Mortiis is an excruciatingly complex and immensely interesting persona. With roots in the infamous Norwegian Black Metal styles, and having played bass for Emperor (a black metal band), for only a short period, Mortiis set out to build up on a theatrical aspect to his music. Specializing in what he refers to as Dungeon Music, he's created synthesizer-filled ambient albums of long pieces that mix an old-age Norwegian time period with the visuals of fantasy.
Mortiis transforms into a goblin with long, pointed nose, unkempt hair and excess, shedding skin (if you remember Blix from Ridley Scott’s Legend that starred Tom Cruise and Mia Sara, then you have a perfect idea of what Mortiis’ alter-ego appearance is like – but Google and see for yourself). And if you can imagine film music much like the old horror features with their brooding and menacing soundtracks, then, once again, you have an idea of what these decade-old Mortiis solo releases sound like.
Released in 1994 (Ånden som gjorde Opprør - ?) and 1995 (Keiser av en dimensjon Ukjent – Emperor of a Dimension Unknown), these extended 2-track albums provide a soundtrack to ancient and isolated castles with dungeon in medieval times. These are not the war-torn and oppressed castles that we’re film-familiar with but rather, weathered edifices with deep dungeons and wet, dripping walls that hide horribly corrupt goings-on within. Outside, the sun grudgingly reaches the interior of the castle grounds for the mass of trees that surround – and protect – the mouldering structure.
Listening to these one can easily imagine a torture chamber filled to capacity with agonized kidnapped villagers camped on the castle owner’s vast lands by need. If anyone is familiar with Brian Lumley’s Necroscope book series, one could easily apply these albums of music as the soundtrack to the Starside aeries that fill the series during the Vampire World trilogy. Now and again, sinister spoken words pepper these sometimes majestic, mostly funereal ambient discs. 1995’s Keiser av en dimensjon Ukjent delivers a creepier feel but with sadder undertones in sound than 1994’s Ånden som gjorde Opprør, which itself is the more majestic story piece.
Projekt, a premier Gothic label based in NYC, have often released quality titles of pure ambience. It is then natural for the label to reissue these Out of Print titles from Mortiis (who now records excellent industrial metal as a four-piece band) with beautifully coloured, and redesigned glossy digipak casings. If you follow the Mortiis mythos, then you are aware of his theatrically enhanced and transitory musical styles. Mortiis ambience isn’t for everyone but if you are a fan of ambient music that is different in scope than most ambient pieces, then Mortiis’ Dungeon Music might be the thing.