With the rise of occult metal bands like Ghost, with the musical and lyrical themes revolving themes of occultism, also comes the increasing number of bands laying claim on the “occult metal” tag. While Germany’s Essenz has the occult metal label attached to them as well, the band’s style of music leans closer to that of black and doom metal rather than the heavy metal style that more popular bands such as Ghost play. Mundus Numen is the band’s sophomore full length effort, following their 2010 highly acclaimed debut release.
The doom metal overtones are immediately apparent as the album opens with Extinguish Shapes: Innermediate, with the heavy riffs and the doom-pace that bring to mind classic doom bands like Candlemass and the likes. But Essenz has a much heavier atmosphere, and the usage of sound effects and vocal effects such as whispers create a haunting and chilling ambient to the music as well, providing some sense of chaos and disturbance in the calming pace of the music. And just as one expects the album to be a pure doom metal release with such an opening track and a soothing acoustic guitar end to the track, the band let their black metal side loose with Sea of Light: Pleroma, hitting the listener unexpectedly with their blackened death metal sound, somewhat similar to bands like Bestial Raids and Antediluvian, though slightly more eclectic.
Vocalist/bassist G.ST’s tortured gruff growls are somewhat reminiscent of vocalists like Mortuus’ works with Marduk, and this, coupled with the aggressive riffing of guitarist D.RK and the relentless blasting of drummer T.NGL, what is present here is some of the most relentless black metal that contrasts the order that the doom metal tracks on the album. That said though, rather than treat the two genres separately, Essenz at times fuses elements of the genres together, with songs like Sea of Light: Pleroma seeing the band transit between faster moments and slower, mid-paced moments. In fact, the slower moments bring to mind the slower material that Marduk has incorporated in their later album over the years, like on Extricate Spirits – Amor, and that prominent rumbling bass that further brings out the similarities.
And it is the ability to seamlessly fuse the different genres and the usage of each element to complement the other that display the band’s masterful songwriting abilities, leaving the listener not knowing what to expect next, with the band constantly throwing surprises to the listener. For example, the heavy doom opening to Observed by Spectres: Paranoia provides a nice climactic build-up to the track, allowing for the experience to be more fulfilling rather than having the band simply blasting their way through. The atmospheric moments on the track as well resemble bands like Shroud of Despondency‘s darker, later works as well, though Mundus Numen is a much more diverse and disturbing journey, with the sounds of destruction and the keys that last for the most part of the track marking the doom of mankind, leaving the listener feeling doomed yet strangely, liberated.
While there have been albums that lost their novelty after numerous listens, Mundus Numens promises an enriching journey. Each listen provides new discoveries for the listener, and thus ensures that there is not a single time when the album would bore one, with subsequent listens allowing Mundus Numens to become more interesting than the previous.