- - - - - -

Mutum - Premonitions of War

Mutum - CD Review
Premonitions of War






CD Info
9 tracks
Independent Release
English / Latin lyrics
9.5 / 10


When we think of the top Symphonic Gothic bands we tend to think Northern Europe: the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, the usual suspects. Well, what you find when you look around is that a lot of Spanish speaking bands meet that description as well. And that includes both Spanish AND Central and South American bands. You sometimes loose a little of that symphonic sound with some of the bands from the southern part of South America, but the Mexicans, they tend to have it down pretty well. And Mutum is as good as you’re going to hear, they can go toe to toe with anything from Northern Europe. Funny thing is they tend to be classified with a link to the “Doom” nomenclature, not sure why, there sure isn’t much of what I’d call Doom here. But what there is is some of the finest Symphonic Gothic. . . with the occasional operatic femme vox thrown in, that you’re ever going to find.

The pictures of the band are a little distracting, they look like a high school glee club. Not sure why, they’ve been around since 2001 and have several releases. Been some personnel shifts over that time but whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it right. And, they’ve worked with some serious talent in live venue. They’ve opened for After Forever and the Gathering. They’re from the Monterrey area and have participated in the Monterrey Metal Fest, the most important metal festival in Latin America, sharing the stage with bands like: Blind Guardian, U.D.O., Edguy, Leaves Eyes, Maligno, Obituary, Solitude, and Reign of Terror among others. So, they have a following. And, with this release, that following should be expanded, this is about as good as it gets.

The music covers a lot of bases, although, like I said, I’m not really hearing the Doom. But the symphonic is there is spades. They march through the orchestrations like Grant took Richmond. Choral work flows through a number of tracks and a lot of that background work is in Latin, just the way the Norwegians like it. In fact, the vocal excellence throughout is one of the strongpoints of the release, you get a ton of sound, often put together in overpowering combinations that are reminiscent of the top classical symphonic sounds in the history of the genre. You just don’t get enough of that anymore, but you damn sure get it here. There’s more than enough metal, some stirling guitar riffs, a pounding drum line to keep the music moving. But, it’s typically combined with the other components, this is solidly developed and crushingly delivered Gothic by any measure. But, it is Gothic in a lyrical sense just as much as it is in a musical sense. You get some interesting thoughts and some fine poetic structures that are delivered by a fine femme vocal, augmented by those searing choral elements.

You have to wonder about the title. I can see Americans being excited about “premonitions of war” but other societies seem to be less attracted to the concept, thank goodness. But, I asked the band about the concept and lead singer Myrthala Bray explained: “We came up with the topic ‘Premonitions of War’ suddenly, because we wanted the main song to finish with a speech, and at the end that speech gave body to the whole story. The whole disc talks about a chain of events in many different contexts that result in the destruction of life as we know it. The premonition its presented in a dream as a message about what's about to happen.” OK, artistic license, that’s better.

From the beginning, one of the strong points of this release is, as I mentioned, the choral components. They are as good as anything I’ve heard and I don’t like anything more than solid choral arrangements. Again, I asked Ms. Bray about that work. Her response: “About the choral work, it was all written by Roy Cantú (Lead Guitar) & Hiram Aguirre (Keys). The choirs are divided in 4 voices: The Soprano line (with the main melody), Alto's, Tenor's and Bass's lines (which create the harmony for the main melody).

To make these voices, they did it first in their main instruments and then passed it to the score. In the disc, the choir was sung by aprox 30 singers, we divided them by voices, and each group (S,T,A,B) recorded their lines many times. This still was doubled in the process of mixing, made by Gordon Groothedde (Holland).” Damn, that’s a lot of vocals and a lot of extra work to get to the final product. But trust me, it’s very much worth it. The fact that this choral work is done in Latin is also of interest. Bray talked about that development “The lyrics: Well, the parts in Latin were written by Roy Cantú, while the rest (English) was written by me. Except for ‘Fallen Angel’, here, the ex-vocalist of Mutum (Anabel Olivo) came up with the idea and I just completed a few parts. Also, I had some help of Roy & Hiram in the main idea of the lyrics in ‘Hourglass’.”

The music follows the Symphonic Gothic approach to things. The metal is there to showcase the rest of the material. The vocals, while not always operatic, do tend in that direction on occasion. Bray has a fine quality to her vocals and showcases a number of approaches that cover a range of vocal styles. Keyboards do a lot of heavy lifting in various formats.

The release begins with Hourglass and, after a short guitar based introduction, we’re entertained with that solid choral element which takes us to the lead vocals. Those vocals begin in a metal style but flow to full operatic during parts of the track. The Latin introduces the lyric:

Fac tu ardet spiritu / Ex umbra

Like angels / Seducing me to go
I look through the glass / But nothing seems to keep me here

The time has come / Don't try to resist
It's now or never / Our time is running out

Like angels into my mind / Bursting, collapsing my soul / I can't see the light

The choral parts are superb. And the vocals of Ms. Bray take us from a metal format all the way through full opera soprano, reaching heights only the top vocalists can attain.

Other tracks focus on more classically oriented sounds. The Memories: Gloria Victis sounds like Epica with better choirs. Again, Bray takes the high road when the occasion calls for it and the choral work, again in Latin, puts an exclamation point on the track.

Dulce bellum inexpertis
Inter arma / Gloria victis

There’s some variation in the sound, One: The Stars’ Lullaby makes sure you understand that our vocalist has a damn fine voice. Again she moves from one delivery style to another in a Miami minute and then back again. A truly interesting capability, one that clearly requires training at some level beyond the high school glee club. And, of course, the final track, the title track, provides us with a tour de force of all the band’s capabilities. It requires some 7 1/2 minutes to complete but you get the whole enchilada with this one. Choral work, vocals in multiple styles from our lovely lead and a Latin message delivered in the most beautiful of all possible alternatives:

Ad per aspera mortem ad libitum ibidem
Inter requiem in spiritu luminus / Delirium conceditur cor homini et veritas lux

The response takes us to dark places:

Eternal life / Versus eternal youth
Breathe among corpses / And ill angels only

Eternal walk / The time consumes us all
Echoes of content / Are in my dreams only

All in all, truly fine symphonic operatic Gothic metal from a band that seems to know the terrain well. I have little to complain about with this one and any complaints would probably be personal rather than generic, and very limited in scope. If you favor this style of music, purchase with peace of mind, it just doesn’t get much better.