Mortiis: "Perfectly Defect" – CD Review


Photos by Robyn Von Swank

Last week you may recall our announcement that ultra-dark industrial rock outfit Mortiis would be releasing their new album Perfectly Defect as a completely free download... since I really dig their sound, I knew picking this one up would be a win-win situation. The new record – which is now available in multiple formats through the band's official site – also bridges the gap between Mortiis's previous full-length studio release The Grudge and their much anticipated follow-up The Great Deceiver (which as of this writing is still waiting for an official release date). This concentrated package of pure evil serves up nine helpings of wild, scary and aggressive musical mayhem that'll make you stomp and scream in terror and delight. Hit the jump and get the lowdown!

Mortiis himself (alias Håvard Ellefsen) has described the sound of Perfectly Defect as "varied, experimental, and largely instrumental... rather 'soundtracky' in a dark and sometimes bombastic way." During my lengthy Q&A session with him last year, I learned that this tendency to wander down shadowy, unexplored musical paths is nothing new; after all, he built a cult reputation for many years in the persona of a literal monster, wearing elaborate masks and costumes as the lead character in the dark musical fantasies he created. He's put the mask aside since The Grudge, but the dark worlds conjured by his music have become even scarier and more threatening as he now places the focus on hard-edged industrial rock, wrapped in nightmarish soundscapes that have been put to effective use in the scores for intense horror films like Broken and The Devil's Chair. Perfectly Defect spends more time in that same dark cinematic domain... but when it's ready to rock, the long knives definitely come out.

The heavier, lyric-based vibe mainly dominates the album's first half, although the opening track Sensation of Guilt sets a more introspective, confessional mood through swirling, reversed samples, rolling soft breakbeats and bouncy jazz organ beneath a softer talk-singing and smooth cello strains, reminiscent of a surreal David Lynch scenario. But the intensity immediately climbs with the title track – which packs the same angry, accusatory lyrical stance as Grudge tracks like Decadent and Desperate or Way Too Wicked – but instrumentally, the tone is more pensive, with a slower, more deliberate tempo. Big, crunchy guitars mount up in the closing third, which finally blows up into a heavy wall of sound. The most aggressively rocking cut is Closer to the End, with its ripping, heavily filtered guitars, talk-back lyrics and a thudding rhythm line that calls to mind Nine Inch Nails from their Broken era.

The transition between industrial rock and those soundtrack elements that Mortiis described occurs with This Absolution – whose first half is all deep, dark industrial noise pierced by crushed beats and some colossal metallic percussion. Vocals begin deeply embedded beneath, before eventually rising clean above the destruction for a hair-raising anthem in the second half. From this point forward, any vocals you hear are used more for texture than anything else – like in Thieving Bastards, which mixes them beneath greasy, grimy fuzz-thick guitar over a solid Prodigy-like drum & bass foundation. Sole Defeat goes for the horror effect with a literal heartbeat rhythm, adding in backward vocal samples, random violent bursts of static noise and burbling synth bass lines, finally joined by a tortured lead guitar before hitting a mega-heavy dance beat. Impossible to Believe features haunted drones beneath a shuffling synth percussion line, with beat-chopped gritty guitars climbing steadily up into the mix – again, not unlike Nine Inch Nails, but more akin to their instrumental project Ghosts I-IV. The closing track Halo of Arms hits the album's cinematic peak, with searing banshee wails giving way to electronic bass pulses, finally exploding into a series of action-horror cues that build to a pulse-pounding conclusion.

While it stands up perfectly well on its own, I've got my fingers crossed that Perfectly Defect draws from the same creative well as The Great Deceiver... because if that's true, then I'm gonna go fucking crazy when that one comes out. Whether you're looking for chilling industrial-strength atmospherics, buzz-saw electro-rock, or a fusion of both, you really have nothing to lose but the few minutes it takes to download the album from the band's official site, where you can get the files in several different high-quality formats, along with complete album art, CD inserts and labels, and web goodies like avatars and wallpapers. (While you're there, take note of the optional button which politely reads "Feel free to donate, as this will enable us to do cool things like this in the future." Personally I'm all for cool things, and I'm thinking you might be too.) Check it out!