The blackened vision of Thomas Eriksen became manifest in 2013 with Isebakke, a necrotic album debuting one of the most relevant names in the modern Norwegian scene. With each subsequent release, MORK has channeled new energy into the classic Black Metal sound while further developing their own, and now, just two years after Det Svarte Juv, comes a fifth continuation of the band’s grim sustenance and expanding progressive edge. Katedralen is a mass of raw atmosphere and invigorating riffage that beckons toward an otherworldly cathedral within the black void. There is no return from this desolate venture, but the music on Katedralen will have those lost souls beyond satisfied with their cathedralic finality.
Dismal organs from Eero Pöyry of SKEPTICISM lead the initial descent on “Dødsmarsjen (The Death March),” followed swiftly by an onslaught of layered riffs and melodies. A clear production makes the complexity in these arrangements readily apparent without betraying the raw Norwegian Black Metal sound. Doses of Punk and Black ‘n’ Roll groove integrate with the icy riffs, and the song culminates into a decisive melody driven by razor-sharp tremolo picking. “Svartmalt (Black Painted)” follows with its own groove and melancholic undertones. The album’s overall groove element has an inherent swagger that’s especially prominent here, thanks to the iconic presence of DARKTHRONE’s Nocturno Culto, and it continues with a slower catchy approach on “Arv (Heritage).” A progression of octave chords brings a sense of doom while vibes consistent with the song’s title also develop through a range of clean vocals. Eerie harmonics reinforce the cold desolation of “Evig intens smerte (Eternal Intense Pain)” along with depressive melodies and brooding, dissonant riffs. There’s an especially bleak mid passage that seethes with anguish before raging through a frenzy of shredding tremolo melodies.
A crushing groove returns on “Det siste gode i meg (The Last Good Thing in Me)” as icy riffs and clean vocals form a vortex of melodic energy that turns epic before crossing into “Født til å herske (Born to Rule).” The epic quality continues as Dolk of KAMPFAR joins the vocal forces on this track, along with slow gloomy melodies and Thrash elements that meander through its Black ‘n’ Roll structure, and visceral tremolo riffs driving a final groove assault. “Lysbæreren (The Light Carrier)” follows with catchy intricate melodies and layers of rhythmic thrashy riffs. The elements accumulate further with harmonics and tremolo melodies, along with glimpses of the shadowy netherworld coming through in a passage of deep droning voices. The final destination is realized on “De fortapte sjelers katedral (Cathedral of the Lost Souls)” with an epic execution of frostbitten tremolo riffs and dissonant melodies. A melancholic hook and spacey solo appear during slower passages of this bleak storm, and the riffs drive on until being eclipsed by the conclusive haunting return of funereal organs.
While the Norwegian lyrics enhance the overall vibe conveyed on the album, a deeper exploration of their themes will be mostly limited to those familiar with that language. However, the approximate translations of song titles provided above show their topics include death, darkness, anguish, but also heritage, strength, and light. This recent interview with Thomas Eriksen gives more insight into the album and its surrounding themes.
MORK has further solidified their discography and displayed the unwavering strength of the Black Metal collective with Katedralen. This new offering is a dynamic riff-fest brimming with groove, technical nuances, and a variety of influences that give a cooperative impression of completeness. Nothing feels out of place, and the progressive elements compliment the work without sacrificing any intensity expected from Norwegian Black Metal. Katedralen delivers enough heavy-laden riffing and grim atmosphere to remain indefinitely engaging, and I encourage everyone to take this final venture into the cathedral. There won’t be any regrets.