Spiritus Mortis

The God Behind the God
(Firebox Records)
Enslain Magazine Issue 10
Order Issue #10!  This review included.
Although having started already in 1987 as Finland's first doom metal band, The God Behind the God is but the third full-length of Spiritus Mortis, and the first one with their new singer Sami Hynninen. Being a big fan of his work with Reverend Bizarre, and particularly fond of his voice, he seemed like a worthy successor to Vesa Lampi, although I was still a little skeptic of how he would fit in Spiritus Mortis, who were strongly personified by Vesa's majestic voice and stage presence.

After being able to look past the new style of vocals, one will notice that the compositions are still the good old Maijala brothers quality, varying from faster pieces like the crushing opener "The Man of Steel" to the rocking mid-tempo hammering of "The Rotting Trophy", and from the hazy moods of "Heavy Drinker" to the slowly crawling darkness of the title track. Somehow it seems that whether the material is fast, slow or dark, it's accomplishing that more extremely than before. The vocals play a big part in giving this impression, for example, getting really harsh and sinister at times. Although Spiritus Mortis are primarily a traditional doom band, a fair share of classic heavy metal mood and melody is also present, particularly in their more up-tempo cuts. While the majority of the tracks are still moderately-lengthed, some of them are remarkably longer than on previous albums, like the nearly 12-minute title track, which is a fine example of building up atmosphere without just running in place.

The vocals are much more varied than before, consisting not only of various ranges of clean vocals, but also whispered and spoken passages, high growls, harsh yells, and golem-like chants, all carefully arranged to fit the moods created by the music and lyrics. Besides his huge contribution in the vocal department, Sami seems to have had an improving effect on the lyrical and visual side of the band as well, resulting in an aesthetically more developed outcome.

While I still occasionally find myself missing Vesa's vocal style, and have to sometimes remind myself during "Curved Horizon" that I'm not listening to Reverend Bizarre, in a way, Sami has lifted Spiritus Mortis to a new level. I can only hope that their line-up and label troubles are behind, and they finally gain the acknowledgement they deserve as the Finnish pioneers of their genre. --
Ossi Turpeinen