Splendidula are true to their name’s root word on their second album. Post Mortem is a multilayered examination of death and its many facets through dark, heavy music.
Splendidula were uncharted territory for me. Enticed by their name alone, I walked into Post Mortem expecting… well, nothing, really. Just surprise me! Part of this job, and a great one at that, is discovering new music and hearing things you haven’t heard before. The Belgian five-piece did surprise me by delivering some nice metal that’s fraught with a pacing and tone similar to a tense mystery movie like… uh, I don’t know. Gone Girl? Was that a good movie? Anyway, let’s make our Y-incision here and dig into the guts of this nice album.
The cover art really says it all. It’s a very realistic artist rendition of a post-mortem woman, as if on the autopsy table or being prepped for a funeral. Take a look at the header image of this review to see that even the band joined in on the fun for promotional material. It’s a direct move that prefaces Splendidula‘s heavy sound with an air of morbidity, but one that’s more sterile, clinical, and, dare I say, artsy, than any corpse typically found torn asunder on the covers of more blunt artists. Though, I’m first to admit that death shouldn’t be treated as a taboo topic in society, nor should we explicitly fear it, so onward we go.
The fact that Post Mortem is bookmarked by two of its most interesting tracks is telling as to the cinematic feel of the album. “Post” is a busy wall of noise that, in the bigger picture, is a lot more tranquil than it seems at first listen. “Mortem”, the album closer, is more traditional fare, though somber all the same almost like a goodbye. The pensive violin and vocal refrain of ‘I’m flying’ is eerie and satisfying. In my imagination, “Post” is the moment of death where you can feel yourself slipping away. All of your memories quickly play in reverse order as if you hammered the rewind button on your remote 66 times. “Mortem” is your soul or spirit moving on to its next journey.
“Too Close to Me” has a playful trot of a drum beat while an interview clip of Charles Manson leads us into the meat of the song. Kristien Cools’ vocals devolve into a spoken word at times which complements the scumbag creepiness that Manson always brings to the table. Splendidula‘s natural progressions, anything but normal, lead us all around a corroded, branching mammoth of a track that easily sounds like it could be four distinct songs, and it’s not even the longest song on the album. “Aturienoto” is like-minded, effectively twisting the band’s dark sound into a ballad for seven minutes. I pegged the vocals as mostly, if not all, French, though it’s possible there’s more at play. The music is universal, though, sounding like someone locked in a cage or prison, lamenting at the past and present, longing for the future. This is all achieved with sparse but effective drums, and ominous guitars. The climax of the song burns hot, but fizzles under the void of sound in the next song, “Stream of Consciousness”. Regrettably, “Aturienoto” is a song taken from their last album sans two minutes of extra ambiance and with more production polish, so take your pick. I personally like the original better.
I had fun dissecting Post Mortem as much as I could, and even with the limited experience I had, I found it fruitful and engaging. It’s a really great December winter album – cold and serious in tone, but not to a detriment. The pieces weren’t as connected as I wanted, but I’m very hesitant to place any blame on the band for that. After all, maybe my reading of the album’s themes was more wishful thinking or just plain wrong. Regardless it was a fantasy that helped color in the lines from song to song and garnered more enjoyment from it for me. It makes me curious as to what Splendidula‘s intentions really were, what made them construct an album like this to begin with, and, perhaps most importantly, it made me want more. To some, that’s one of the best compliments you can lay forth.