In the world of heavy metal in 2019, it takes a lot to stand out, especially if the band in question is still in its infancy. You might have a very talented line-up, or impressive songwriting skills, but where bands truly shine is their ability to stand out from the crowd. This doesn't necessarily mean re-writing the genre, but rather offering something that pushes music forward.
Mortanius are a fairly young band out of Pennsylvania, self described as “if Dracula formed a progressive power metal band.” Recently they have had some instability in their lineup, resulting in only two permanent members, vocalist Lucas Flocco and bassist Jesse Shaw, but in spite of this they have stuck to their guns and made sure their debut record Till Death Do us Part was released.
Spanning just under 50 minutes and consisting of just 5 tracks, this is definitely an album that ticks the progressive part of the band's sound, and a lot of the instrumentation is reminiscent of more established bands like Symphony X, Sonata Arctica and Rhapsody of Fire. The main difference between those bands and Mortanius is that the music on here sounds more sinister, like it was composed to be the soundtrack for a gothic fantasy film. This album features heavy usage of the organ and harpsichord, as well as some classical guitar.
The guitar, bass and drum work is fairly normal for a band of this style, with a lot of fast-paced riffing, plenty of impressive solo-ing and some interesting bass guitar parts throughout the album. Whilst it's nothing particularly out of the ordinary, it is all performed very well. The main downside instrumentally speaking is that the drums aren't performed live. Whilst the band can be forgiven for this given the lack of a stable full lineup, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the programmed drums feel extremely flat and at times get drowned out by the rest of the instrumentation, which is a real shame because there is some really good quality metal to be found on this record.
However, don't be mislead into thinking that the programmed drums bring the listening experience down too much, because this is still high quality record. Perhaps the strongest part of the entire album is vocalist Lucas Flocco, who has a sub-human range. His vocal style is somewhat unique for a power metal vocalist; whereas most singers of this style have quite raspy, operatic singing voices, the vocals throughout Till Death Do Us Part float effortlessly. Although it's somewhat unusual going into this album for the first time, after a few listens you really start to appreciate the vocals, as well as the extremely talented singer that performs them.
4 of the 5 songs on here tick all the right boxes when it comes to progressive power metal, with the 18 minute long title track being the highlight of the record. It's a prog metal monster, with all the strong points on the rest of the album being turned up to 11 on here. Appearing literally out of nowhere on the record though is a cover of 'Last Christmas' by Wham. Which despite its beyond random inclusion - doesn't disgrace Mortanius, who somehow make this cover sound credible on a prog metal record.
All in all, there is a lot to like about Till Death Do us Part. The musicians involved are all very talented, the vocals are excellent and quirky enough to stand out, and there are a lot of memorable moments throughout. Ignore the at times distracting programmed drums and what we have here is a particularly competent prog metal album by a band that unquestionably have a future in the genre.