Review: “Past Lives” by Sonus Mortis

Former Valediction bassist Kevin Byrne has been grafting at the Symphonic Dark Metal coal face for the past eight years in Dublin Ireland, grinding out five full length albums and a demo in that time. Each one of those has seen his stature as a multi instrumentalist working under the moniker Sonus Mortis grow progressively while incorporating Doom and Symphonic elements and following the incredible “Hold This Mortal Coil” from January 2020, this new burnt offering “Past Lives” has a lot to live up to, such has been the critically acclaimed nature of his past works…

…While “Past Lives” isn’t a concept album, with a couple of notable cuts, lyrically Byrne continues to write about the state of the World with a stark social commentary that forms the backbone of the record. To put it bluntly, those lyrics are bleak to the point that with the album finale the self destruction of mankind is imminent, unable to save itself from self immolation. Sonically, while that last album offered touches of Blackened Death Metal, this one takes two steps to the left and offers Melodic Death Metal in abundance. As “A Chuisle Mo Chroi” or “Pulse Of My Heart” races away with vibrant and rich leads that are a perfect contrast to Byrne’s gruff unclean vocals, you pulse races and eyes widen as the hairs stand up on the back of your neck with its sheer electricity. A fluid narrative and his dedication to building atmosphere and maintaining momentum are key to his material but it’s the glory of the guitar work with an abundance of sumptuous and stupendous riffs that wins the day and steals the show here. As breath taking as the opening cut is, somehow Byrne manages to surpass himself with “Everfall“, which is truly jaw dropping as he throws down a couple of face melting solos. From “Hold This Mortal Coil” the synths have improved, bolstering the cinematic quality of the soundscape and while they are used a little more sparingly than we would wish for, when they are used, it’s like adding a jewel to a crown. Another string has been added to the bow with some Power Metal and Folk Metal influences creeping into the album title track, the bleak lyrical themes being the thread that holds everything together in a shroud of darkness, the tale of a broken relationship thinly veiled in demonic Black Metal vocal stylings that leaves no stone unturned with pure venomous hatred.

For all the new and striking moments on display there are a few intricacies missing from this album that worked really well on the last with acoustic moments and melancholic touches being left behind in favour of something of a partial style shift and the David Bowie esq clean vocal parts abandoned completely. That is not necessarily a bad thing as there is a renewed energy about these cuts with a blisteringly high tempo maintained throughout and “Becoming Static” arguably the fastest of them. A rampaging breakneck death race from start to finish, a vicious attack on the online World that consumes us all in our modern lives with a couple of scorching leads that really are something else. Bringing some Doom Metal influence into “Screen Servitude” is perhaps the one slower moment of the album. A strong socially aware cut about the impact of mobile phones on our Mental Heath wrapped in the complexities of the Sonus Mortis sound gives it an almost ethereal quality with some cleaner vocal parts elevating it. The sense of impending doom is made all the greater by the final pairing of foreboding cuts on what is a truly mesmerizing record that is a guitar wizards dream wrapped in a waking nightmare [8.5/10]

Track listing

  1. A Chuisle Mo Chroi
  2. Everfall
  3. Past Lives
  4. Dissident Fury
  5. Screen Servitude
  6. Become Static
  7. The Last Fragments Of Earth
  8. The Devouring Design

Past Lives” by Sonus Mortis is out 25th August 2021 and available over at bandcamp.

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