Sacramentum – Finis Malorum (2020)

Trendy albums age poorly, but those written for eternity tend to maintain their stature even as people gain more experience and cynicism over the years. Finis Malorum stands up to time with a new edition that includes the “Sedes Impiorum” demo, two covers, and an early track.

Like Dissection and Sentenced, Sacramentum re-introduced the quasi-progressive harmony-intense melodic heavy metal of Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate to the structure-driven, high-speed world of death metal. This produced intensely lyrical but confrontational songs halfway between progressive rock, hardcore punk, and a heavy metal ballad.

Finis Malorum showed this band with their greatest amount of Romantic imagery, as if taking us on a view of ruined castles and lost mariners to reveal the eternal thread of adventure, adversity, and struggle for mental clarity that defines the human experience. Unlike rock songs about sex, love, and being on the road, this tore open the facade of humanity and delivered a sense of being an agent of evolution in a world of static and fearful bystanders.

These songs build from simple opening riffs in the Hypocrisy style to tight loops between racing melodic verses and chanting, Hellhammer-like rhythmic choruses that expand into melodic counterparts to the earlier riff and spur continuity with metaphorical parallels in structure more than explicit sound. This gives the EP a mysterious sound that does not crumble at the touch but deepens as one listens, especially as song structures expand upon their fundamental loops with the type of melodic development we expect from progressive rock bands and movie soundtracks.

Over two and a half decades later, Finis Malorum stands up to time and steps over it, reaching into the eternity of what makes not just great music, or great metal music, but great spirit and the best life adventure that one can experience.

“Sedes Impiorum” and the cover tracks — one by Mercyful Fate and one by Sepultura, as if showing us the dual inputs to the sonic thinking behind this band — show us more of the tension in developing a sound, using more rhythm riffs as standalone and then throwing melodic interventions on top, but one can see the voice emerge. You can see how the choruses came from Mercyful Fate but were built on the bones of solid Sepultura structure and rhythmic sensibility; the Mercyful Fate cover feels sparse because Sacramentum nail the rhythm more like a death metal band than a somewhat more groove-oriented speed metal act. In contrast, the Sepultura cover feels incomplete, since in the hands of the Swedes it rushes into violent conflict with precision, giving it the sense of being half of something emerging. The bonus track, “Morbid Humanity,” sounds like a lot of early death metal, before it got a power dose of Pestilence and At the Gates: mid-paced with a nascent sense of melody wrapped up in chromatic riffing.

This gives the re-issue a curve of its own, from the power of the EP to the influences, then the fusion wrought of them, ending on where this band was before it began the process of fully fusing its two threads. As far as the music, it stands up even stronger than before as the world falls at its feet in repetition, conformity, emptiness, and propaganda.

Finis Malorum (1994)
1. Moonfog (4:50)
2. Travel With The Northern Winds (4:00)
3. Devide et Impera (4:52)
4. Pagan Fire (4:09)
5. Finis Malorum – Outro (1:52)
Cover Tracks
6. Black Masses [Mercyful Fate] (4:09)
7. The Curse – Antichrist [Sepultura] (4:10)
“Sedes Impiorum” demo (1993)
8. Intro – Sedes Impiorum (0:39)
9. Stormbringer (3:29)
10. Season of Dark Souls (3:46)
11. Nocturnal Flame (3:23)
12. Within Thy Circle (3:02)
Early track
13. Morbid Humanity (5:14)

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