The Moribund People

The End Records

It’s just too beautiful. Peccatum is an Emperor side project, yes; but here, the teacher has sadly surpassed the pupil. Core duo Ihsann and Ihriel (most productive married couple ever? possibly) are completely in creative synch/telepathy, crafting sublime orchsestral movements that draw on everything from classical music and choral etudes and madrigals, to gothic bombast, the lost-in-the-forest melancholy of Faith and Disease, Laibach’s imperiousness, Swans-ian despair, the delicate world music of Dead Can Dance, and the blackened stench of occult death metal. The Moribund People is their finest hour. It’s an EP: all too brief, but filled with more adventurous and fearless experimentation than most bands achieve in a lifetime. Better than Cradle, Dimmu, Nightwish and all pretenders of “symphonic” dark metal, full stop. Peccatum deal in a much more arcane magick.

Title track “The Moribund People” showcases Ihriel’s Enya-by-way-of-Elizabeth Fraser vocals, gliding ghostly atop portentous strings and ringing power-metal guitars. It is a stern and authoritative sound, pure Wagnerian spectacle, with a Nietzschian, stridently pronounced chorus: “Others are so numb they deserve to suffer.” Ihsann’s death shriek slashes its way in towards the end. This is more warrior-opera than metal as you or I know it. “A Penny’s Worth of Heart” mines much the same vein, striking the razor-thin balance between theatrical bombast and wrist-slashing melancholy. Like flipping a coin, Peccatum switches between verses of mysterious and windwept quiet, giving way to choruses of death metal fury; Ihsann channels pure hate and black metal rage within his vocal turns, which then fades back into eerie calm. The guitars are as serrated and heavy as petrified rock, the programming is all endless overcast skies and icy vistas. A hybrid that has rarely worked before is so wondrous now.

Of particular note is the idiosyncratic and Janus-faced cover of Bathory’s “For All Those Who Died.” For the first movement, the song is reimagined as gothic/choral beauty on a par with This Mortal Coil, strange programmed beats skitter in the background, overlaid with quiet piano fills and double-tracked Ihriel’s weaving in and out of the filigree in ringing tones, pure Lisa Gerrard – the very essence of loneliness. I’m awestruck and heartsick already but then, a distant hiss of feedback becomes an all-out death/thrash assault as Ihsann takes the helm of glory and rides his legions of death into the very blood-red heart of the song, with bleak Viking metal fury. The blood-throated relish with which he spits, “burning, naked and smiling” is itself worth the price of admission. Massed strings clash to the death with trebly distorted guitars, drums crash down like raining skulls, Ihsann’s screams ring out, all to an inevitable conclusion of the flames of a funeral pyre. A proper tribute to the great Quorthon. This is powerful magick.

The End Records:

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