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Mortal ClayMortal Clay
Procession Of Spectres (Self release)

 

Here's one that might take you by surprise. Mortal Clay wrap themselves in gothisms. From the band name to the album title, from the names of the musicians (Zsephyr Lyre and Marco Macabre, no less) to the Storm Constantine-gone-sci fi artwork (cunningly designed so that the text is virtually unreadable), Motal Clay present themselves as an almost self parodic none-more-noir experience. As a result, I was set up for a gothic metal endurance test - all fantastical hippyisms and vocals that go 'Huuurrgghh!'. But that, it turns out, is not what Mortal Clay are about at all. They may offer themselves to the world as if they're Dark Flowers Of The Midnight Garden (see, anyone can do that stuff), but in fact there are many more colours on their musical pallette than the mystical-schmystical presentation might have you assume.

Mortal ClayMortal Clay's music is heavily rhythmic and decidedly left-field, in an inventive, individualistic, style that doesn't tip its hat overmuch to any particular set of generic conventions. It pulls in fragments of folk, elements of industrial. There are strange sweeps of electronics and interludes of neo-classical ambience followed by outbreaks of pumelling drums. Guitar feeds in and out, voices come and go. It's organic and flowing, staccato and technology-driven. If they have folk clubs in the future, this is the stuff that you will hear therein.

If all the above makes Mortal Clay's style sound a touch disjointed, fear not, for the voice of Zsephyr Lyre pulls it all together. Which, in a sense, is a paradoxical thing to say, because her vocals are never less than varied. She is harsh and threatening and pure and clear by turns on the calling-card song 'Mortal Clay', which itself is a rampaging beast of rhythms and dissonance. She can go from operatic arias ('The Tower' is a veritable, erm, tower of diva-isms) to after-dark crooning - as she does on the trip-hoppy 'Trench Of My Quietus'. On 'Circles' Marco Macabre lends a dryly effective backing vocal on a song which sounds like an avant-folk take on a traditional style - the way Zsephyr Lyre's voice rides serenely over the rolling programmed beats works particularly well here. There's also a remixed version of 'Mortal Clay' which hammers along as if Doctor Funkenstein is, if not actually in the house, at least cruising the neighbourhood in his hot-rod.

Procession Of Spectres is not easy listening by any means, and it certainly doesn't touch base with any usual goth-scene areas - which makes it rather odd that the band are apparently trying to position themselves in just this zone. But beneath the misleadingly whimsical presentation, behind the pseudonyms which look like they've been lifted from 'Spinal Tap - The Goth Years', there lurks a genuinely innovative band with ideas that intrigue just as much as they unsettle.

 

Essential links:

Mortal Clay: Website | Myspace

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