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Mourning Pyre : Mourning Pyre (EP)

Mourning Pyre's debut is a credible groundwork for a first venture into Doom territory.

Based in Kiev, Ukraine, Mourning Pyre is the solo project of Scott Elliott: an almost-exclusively instrumental band working with a Blackened/Melodeath/Atmospheric Doom palette. And if the very suggestion of Black Metal-influenced "bedroom bands" conjures up horrific memories of Scandiwegian extremists recorded playing live in a biscuit-tin from next-door's basement, rest easy - one of the more striking things to note about this release is the sheer quality of its studio-recorded production. Clean, crisp and differentiated, it brings out the instrumental detail with a distinct clarity.

Just as well, since attention to detail would appear to be Scott's hallmark. It's obvious that a lot of work went into constructing and perfecting each of the five tracks, layering together guitars, (programmed) drums, keyboard and occasional voice into fully-fledged compositions. With other personal projects covering orchestral/symphonic movie scores, though, it's perhaps not surprising that similar writing techniques have been employed here. Purists might argue that the resultant lush soundscaping is more doomy than Doom, and that's possibly true: whilst the atmosphere largely remains wistfully melancholic throughout, some of the passages are quite uptempo or uplifting, and some clearly stray over the borders into outright Progressive, Death or Black Metal territory. It reminds me, at times, of both Thalarion and Paragon Of Beauty, minus the vocals, as well as having something in common with the recent Aeurtum release, which also transitioned from Metal to melodic Doom.

Vocals, where used here, are mostly wordless texture or synthesised choral effects. The only lyrics are reserved for the closing 'My Valkyrie' (and to forestall any speculation regarding nationalism/Black metal influences: it has no such connotations, and is, simply, dedicated to wishing recovery for an extremely ill lady friend). Other than that explicit piece, though, the EP consists of unspecific, almost generic, titles linked around the themes of sadness and emptiness, leaving it to the listener to interpret their significance and fashion their own imagery to accompany the music. As such, it's somewhat ambiguous: there is no obviously identifiable emotional response being sought, and the mixture of different melodic styles allow it to be seen as having either positive or negative qualities - in the comfort of familiar, but accepted, melancholies or as a still-raw lament - depending on how it is approached.

Perhaps deliberately, that's an approximate meaning of the untranslatable Portuguese word saudade, used for the title of the opening track, and setting the scene for the ambivalence of the EP. Listen closely to what follows, trace the melodies and the moods, and there's enough weight and sadness carried through their evolving themes for that to be the dominant atmosphere: listen more casually, and it's likely that the soaring guitar of the fastest passages - found in the closing sections of the last couple of tracks - will be leaving more of an optimistic and Metal-infused impression behind. In some respects, I'd rather those parts had been given a little less presence, not because they're necessarily out of place within the individual compositions, but because - from the perspective of a Doom album - they have an extra blatancy that doesn't quite fit within the subtler, darker contexts of the rest of the music.

In conclusion, this is a difficult work to assess. Instrumentals, by their nature, tend to be less explicitly genre-bound and, as noted, this is very much on - and sometimes over - a number of hybrid borderlines anyway. As such, I don't really see it finding hugely widespread favour across the Doom spectrum, especially amongst those who prefer their grief delivered in immediate and overwhelmingly crushing fashion. On the other hand, it is a well-written and commendably well-produced experimental first foray into new ground, and contains enough Doom to provide a route in for those fans who do like more experimental or atmospherically-inclined music, or have an equal fondness for melodic Black Metal subgenres. A credible groundwork setting a direction in which I hope Mourning Pyre will explore further and deeper.

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Reviewer's rating: 7/10


Tracklist :
1. Saudade
2. My Grief, Neverending
3. Holding My Breath (Until I Die)
4. Void
5. My Valkyrie

Duration : Approx. 33 minutes

Visit the Mourning Pyre bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-01-16 by Mike Liassides
Thermal Mass
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