Review Summary: I've seen the Light (and my wife will eventually do).
If Finnish traditional gloom & doom squad Mansion are even half serious about that whole Kartanoism schtick, then tremble, you sinners, because salvation is going to hurt. I'm gonna go ahead and assume that you are of a fornicating nature. If that's the case, I have good news and bad news: The good news? One of the best doom albums that I’ve heard in a long time has arrived dangerously early. The bad news is that the authors are an ultra-religious sect that has come to punish our carnal trespassing, and nope, not even marriage in the eyes of God will save you from the spanking. You're about to get familiar with the dark whip of Second Death
, and believe you me, you're going to learn to love it.
Alma Maria Kartano - does the name ring a bell? Probably not, unless you're Finnish, ancient and lucid. Between the 20s and the 50s, this extremely enlightened branch of Lutheran Catholics was the materialized ideal of a chastity belt. The rituals were fervent and brutal, with devotees banging their heads against the floor while screaming prayers, sometimes in unknown languages just to scare off the Devil. Ascetic and arduous, followers of Kartano despised sex and celebrated castration, so as you can imagine, they weren't the loveliest of sorts. After Kartano's death, the movement's influence vanished, and Finland's population probably tripled within a year.
Enter Mansion, a Finnish occult rock and Sabbath worship congregation from Turku composed of six members. Led by vocalist Alma (of course), axeman Jaakob and ex-drummer Mikael, who seems to have been promoted to... messenger of the True God (the dude that writes the lyrics), they formed Mansion together in 2011. In 2012, the congregation saw their ranks increasing with additional members and they produced several releases, including: three EPs, a split with Cardinal Wyrm and a first full length in 2018 titled First Death of the Lutheran
. Their impressive live performances have granted them a cult following around Europe, and their message is slowly creeping around the world. Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, after listening to Second Death
, I'm starting to understand why.
Mansion are a doom fan’s wet dream (Kartano is going to watch me burn for this). Imagine Church of the Cosmic Skull actually doing what they look like they should be doing, add a spoonful of Black Sabbath, a pinch of Ghost’s Opus Eponymous
where Sister Imperator takes vocal duties and marinate the whole thing with Candlemass sauce. Alma's voice ranges from Julie Christmas sedated in a straitjacket to Dorthia Cottrell hanging from a tree on a full moon, not to mention the occasional Chelsea Wolfe spirit possessing her. Mansion's music is heavy, very heavy, but also frantically enticing. Matti-Juhani's organ provides a level of depth that few bands of their kind have, while the rhythm section composed by drummer Aatami and bass Immanuel don't play things exactly by the book. Well-timed changes of pace and intensity in several sections help the album flow from one song into the next one with ease, which is surprising considering the fact that every track is close to the seven-minute mark. Osmo's eerie singing complementing Alma's and Samuel adding a second guitar to the mass are the final touches on a mighty and ceremoniously solemn record.
I'm going to refrain from dissecting every song on Second Death
because I believe that one of the things that made me fall to my knees and repent from my transgressions was the album's ability to keep the suspense. From the introductory chanting of “Procession” to the very last notes of closing mammoth “You Are Suspicious”, there wasn’t a single moment of doubt. My faith on this album was resolute, unyielding and impenetrable. It balances out the restraint of certain pieces with the crushing pounding and swaying expected from a stoner doom record, with cinematic and eerie scores acting as a link, especially in the middle tracks, allowing the wrongdoer to catch a breath before the cleansing ritual resumes.
The band’s sophomore release… Sorry, I mean, the congregation’s second collection of psalms and prayers for the miscreant is a slap of fresh air for the genre, and also a significant improvement of the foundations laid with 2018’s First Death of the Lutheran
. Mansion are a well-kept secret as of now. Not much can be found online about them, and it's mind-blowing that this Second Death
hasn't been released through a label, so whether you wish to atone for your lustful past or just enjoy a fantastic doom record, do not be late to the service or you will regret it.