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The 3rd and The Mortal: Tears Laid in Earth

This is The 3rd and The Mortal's first full-length release from 1994. They released an EP titled Sorrow before this one, which sort of introduced their artistic vision, but it wasn't until Tears Laid in Earth came out that they fully established and carved their sound in the world of doom metal.

Few fans mention The 3rd and The Mortal when it comes to metal bands with female vocalists, although they are among the very first to actually incorporate beautiful mezzo-soprano vocals into their music. They never went for the beauty-and-the-beast style like Theatre of Tragedy; Kari Rueslatten, only 20 when this was recorded, uses a very dramatic clean voice without overdoing the operatic vocals. Her voice possesses incredible tonal depth and character. Her delivery is emotionally engaging, and she expresses sadness intensely without foregoing melody. Her vocals often kick in the mix during the quieter breakdowns, engulfing and enchanting the listener, before the guitar themes are re-introduced to the mix with added tension thanks to the subtly complex drum work and spectral keyboards. Not only does Rueslatten employ her melancholic voice to deepen the doom-laden arrangements, but in some songs she also sings a capella in Norwegian, most notably on the album opener "Vandring" and as well as on the weirdly composed "Lengsel." This song only features a very spaced-out bass line, no other instrument, over which she lays down her fragile, creepy vocals. Norwegian eerily sounds like an old Germanic language, which adds to the tension.

When I first heard this band, I was amazed at how original and groundbreaking they sounded, not only in terms of vocals but also musically. Even today, there is no other band that can do what this band has done. Their first two discs (after which Kari Rueslatten left to pursue a solo career, which is also worth investigating if you're into more experimental music) saw them exploring the depths of doom metal with seas of atmosphere, long (yet very focused) instrumental passages, and acoustic soundscapes underscored by ominous keyboards. The guitars, played by three members, are drenched in melody, stretching notes as wide as possible, but the execution is far from repetitive. While it would not be far-fetched to draw comparisons between The 3rd and The Mortal and other early 90s doom bands like Anathema, Funeral, and even Katatonia, the similarity would more so be in how musical they sound rather than harmonic resemblances. The band's guitars here reach for deeper realms, exploring the possibilities of melodic songwriting without drifting into boring gothic category. They form the base for the rest of the writing; the music is largely divorced from symphonic overlays with short verses alternating between brutal male and saccharine female vocal parts.

Never fast-paced or head-spinningly complex, the guitar work involves shaping atmospheric passages without getting in the way. Notes and chord progressions are repeated to build tension, but melody is never sacrificed. That doesn't mean there aren't any heavy riffs to be heard here. On "Why So Lonely," there is an arresting guitar crescendo, which feels like the swell of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night; the intro of "Shaman" is majestic, so heavy yet so beautiful, while "Death Hymn" shows where Agalloch took some of their inspiration while writing Pale Folklore. Starting with a Sabbath-derived main riff, it morphs into an audio ritual, repeated on and on forever, until it gives you the feeling you're all alone in the woods, freezing and awaiting your death.

"Trial of Past" almost has a psychedelic feel to it while "Salva Me" sounds so creepy with its fuzzed-out guitar sounds before picking momentum and building to a faster and heavier middle section with complex, odd-metered drums thrown into the mix. The level of experimentation on the album is light years ahead of any other band in their genre. The hardly audible vocals on "Song," which also features some great synth work by Rueslatten, or the atonal, jazz-derived instrumental break of "In Mist Shrouded" are only a foreshadowing of what territory they would chart on future releases, hitting their apex on 1997's In This Room, with another singer. The 18-minute "Oceana" is a musical summary of the album: it blends folk tonalities with dreamlike vocals, protracted acoustic guitar lines, intense melodies rising and falling over the arrangements, concluding yet again with Norwegian vocals, except that this time it sounds like the lyrics are sung backwards yet somehow they still retain their musicality and finish the album on a high note.

After Tears Laid in Earth, the band shifted from doom metal and explored other forms of music but perhaps never quite matched the magical writing of their first two discs, of which this one is an underrated genre classic, in my opinion. Though quite different, listeners may also want to explore Funeral's Tragedies, Anathema's The Silent Enigma, and even Madder Mortem's Mercury, for entirely different reasons.

Track Listing
1. "Vandring" 1:40
2. "Why So Lonely" 5:14
3. "Atupoéma" 4:41
4. "Death-Hymn" 8:24
5. "Shaman" 3:28
6. "Trial of Past" 5:14
7. "Lengsel" 2:06
8. "Salva Me" 4:38
9. "Song" 6:37
10. "In Mist Shrouded" 5:35
11. "Oceana" 18:46

Added: July 6th 2014
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2717
Language: english

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