French black metal outfit Mortis Mutilati started out as a solo project of Macabre in 2011. After releasing some demos and splits, the project was picked up by Naturmacht Productions and released three full lengths there: Sombre neurasthénie (2012, Cassette), Nameless Here for Evermore (2013, CD) and Mélopée funèbre (2015, CD). After this, Macabre decided to go independent again and followed up with The Stench of Death in 2018. Meanwhile, after performing various live gigs with session musicians, Mortis Mutilati has morphed into a full-fledged band, with Rokdhan supporting on guitars, Aryth taking on drum duties and Asphodel adding the female vocals.
While the first productions from Mortis Mutilati had a very rough, very low budget sound to them, there clearly has been an upward trend throughout the bands history, which culminates with their new release, 2020’s The Fate Of Flight 800. The album was recorded by Devo (ex-Marduk) in Endarker Studios in Sweden, and it sounds beautiful, heavy and dynamic. The record was inspired by flight TWA 800 that crashed in Rome in November 1964. Mortis Mutilati’s mastermind Macabre came across the corpse of an air hostess that was on board of that flight when he did an exhumation in his day job. When I first read that Macabre works as a gravedigger in everyday life and is a selfproclaimed Taphophiliac, I was expecting a much more romantic and tragic, theatric experience than what I got on The Fate Of Flight 800. While there are lots of beautiful choral moments – especially when Asphodel steps to the mic – there is also lots of aggression and power here as well.
Road To Nowhere starts off the record with a very groovy main riff that reminds me of MGLA, and many switches between half time parts and fast tremolo riffs. After roughly half its playtime the song really unfolds and gives every instrument a place to shine. There’s a haunting lead guitar melody, then an acoustic guitar joins, and suddenly the bass trails off to a solo part, all the while the drums continue to escalate in a merciless onslaught. Every now and then choral voices join in and give the whole soundscape a completely new context. A beautiful song.
This mix continues throughout the record. The music is overall driven by the riffs, equal parts melancholic and aggressive vocals, and the extremely good drums. Backing vocals are used sparingly but very effectively. Instead of drenching the whole record with choirs and synths, the symphonic parts are deliberately placed, and perfectly so. Overall the songwriting is extremely strong and varied. Macabre has explained in interviews that he does not really consider any influences or follows any plans when he writes music, but just creates the songs that come to his mind. This allows for a pretty organic mix of slow, heavy and somber songs interspersed with more brutal riffs.
It’s also obvious that Macabre is more than proficient in all the instruments that he brings to the table. While many a solo black metal project focuses on guitars and treats the rest as afterthoughts, every instrument is utilized very well here. I seldomly enjoy a bass guitar on a black metal record as much as I did on The Fate Of Flight 800. A good showcase for that is the instrumental title track, which features a funky slapped bass that has no right to fit as well to the black metal sound as it does here. But the biggest change from previous records is probably the change to a full band with real drums, and it really shows. Aryth (who also drums for death metal outfit Towering) is a beast, and the whole record is much more dynamic and – no pun intended – alive than previous Mortis Mutilati records.
In conclusion The Fate Of Flight 800 is a huge milestone for Mortis Mutilati, and feels like the birth of a new band – which it technically is. What we have here is an extremely impressive and very enjoyable black metal record that I can highly recommend, both to fans of depressive, melancholic black metal and listeners that normally gravitate towards more aggressive and technical bands.