Review: “We Are Human” by Mortalus

Described as being a “Modern Old School” band with wide ranging influences, Mortalus are a female fronted Traditional Heavy Metal trio who hail from Little Rock Arkansas with a reputation for not being afraid to tell it like it is. First crossing our paths five years ago with 2018’s “Heart So Black“, the return of vocalist and guitarist “Metal” Michelle Gann, bassist and backing vocalist Bryan “Bedrock” Bedgood and drummer Patrick “Gumbo” Mahoney with sophomore album “We Are Human“ is one that offers plenty of intrigue and a certain weight of expectation. The first record has plenty of old school hallmarks with a distinctive passion for the music shinning through, so can they do it again after so much water under the bridge?

As a band Mortalus wear their influences upon their collective sleeves, their old school sound taking a page from Judas Priest, a paragraph from Metallica and a chapter from Iron Maiden before burning the book as part of some pagan ritual sacrifice and picking up their instruments. So while the cover art have futuristic overtones of Dr Frankenstein creating Cyborgs, they still sound like a Traditional Metal outfit of the pre-Thrash era with this record and that is an absolute joy to behold. Opening cut “Battle Born” has a longer intro than most before the band break into their stride, the mix allowing Bedgood’s bassline to stand out while Mahoney’s percussive battery has that 80’s nostalgic feel to it with the way the kit has been microphoned up.  A classic tale told in the third person of a being born with a clenched fist and not willing to accept being a second class citizen as a woman growing up in the 60’s and 70’s it’s one that resonates with anyone who has felt oppression in their lives at some point. Gann nails not only the vocals but the guitar work with a couple of tight but not virtuoso fleeting solo moments that raise the hairs on the back of the neck. Moving into classic old school Thrash territory “The FiXX” has a solid sing-a-long quality with Gann switching better darker growls and brighter cleans nicely in this cautionary tale of addiction with a classy solo. It’s a little bit raw, rough and ready but that is very cool when it comes to the sound the band are looking for, too much is over polished these days. “Fearless” then builds on the lyrical narrative of the opening cut with a dirge laden riff and some harsh whispered moments, a headbangable cut during a couple of powerhouse instrumental passages, it’s the kind of cut you want to hear on the Jukebox when in a Biker Bar or Metal Pub. Familiar enough to have an instant pull, different enough to have longevity. The obvious single is “Intended Victims“, the music video for which finds “Metal” Michelle Gann driving a Pontiac Trans-Am, the car used by David Hasselhoff the 80’s Crime Drama Knight Rider. The combination of the two are the perfect partnership that go hand in hand like star crossed lovers, Gann delivering a face melter of a solo while the Bedgood and Mahoney keep the rhythms tight so the result is anthem that would have been a regular on Headbangers Ball on MTV back in the day. It’s that good.

The album is effectively split in half by interlude “Dearest FriEND“, an aching melodic instrumental soaked in melancholic sentiment that makes it classic hangover music. It perhaps points to prospect of the band recording a few acoustic renditions in the future, something that would make for interesting listening. Perhaps owing its chorus to bands like Alice In Chains, “Blood Red Sunset” then brings things back to life in stirring fashion with scathing backing vocals from Bedgood turning up the heat. Punchier than some of the earlier cuts it does make you wonder why there aren’t more backing vocals from him on the record, however they are probably saved for the live arena, where the album alone confirms the band will be in their element. Title track “We Are Human” keeps the momentum going, driving down the darkness with as you might expect, the best solo on the record. A socially and politically aware lyric that reminds that prejudice is for the weak and we must fight against it where rears it’s ugly head, be that inequality, racism or otherwise it’s both a thinking persons cut as well as a powerful statement piece musically. If you hadn’t guessed it, “Danger Zone” is a beefed up rendition of the cut by Kenny Loggins that famously appeared on the soundtrack to Top Gun. A fearless cover it takes the original like a potter taking clay before creating a version in the bands own image. Somehow we’ve gone from Top Gun to Ghost in our description but you get the drift, it’s both faithful while having a life of it’s own and that’s the finest kind of cover. All in all, this is a very solid album that has everything you could possibly want from something at the heavier end of the Traditional Heavy Metal spectrum [8/10]

Track Listing

1. Battle Born
2. The FiXX
3. Fearless
4. Intended Victims
5. Dearest FriEND
6. Blood Red Sunset
7. We Are Human
8. Danger Zone

We Are Human” by Mortalus is out 24th April 2023 and is available over at bandcamp.

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