What doom is, is open to interpretation, but sometimes you can just point at a record and say, there. That’s doom. Let’s point fingers.
Spiritus Mortis, as you might have noticed from the Svart Records endorsement and the band logo, play doom metal. Now, I want you to imagine doom as you know it, and you’ll have an idea as to what Spiritus Mortis does. You have your organic, groovy (doom) riffs coming out in mid-tempo, you have your standard, emphasis-driven drumming that’s used more for punctuation than anything else, you have your grumbling bass (less prominent in this instance) and you have your oft-impassioned, almost-flat vocals delivering tales of sin and woe from the olden times.
That’s doom, right?
However, the music offered does not quite have the potency that it is supposed to have. In a nutshell, The Year Is One was supposed to be an epic doom album, but there is a world of difference between that idea and what the album actually is.
The problem begins with the vocals and the lyrics. Just to be perfectly clear: the vocals, the lyrics they are projecting and the vocal delivery are all sub-par. The vocals contribute nothing to the album. On the contrary, they take away from it. There is, for instance, a problem with using spoken-word or spoken-word analogues on The Year Is One. “Holiday in the Cemetery” is perhaps the best example with the way that it’s executed: the vocals here may as well have been spoken word, and with the doomy riffs doing the mid-tempo droning on in the background, the song quickly becomes excruciating. Likewise, the intro of “Black Magic, White Powder” is cheesy as hell, and it’s played so straight, so without a sense of playfulness that it’s almost painful, and it ruins whatever semblance of atmosphere the song otherwise builds.
Which arrives us at another point: Spiritus Mortis managed to craft a doom album with zero atmosphere and zero mood. There is no depth, no third dimension, there’s no corner to go to when the going gets flat. There are of course times when this isn’t so, like some parts of “Black Magic, White Powder” – but then the vocals come in and every bit of genuine atmosphere is sucked out.
When combined with the standard fare doom riffs and tones, an almost complete lack of solos, the painfully standard doom drumming, the absence of anything resembling a proper song structure, vocals that pull the quality of music down and a (doom standard) preoccupation with the mid-tempo realms makes for one tasteless experience. That might not have been so grating if the songs were shorter, but for an album that has this many doom clichés in it of course likes its songs six minutes or longer – however, Spiritus Mortis can’t carry the songs for as long as the songs are with the way they play them.
It’s very easy to get distracted when the music isn’t immersive, and the music on The Year Is One certainly isn’t. The closer, “World of No Light” is a good way to demonstrate this – it’s snail-pace riffing only makes way for something more substantive around the finale… and the song is just over 9 minutes in length. It would’ve made for a passable closer, if not for a solo thrown in the mix when things pick up. The said solo is badly mixed and feels awkward and faint, leaving behind a bad aftertaste rather than being the powerful statement it was clearly meant to be.
The worst offender, however, is the opener. “Robe of Ectoplasm” is a wonderful song. It’s a powerful opener that, for someone listening to the band for the first time, creates a beautiful illusion that the heavy-metal influenced, doomy sound kicking ass straight out of the gates marks a trend that will continue throughout the album. Its epic, its soaring guitars, on-point vocals, cool bass and solid structure makes it the only track on The Year Is One that actually stands up to scrutiny.
In short, The Year Is One may satisfy genre enthusiasts, those who are craving a bit of the stuff, but other than that, I don’t see it making it to any end-of-the-year or desert-island lists anytime soon. The intent is clearly there, and what the album was meant to be is quite something, but it falls short, very short, of that goal. Still, give it a listen. Maybe you’ll like it.
Sami Hynninen – Vocals
Jussi Maijala – Guitars
Kari Lavila – Guitars
Teemu Maijala – Bass
Jarkko Seppälä – Drums
Antti Heikinmäki – Synthesizers, Organ, Piano
01. Robe of Ectoplasm
02. I am a Name on Your Funeral Wreath
03. Babalon Working
04. Jesus Christ, Son of Satan
05. Holiday in the Cemetery
06. She Died a Virgin
07. Black Magic, White Powder
08. World of No Light