With winter at its peak here in the frost-crowned kingdoms of Scandinavia, it feels suiting to review an album with the ominous title Death Comes from the North. Myrkr Records is behind this limited LP release that was recorded back in 2007, and it contains music from the obscure Russian projects Mor and Liholesie. Of the two bands, the only one that I have previously encountered is Liholesie with their album Primeval Rotation (Извечное Коловращение), which I stumbled upon on one of my trips to the eastern bloc. Since I’ve always been an admirer of Eastern European music, I decided to give it a try and was quite intrigued by the gentle and beautifully minimalistic sound it conjured.
On this album, Liholesie’s sound is more refined and far more polished than the work found on Primeval Rotation, and the first song, ‘Barbarians (Hosts of the North)’ brings forth that bombastic Conan-esque feeling of epic battles and tribes wandering the Northern realms in search of glory and adventure. All of this ends abruptly in ‘Endless Expance of Coldness and Ice’—a sweeping majestic ambient landscape of frost and forlorn mysteries where the auroras dance overhead and fell voices creeps on the freezing northern winds. This is potent and chilling music that captures the essence of the album’s name: death that descends upon the lands from the north on freezing tides. For Liholesie, the atmosphere in both songs is quite powerful, and although the nature of the songs are very different, they still manage to blend together in a bleak homage to the boreal realms.
Mor delivers a refined take on Pagan black metal that is quite unique in its clear and technical approach. The guitars are harsh and have a high-pitched screeching to them that adds to the crisp and clear mix of the songs. The vocals are a raspy growl that crowns the rest of the instruments in its hardly contained carnage, and although the words which it speaks are unknowable to me, the raw power that it delivers adds to the potent composition of the songs. ‘Kola Cross’ is truly beautiful with its sense of serene solitude and bristling beauty, yet ‘Sunless Dawn’ ends up being my own favorite with its harsh and relentless intro that bursts out into the night on winds of rage. Mor feels like a twisted desire for me. On one hand I adore the toned-down and technical aspect of their songs, yet at the same time they feel a bit too refined. A part of me yearns for more savagery, more fire and brimstone … more death.
All considered, Death Comes from the North is a mixed bag. The Liholesie side is so vastly different from Mor’s, and compared to the melodic and technical metal of the latter, I find it hard to consider them part of the same album. However, both artists are great in their own right, and for a listener that expected more from Liholesie’s contributions to this split, I am positively surprised by the roughly polished aspect of Mor. Death Comes from the North is a diverse creation of technical blacken metal and mellow epic ambient that have merged together to form one fine piece of art.
A1) Mor – Kola Cross
A2) Mor – Raven Dark
A3) Mor – Icy Father
A4) Mor – Sunless Dawn
B1) Liholesie – Barbarians (Hosts of the North)
B2) Liholesie – Endless Expance of Coldness and Ice