Black Metal lends itself to experimentation, in my opinion, due to its rather generic soundscapes. Ultimately, if some of the musicians are to believed, writing for black metal is a formula in which the riffs culminate around a cold theme, and are swept up to a swelling catharsis. Mord’A’Stigmata promotes that they integrate Space Rock and experimentation into the subgenre. Being a fan of progressive experimentation, Space Rock, and Black Metal, I jumped at their offer to spin the album.
Like always, I have to determine what I know about the album, down to its name before I give it a listen. Knowing nothing about a band is not a terrible thing when coming to music (how else do we enjoy new sounds and new perspectives!), therefore, I didn’t give much time to looking into who Mord’A’Stigmata was, who their members are, and what their previous music is (I’m reviewing this particular topic after all, not their back catalogue). Instead, I focused solely on their album’s title: Ansia. Ansia, apparently, is the Italian word for anxiety. We all have our own perception of what this is and how it affects us. Having titled their album thusly, I expected a tense, roiling mass of music that draws only sometimes into the hypnosis of space and time.
Ultimately, I was wrong. The album, while it has its moments of tension, never becomes oppressively tense. Instead, their approach focuses on mystery wherein the coldest soundscapes of black metal (and the sub genre’s defining approach of tremolo and blast beat) are scant, playing on a role in a number of the pieces. The music’s rhythm section is its driving force, particularly the percussion which is unexpected and at times ominous in the feel it creates. The focus on the hypnotic, nearly trance inducing, music is amplified by the passages that slow down and plod along gently. The focus on these moment is evident in the length of the pieces (3 of 5 are more than 10 minutes in length, the fourth is over 7 minutes, and the fifth is an outro). Unlike other reviews, I did not focus on the lyrics at all, rather wanting the focus to remain solely on the music rather than its poetry; therefore, the voice can make you raw with its shrieks and lends itself well during the chanting moments.
Ansia is a solid album from a great group of musicians. In terms of technicality, Mord’A’Stigmata has absolutely no faults, making the compositions strongly focused. In terms of the album’s theme, Ansia never quite provides the payoff that great Black Metal creates. In fact, I never truly felt anxious or even considered the topic of anxiety while listening to the album (maybe I’ve become too desensitized!). The album felt more mysterious where its black metal moments are used to accentuate this mystery rather than to establish further tension. Generally, this is a good album that feel more based in psychedelia/space rock than in black metal, which is stunningly well performed by musicians that are comfortable in their approach. If anything could be better, I wish that the album would have given me that typical Black Metal catharsis.