see also our Feature/interview on Mortiis

The Smell of Rain
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
(CD cover courtesy of Earache Records website, 
other photo from the official band site)

It's tempting to start off this review with some troll jokes. Nearly anyone who has heard of Mortiis likely knows what he dresses like (or is?) a troll (just glance at the album cover). Nonetheless, his appearance doesn't take precendence over the music, which I suspect is a lot more important to him than any makeup. I do have to wonder how he can play keyboards so well with big troll-like hands (you think he'd flatten them out every now and then), but aside from that, his taste in attire and makeup has no bearing on the music. And speaking of the music, which we should be doing right about now, let me say that The Smell of Rain is an enjoyable and above average album. This makes me wonder why Audiogalaxy forum visitors have been quick to call Mortiis a sell out, or to claim he plays something known only as "gay lobster techno." 

As usual, the average forum-goer there has absolutely no idea what it is he or she is babbling about. Mortiis has dramatically changed music directions from his last outing, but this is a move that could potentially lose fans. He took some risks within a community where such blatantly electronic music normally wouldn't be accepted as valid work. That is commendable, though outside of metal and ambient  music, The Smell of Rain really isn't anything experimental or unheard of. It follows 80's and early 90's moody synth-based music pretty well. Comparisons to Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails are accurate enough. On "Flux / Mental Maelstrom" I could almost swear I was listening to Trent Reznor in troll makeup. The backing guitars and spiteful lyrics/vocals are very reminscent of NiN, which isn't too surprising given that Mortiis has recently labeled them as a big influence.

Mortiis incorporates all kinds of darkwave and darker ebm sounds and puts it to use in the fantasy world he creates. His vocals are usually spoken, though he often adds a lot of little touches to the delivery to keep things lively. His voice compliments the album very well and adds an authentic quality to mostly synth based music. You actually get to see the sad and lonely side of trolls who just want to be understood. You might have guessed that already based on the contemplative troll sitting alone in a desert on the album's cover.

Mortiis comes up with a number of catchy choruses and generally ensures that after listening you'll come away with several of the songs stuck in your head. Slower songs have a sort of pensive and overall sad quality to them, while faster songs may range from the upbeat to the aggressive. Mortiis knows how to use an effective programmed beat for a faster song, but he also knows when to slow things down or back up the electronics with more symphonic sounds. The percussion is mostly beat based, though occasionally more exotic drum sections will creep their way into the sound.

Sarah Jezebel Deva contributes her vocals also, and while they aren't a defining aspect of The Smell of Rain, they do add a lot of subtle touches. Mortiis is taking a fairly common sound on this CD... so I can't give it a lot of originality points. Yet he does manage to add enough personality to it to keep it entertaining throughout. He also took care to make sure it's backed by some real emotion and feeling. I get the impression he's probably been wanting to make an album like this for a while, and the bands he modeled it after consequently shine through as unmistakable influences. 

The great songwriting works despite the overall lack of originality, so this CD will undoubtedly spend a lot of time in my player. I can't help but think the next Mortiis release is going to be even better if he continues to explore this realm of electronic music and adds further personal touches. For now, The Smell of Rain will do nicely. Recommended to any fans of Skinny Puppy or NiN, or any metal fans looking to branch out but aren't sure where to start. I highly doubt Mortiis fans who really appreciated his music before will dislike this release to any great extent either, and most should even enjoy it.

Track List:
1.) Scar Trek / Parasite God
2.) Flux / Mental Maelstrom
3.) Spirit in a Vacuum
4.) Monolith
5.) You put a Hex on Me
6.) Everyone Leaves
7.) Marshland
8.) Antimental
9.) Smell the Witch

Mortiis is:
Mortiis - Vocals, programming, synths
Frederik Bergstrom - timpani & percussion
Sarah Jezebel Deva - main female vocals
John Prozac - additional programming
Chris A - guitars
Alzahr - bass guitar

Mortiis - Official Web Site:

Earache Records: