Review Summary: MoRT is arguably BAN's most controversial album, but it is ultimately a triumph that transcends genre limitations by not bowing to convention.
Variety in music is overrated. Yes, there is something to be said for eclecticism, which Vindsval has clearly shown throughout his career-starting out as a fairly traditional black metal artist who suddenly, on his third LP, decided to derail much of his original sound, and that of black metal as a whole-but when creating quality LPs, consistency and coherency of theme and sound are vastly superior methods of attack. Think of all the albums you've heard that may have presented quality material, yet on a macro level lacked the cohesion necessary for it not to sound like hodgepodge (Radiohead's Hail to the Thief and Mastodon's Blood Mountain come to mind). Like Blut aus Nord's aforementioned third LP (The Mystical Beast of Rebellion), MoRT, or Metamorphosis of Realistic Theories, is an album that relies on repetition, or more precisely, variations on a theme.
Sonically, MoRT is less overtly abrasive than much of BAN's catalog. The compositions are less tangible here, and rely significantly more on ambiance. Typically, listeners will be treated (punished?) by a barrage of dissonant, opaque guitar textures, irregular beats, atonal riffs, and seemingly amorphous song structures before being sucked back into the void, where they await the next onslaught. These voids in musical space work as segues between each of the albums 'Chapters,' which, despite what some may cry, approach the style of the album in noticeably different shades of black, and create a sort of interrupted gradient. No, not all of these 'songs' sound the same. Chapter 1's vague progressive rock structure and choral crescendo is emotionally and texturally opposed to the noodling, and rhythmically twisted dance number that is Chapter 7. After repeated close listens, the structures inherent in these seemingly unwieldy monstrosities become apparent, revealing a strange sort of logic to each composition. Not only do the compositions evolve over the course of the album, they seem to evolve over many listens, revealing themselves with each plunge the listeners takes, provided of course that one is willing to take the ride. The lack of immediacy is unfortunately heightened by the aforementioned segues, which, while fitting to the album's atmosphere, can be derivative to the point that one may feel inclined to skip ahead.
Like most conceptual albums, MoRT should be taken as a whole rather than a mere collection of songs. Like chapters in a book, each 'Chapter' here builds upon the last, while also adding nuances and textures that distinguish itself structurally. Like other extreme and abstract works, this can be a daunting listen, and the challenge may be too exhausting for more impatient listeners. Vindsval himself has said that recording this album was exhaustive, and thus paved the way for the comparably more accessible, riff-driven Odinist. Like Gorgut's Obscura or Demilich's Nespithe, MoRT is not an easy album to love for the more conservative metalhead, and some may find it even unlistenable. While not an easy album to recommend to virgins of Blut aus Nord's discography, MoRT demonstrates Vindsval's mastery of texture and atmosphere. It is among the most challenging, yet rewarding of BAN's records. Recommended for adventurous listeners.