to wander and lose interest. This makes for a very uneven listen, and one that sadly becomes a struggle with almost an hour’s worth of music. If there had been more attention in the editing process, this could have been a complete return to form but, as it stands, feels like an otherworldly remix of Ånden som Gjorde Opprør without the mysterious magic.
The obsessive Mortiis fanbase will most probably find much to enjoy on Spirit Of Rebellion, and there are genuine fragments of inspired dungeon synth that could be reworked and moulded into a new and spirited beast given the time and attention, but unfortunately the troll has spent far too long out in the sunlight and it looks like he might need directions back to the tomb.
Spirit Of Rebellion Track Listing:
01. A Dark Horizon
02. Visions Of An Ancient Future
Run Time: 51 minutes
Release Date: January 24, 2020
Record Label: Omnipresence Productions / Dead Seed Productions