Mortiis – The Great Deceiver


Review by Allan Jones


Release Date: 4th March

To call Mortiis an odd band is something of an understatement. Originally the side project of the bassist of the black metal band Emperor, Håvard Ellefsen began Mortiis as a solo project. Over the years, the sound has moved and evolved, with 2001’s album ‘The Smell Of Rain’ becoming the only release of Era II, which Ellefsen used to brand the distinctive new sound of this album.  The meant the previous releases became Era I, and because the sound then changed drastically again with the following album ‘The Grudge’ it became the dawn of Era III as Ellefson brought in band members to perform in a live setting.  This era appeared to have ended with the protest release of ‘Perfectly Defect’ for free, proclaiming disenchantment with the state of the music industry.

Now re-emerging after a long spell of apparent inaction, ‘The Great Deceiver’ has become the first release of Era 0 – thus proving that Mortiis still want to play with us.  Retaining the harsh, aggressive industrial sound of Era III, they have also kept the body paint and largely industrial visual aesthetic, but the pointy prosthetics appear to have been consigned to history – probably a good thing, as his visual appearance was frequently lampooned, overshadowing the musical talent to a considerable extent.  After all, this is a guy who had his album ‘The Grudge’ made available for free in public libraries throughout his native Norway by the Norweigian Culture Council.

There’s always been a huge element of theatricality present in the previous albums – and this one is no exception.  This album, though, screams anger and pain through a combination of vicious lyrics snarled over distorted industrial guitars and warped electronics.  However, despite the evident anger and violence, it’s littered with hooks and musicality – tracks like ‘Sins of Mine’ and ‘Too Little Too Late’ have an almost pop sensibility to them, and structurally it’s pretty traditional in terms of choruses following verses and all that sort of thing.  But it confounds expectations, layering gritty, dense layers of noise over the top.  It feels like a musical exorcism, a barrage of denial and hurt spat out in a hail of venom and despair.

The best thing about the album, though, is that it rewards repeat listeners.  I keep noticing extra details here and there, hints of other seminal performers in the genre, a little lyrical barb that didn’t make it through the distortion last time around, a background noise that turns out to be something you didn’t expect.  This isn’t just an album– it’s layered, nuanced high art displayed in the medium of industrial rock.  It’s an eloquently screamed catharsis, and one that any fan of the genre will enjoy.

8 out of 10

Track Listing

  1. The Great Leap
  2. The Ugly Truth
  3. Doppelganger
  4. Demons Are Back
  5. Hard To Believe
  6. Road To Ruin
  7. Bleed Like You
  8. Scalding The Burnt
  9. The Shining Lamp Of God
  10. Sins Of Mine
  11. Feed The Greed
  12. Too Little Too Late