CD Review

Mortiis - “Crypt of the Wizard” & “The Stargate”

By Marcus Pan

Crypt of the WizardAfter reviewing Mortiis’ The Grudge[1] as an industrial album, I was a bit mystified by the three others that crossed my desk recently. It seems that the industrial thing is a bit of an aberration for the usually orchestral releases by the band. The two 1999 releases I received, The Stargate and Crypt of the Wizard, are instrumental pieces with some neo-classical influence, tribal rhythms and a Lord of the Rings fantasy-epic sound.

When We Raised the Tower for example uses powerful horn sections to create a charging battle scene, a little slower moving than a rush forward and instead an aerial view of forces moving into units at the ready. The tribal drums of Underneath the Shadow of the Tower pushes forward slowly, but tends to stall due to its repetitive nature.

A Circle of Cosmic Chaos lightens the mood a bit with flutes and strings, but has the same issues with repetitive melodies at first. It’s however interspersed with darker electronic movements and picks up pace with marching tribal rhythms taking us farther on the path to the crypt than most of the other tracks here.

The Song of the Wanderer also uses flutes juxtaposed against deep bass. The flute will turn over to an oboe (or similar low tone wind instrument) as again the now familiar tribal drums begin to build up. The heavy handed flute returns now, but the melody that began The Song of the Wanderer is losing my interest as it begins another round of precisely what its played already a dozen times.

The latter portion of Crypt of the Wizard can be a bit silly, most notably the closing Captured in Cyrstal. Not necessarily bad silly, but just kind of flighty somehow. But the main issue with Crypt of the Wizard is its lack of movement. While there’s large noises here, they tend to circle rather than engage. They don’t lead you too far, maybe a few steps, and get slightly humdrum and repetitive.

The StargateThe Stargate is a bit lighter in sound, but uses the same tribal drums, orchestral arrangements and flutey accompaniament. Child of Curiosity and the Old Man of Knowledge, a mouthful for the first track’s name, goes through movements and changes moreso than most in Crypt of the Wizard. This suffers to keep your interest growing as the first of Stargate’s tracks progresses into the I am the World piece on slot two. This one takes the climactic sound up a notch. I’m digging Stargate more than the previous album we’ve talked about now, because it changes more often and moves more swiftly along.

By Across the World of Wonders we’ve grown into a symphonic crescendo that’s quite beautiful. Very strong music, moving rhythms that will slow down without warning and speed up – this is the push I was hoping for throughout Crypt of the Wizard. A rushing march to an epic battle. Passing By an Old and Razed Village softens a bit after our march but maintains a strong sound. Female vocals are added here, adding a new enchantment to the music.

I dug Stargate much more than Crypt of the Wizard for its stronger movements and less repetitive make-up. It’s a much more powerful storyline somehow, with stronger climaxes and faster paced rhythms. The two CDs however are extremely similar in what has gone into them, using similar instrumentation and classical elements. Very different from what I had been expecting what-with The Grudge being my first foray into Mortiis.

Contact Information:
Earache Records, Inc.
Post: 43 W. 38th St., New York, NY, 10018, USA
[1[ In Legends #146.

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