Review: “Of Red Barren Earth” by Sonus Mortis

Do we dare question or will we just blindly follow the sheep into extinction? Strive to challenge the flock that burrows and festers. Don’t let them form the weed that grows like cancer which will spread until eventually turning our pale blue dot into a red barren Earth” ~ Sonus Mortis

Exploring themes of corruption, dehumanisation, falsehoods, power imbalances and disillusionment with many societal structures with a desire to challenge the norms and the narratives presented to us, “Of Red Barren Earth” is the seventh album in a decade from Sonus Mortis. Recorded within a two week period in July 2023 by multi instrumentalist and vocalist Kevin Byrne before being mixed and mastered by Mick Richards at Trackmix Studios, it follows a tried and tested route to remain. So what does the next chapter in the evolution from Symphonic Black Metal to Melodic Death Metal have in store?

Taking us into the realm of the cinematic with an orchestrated introduction ensures that “Among The Marrow And The Machines” sounds both huge an majestic before the demonic vocals rise to the surface. Byrne gives the impression of a pair of vocalists at the helm with a Peter Steele like Gothic clean vocal intertwining with a vicious unclean to raise the hairs on the back of the neck and it has to be said that his ability to create dark and foreboding atmospherics is second to none. The sound is rounded out by an embellishment of synths that give the piece a real sense of theatrical dramatic flare, a bloodcurdling scream and couple of moments of flamboyant lead making it both enthralling and captivating. Continuing to push the Extreme Metal boundaries “The Elimination Of The Archaic” follows that grand opening cut with one equally as ambitious. The energy is magnificent as wave after wave of sonics roar through the ear canals, from slick guitars to rich synths, each moment very well balanced in the mix so that one element doesn’t over power another. There are flavours of “The Propaganda Machine” by Demonstealer as well as recent works by Cradle Of Filth and even Insomnium here and so much nuance in the dark resplendence that you will keep coming back to this time and again, hearing something new with each repeated listen.

The poison chalice continues to overflow with “Overwhelming Mass“, which has a tasteful solo in the final third that rises like a phoenix from the ashes of the synth laden wasteland. Here the clean vocals border on choral as they face the uncleans to give the effect of two opposing forces repelling each other, something which works incredibly well. “Then There Was Silence From The World” has a spellbinding storytellers performance at its beating black heart, an acoustic guitar passage and some rich piano helping to build the towering inferno once more. The depth of sound is mind blowing, something new and innovative every direction while the textures are deeply satisfying as the reality matches the vision perfectly. Byrne would need at least five additional musicians to re-create this in a live setting, not to mention a grand auditorium with decent acoustics to do it proper justice. Shimmering in the darkness, the title track “Of Red Barren Earth” gives a sense of impending doom as pummelling rhythmic display comes to life with the orchestrations. Coupled with the lyrical narrative that creates something with the feel of a science fiction film. Immersive and captivating with thoughtful moments of vibrancy cutting against the starkness of the bleak nature, its a horror that you dare not look away from.

Rattling the bones “Harbinger of Doom” embraces the darkness with a tale of transformation from mortal man to demonic beast that dances on the cerebral cortex. Against a backdrop of an expanding universe of Symphonic Death Metal painted in bright colours, the story of a cloaked figure of an old man who foretells of a time of darkness to come, unable to see the opportunity to escape from the trappings of this existence feels like more than a metaphor. A track that could easily have been the conclusion to the album “Reality, Our Collective Destroyer” is an eight minute magnum opus, steeped in Doom Metal heritage and aged like a whiskey in cherry wood casks. Vocally Byrne sounds like he’s tearing himself apart from the inside out, the Gothic tinged cleans set off against vicious screams that sound like they’ve burst every blood vessel. Sombre and sobering, this almost mournful tale may have some elements stripped back but it is by no means less powerful. The grand finale is “The Threads Of Life” which returns to the orchestrations but in a more subtle way for another huge piece deserving of the Royal Albert Hall as a place to be performed in. How on earth this album was recorded in just two weeks beggars belief and with such incredible musicianship on display these works deserve to be celebrated because its nothing short of breathtaking [8.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Among The Marrow And The Machines
2. The Elimination Of The Archaic
3. Overwhelming Mass
4. Then There Was Silence From The World
5. Of Red Barren Earth
6. Harbinger of Doom
7. Reality, Our Collective Destroyer
8. The Threads Of Life

Of Red Barren Earth” by Sonus Mortis is out 25th October 2023 and is available over at bandcamp.

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