Review: Mortanius – A Voice from Beyond

Pennsylvanian prog/power oddities Mortanius are a curious creature. A band with a penchant for penning lengthy epics, they also have a taste for taking on unconventional covers (N*Sync and Billy Idol have previously undergone the Mortanius treatment). Their most recent EP, A Voice from Beyond, recently reissued in physical form, carries on this tradition.

A mystical ambience hangs in the air as the opening keys of the title track serenade us with alluring danger. A like minded guitar melody enters the fray, building to an extreme metal barrage complete with blasting drums and speedy, tremolo picked riffs. The section is rife with an evil aura, with Mortanius eager to concoct the sort of subtle, sinister atmosphere that courses through the veins of many a King Diamond classic. Instrumentally, they do a fair job, but it’s abundantly clear that the vocals of Lucas Flocco are not up to the task. Despite a plethora of decent vocal melodies, his voice is very weak and lacks conviction, as if he’s merely fronting the band as they couldn’t find anyone else to do so. There was the hope that, much like the aforementioned King Diamond, his voice might be a bit of an acquired taste, but it was not to be. The track clocks in at eleven and a half minutes, and despite some good solos and changes of pace, it starts to wear thin long before the end. “Falling” feels more sorrowful and tragic in nature, opening with a dual guitar harmony effectively backed by some classic, horror style organ work. Much like the preceding track, there’s a lot of variance in tempo; conversely, it’s also another song that overstays its welcome.

Whilst the original material has its merits, the covers are most definitely expendable. Both songs actually lend themselves well to the cheesy, upbeat power metal style, but their existence seems to be for novelty factor only. They’re completely at odds with the mood set by the two tracks before, and are likely to be far too cutesy and sugary for all but the most sweet toothed of power metal aficionados. Flocco’s vocals are more suited to this sort of stuff, but again his lack of power and character is greatly exposed. He does get kudos for singing in Japanese mind, though I cannot confirm the accuracy of his pronunciation.

There are positives to be found on A Voice from Beyond, but they are heavily outweighed by the negatives. The EP has the hallmarks of a band that doesn’t quite have the song writing chops to match their lofty ambitions or technical abilities. Lucas Flocco is an ever present in the band’s line up, but his vocals are easily the biggest drawback. With a more skilled singer and more concise song structures, then Mortanius would be in far better shape. As is, I don’t really see much hope for their future.

Rating: 4/10 – forgettable prog/power

Highlight: “Falling”

Links: Facebook, Bandcamp

A Voice from Beyond is available worldwide now.