Album Review: Mortiis – ‘Spirit of Rebellion’

Return of the King

A self-professed shy individual who struggles with depression, the artist known as Mortiis has forged a musical career path shaped by risks and what seems like a severe allergy to stagnation. Now, over 20 years since winged departure The Stargate, his band of the same name returns to its Era I phase, making what the kids nowadays are calling dungeon synth.

Ever the risk takers, Mortiis have reimagined untouchably supreme, 25-year-old classic sophomore album, Ånden som Gjorde Opprør. Rather than writing new material in the style of Era I, three years ago “in various locations in Norway and Sweden,” Mortiis re-recorded and mixed this interpretation. They told us back in 2018 that they’d “realized there were so many hidden melodies and opportunities there”; they said they were “excited,” and found the work “inspiring.” Early last year, they remixed the album.

Spirit of Rebellion is quite literally Era I’s imagination strengthened with lessons learned from Eras II, III and beyond. Melodic elements otherwise long buried are excavated from the misty past, emboldened with deeper percussion, more blaring brass. Vocal pads take the place of airy flute songs. Many parts are expanded upon, given new space to grow. The differences between the two albums prove to be stark enough as to separate them, although one can’t help but compare the two. Which is easy to do, because everything you love about ÅSGO is here, but now there’s more. It’s all louder, plus there’s some industrial byproducts caroming around overhead.

Mortiis’ sophomore album was a mighty and martial record to begin with; now Spirit of Rebellion sounds like Ånden som Gjorde Opprør II. And this time, Mortiis wins.

Review taken from the March 2020 issue of Decibel, which is available here.