Anima Morte: Face the Sea of Darkness


Driving beats and funky riffs aplenty to inject tension into the mix

Review by Gregory S. Burkart

Let?s pretend for a moment that the Internet hasn?t been invented yet. In this alternate reality, if you were to tell a hardcore Goblin fan that you?d discovered a bootleg of a lost mid-?70s album from that legendary Italian prog-rock combo, then sneakily handed them an unmarked copy of this CD, I suspect they would embrace this idea without hesitation. Seriously ? I thought Pittsburgh-based duo Zombi were the reigning kings of Goblin-inspired instrumental bands, but this talented combo from Stockholm, much like their compatriots Morte Macabre, is not so much inspired by Goblin as completely devoted to reproducing the very essence of their sound ? as well as that of Goblin contemporaries like Fabio Frizzi, so beloved by Lucio Fulci devotees as that director?s go-to composer. In fact, you could expand on this fantasy scenario by heralding Anima Morte?s Face the Sea of Darkness as the score to a lost Italian zombie epic, with no one the wiser (the album title itself apparently comes from the final line of dialog from Fulci?s The Beyond).

Chock full of warm vintage sounds ? including Hammond organ riffs, Mellotron choirs & strings, swirly, filter-sweeping Moog synth leads, and of course the requisite funk-style bass and moody acoustic guitar ? this CD is an eerie blast from the past and an exercise in atmosphere sure to entice fans of classic European horror/thriller cinema ? from the lusty giallos of the ?60s and ?70s to the zombie/cannibal gorefests of the ?80s ? as well as devotees of early-era progressive rock (ELP, King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Hawkwind, etc.) in equal measure. Face the Sea of Darkness recalls an era where the soundtrack to a film captured so much of the images, pacing and emotional arc of the visuals that it became an entity unto itself.

Miles above their 7? vinyl single Viva Morte, this full-length project has not only much higher production value, but an organic intimacy lacking in its largely synth-based predecessor. It?s the first release from Dead Beat Media, itself a recent offshoot of Razorback Records, an indie outfit known primarily for extreme horror metal. This is a radical departure from their parent label?s repertoire, and a savvy exercise in serene yet chilling atmosphere, which bodes well for both the label and the band. Although a bit less technically complex than the work it most closely resembles (namely Goblin?s classic 1975 album Roller), the feel of the music is still there.

I?m a sucker for the warm, ghostly tones of the Mellotron? for the uninitiated, this is a vintage keyboard (its keys trigger tape loops, a sort of antique precursor to modern samplers) used in countless psychedelic rock records and a favorite axe for Italian horror film composers like Frizzi and Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust). A clunky and often unreliable instrument, its many imperfections were the source of its charm. Ironically, the near-perfect clarity of digital sampling makes it possible for this bulky lo-fi rig to be recreated on the average laptop, and many 21st-century bands have incorporated it into their sound. It creates a haunted, melancholy feel that will certainly ring true with fans of classic European horror, and Anima Morte rely on this instrument heavily. Primarily used for male choir sounds and string washes, it?s definitely the ?hero? instrument in tracks like the Frizzi-inspired ?Rise Again? and ?He Who Dwells In Darkness.? But Face the Sea? is not all ambient, spectral atmospherics ? there?s driving beats and funky riffs aplenty to inject tension into the mix, used to great effect in cuts like ?A Decay Of Mind And Flesh,? a hard-hitting rock track driven by a powerful bass line that recalls Goblin from their Deep Red period.

If you groove on giallo, space out to progressive rock, or just dig old-school electronic instrumental atmospheres, this CD is a must-have for your collection. I?d keep an eye on Dead Beat Media while you?re at it? they?re working on expanding their catalog to include a wider assortment of artists, with an emphasis on horror entertainment of all stripes. Not that I have a problem with the blood-drenched death metal that is Razorback?s forte, but there?s so many more colors in the box to play with, and I?m amped to see what comes out next. Check out the label?s website Razor Back Records for the gory details.