Mors Principium Est – Dawn of the 5th Era (AFM Records)

Sunday, 23rd November 2014
Rating: 9/10

Truly embracing the entire European landscape in their lineup anno 2014, Mors Principium Est may lean 60% to the Finnish side in their melodic death metal membership (mainstay vocalist Ville Viljanen, bassist Teemu Heinola, and drummer Mikko Sipola), but now include the UK and France in their axe landscape courtesy of Andy Gillion and Kevin Verlay. Their fifth platter appropriately entitled Dawn of the 5th Era comes at a time when other Scandinavian acts in this category have unleashed stellar work over the past two years (Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum, Wolfheart) – so what can this quintet cook up to elevate their profile and satiate their long-time followers?

Given that this is Andy’s second songwriting excursion for MPE, the hope is that he’ll settle into more of his own comfort zone to propel the band into fresh horizons. After a tick-tock clock, semi-symphonic “Enter the Asylum” 92 second intro – the last 30 seconds electrified as if signaling the riff charge – we get a speedy “God Has Fallen”, the main guitar harmonies hailing a cage match between The Gathering/Testament ferocity and familiar Swedish fluidity that put At The Gates at the top of the heap during the 90’s. Mikko as a drummer has impeccable sense of when to go full force for thrash textures or speedy blast sections/double bass, while also tempering that for proper groove segments when the hook and harmonies need extra emphasis.

The talent level for Gillion/Verlay is outstanding – properly stunning during their lead break highlights as well as incorporating a number of high hook melodies at varying paces which make “Leader of the Titans” and “Wrath of Indra” particular favorites, the latter through almost Morse Code oriented tapping and chord progressions. Factor in the roars, screams, and growls out of Ville that can rip out your heart and sever limbs for the militant “I Am War” or six minute gallop monster “The Forsaken” that has a little recent Battlecross reference points, and we can see that the post-Haukio songwriting years will prove to be just fine for the group.

Beyond that, the electronic dynamic nuances for “We Are the Sleep” and “Monster in Me” do not detract from the game plan – sights set on aggressive, jackhammer guitar parts, pummeling tempos, and the semi-classical twinges that put devil horns forever high. In league with The Unborn and Liberation = Termination, hopefully Dawn of the 5th Era will land Mors Principium Est a lucrative North American tour or two, as their discography deserves a wider audience.

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