Turdus Merula is an atmospheric black metal project from Disa, the same woman behind the dark/ritual ambient project Draugurinn. Her talent for dark yet engrossing atmospheres spans genres, and Mentem Recipere is a fantastic release, with a somewhat raw production to match music that moves between claustrophobic and beautiful.
A short piano and synth led ambient track opens the album with hints of the magic of Draugurinn to set the mood, before kicking off properly with Casus. The music is in the style of early raw atmospheric black metal such as Burzum, but with the exquisite layering and more inventive us of synths it’s anything but a homage to Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Folky and memorable melodies stem from the lead guitar over a wall of trebly tremolo picked riffage and cloudy murky bass. The use of synth is strong, not in that it’s high in the mix, but the layers are woven into the music so well, a beautiful counterpoint to the crunch of the rhythm guitars, and where piano is heard it’s a quiet addendum to complete the atmosphere rather than being upfront in the mix. Different melodies swirl and intertwine at almost all points on the release, even on the outro to said opener where synths are multilayered brilliantly. Disa handles everything on the releases except the drums, with Ulf Nylin, who she’s played with before in Korpblood, providing a snappy, rhythmic midpaced performance.
The vocals are brilliant, really high in the mix, with a rather high pitched and snarling DSBM approach, so cold and pained they give a really claustrophobic vibe in some of the album’s denser moments, they’re some of the best DSBM vocals I’ve heard in a style that easily becomes generic. Where the aforementioned Casus was dense and claustrophobic, Adventus is much more melancholic, with slow minor key melodic riffs, mid paced drumming and a much less dense wall of sound allowing the synths to really shine with their turgid atmosphere, and the sluggish pace really creating asense of eeriness different than it’s predecessor. There’s a rhythmic quality to the vocals at points that makes them fit neatly into the piece as a whole, with a musical element as well as a vocal one. Cursus starts off with another dark intro before kicking off like a gunshot, a scathing wall of trebly guitar dominates the mix with synths swirling around it, faster more energetic drumming, and high pitched, passionate screamed vocals helping to create a leviathan of harsh yet beautiful sound. Some softer breaks allow for some bright synths and eerie background chanting to shine through, before ramping up once again in the fastest and heaviest piece on the album.
The highlight of the album however is Ascensus, approaching the ten minute mark, the song encapsulates everything that’s great about the album at once. A repetitive and hypnotic main riff at the beginning drowned in fuzz and synths, with fast drumming and more brilliant vocals bringing forth both melancholy and excitement, with the track evolving organically while centred around the guitar and synth melodies. Some low pitched vocals are present at the mid point of the track, some gruffer barks working well with Disa’s usual style, and an instrumental break with synths and acoustic guitar is mixed with the sound of thunder to gve a small sense of relief, before hammering home once again into that main riff to end the track. The album ends with another ambient piece in Gnosis, which again with her background in Draugurinn, is better than most ambient you’ll find in black metal with it’s layers of piano,vocals and synths.
It’s a release that feels different to most atmospheric black metal and DSBM, melding the two styles well but also using her background in dark ambient to weave different layers and textures together effectively to make it a really memorable and absorbing listen. Mentem Receipere was released back in 2011, and the equally great Herbarium the year before, and there’s supposedly a new album on the horizon. I can’t wait for more music from this project to come about as the current release is in constant rotation at the moment, but between Turdus Merula and Draugurinn there’s a lot of music already out to enjoy from Disa.
Find Turdus Merula on facebook here. Stream and purchase Mentem Recipere on bandcamp: