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Pulchra Morte: Ex Rosa Ceremonia

Pulchra Morte’s debut album Divina Autem Et Aniles was a powerful and impressive release that was enjoyed by fans and critics alike. In my own review of the album, I commented on the band’s stellar take on death / doom and on the effective ways they integrated additional vocals (and sometimes even a cello) into their songwriting. I still listen to that album and count it as one of my favorite releases in the last few years. But as good as that album was, this one is better.

Before going any further, I should start by mentioning that Pulchra Morte has had a couple of lineup changes since the first release. Instead of Jason Barron (vocals) and Dylan Kilgore (bass), the band now has Adam Clemans (vocals) and John Porada (bass) in addition to Clayton Gore (drums), Jeffrey Breden (guitars), and Jarrett Pritchard (guitars). I don’t know what triggered those changes, but I can say that the band’s general sound and style remain largely unchanged. Sometimes a change in vocalist can mark a striking new direction. But in this case, Clemans’s voice is close enough to his predecessors that the transition isn’t all that dramatic. For some listeners, growling all sounds the same anyway. For the more discerning listener, it’s fair to say that Clemans has a deep and powerful vocal stye that is refreshingly clear. It suits the band’s music perfectly.

As for Ex Rosa Ceremonia, it’s safe to say that the band generally picks up where they left off. The music is a tight and remarkable blend of death and doom, always heavy and uncompromising. The difference between the two albums is that the band has opened up a little bit about their larger thematic interests. On the first album, there was a relentless sense of danger, as if the possibility of death was lurking everywhere. But here, the band wants to look around a little and seek out greater understanding or enlightenment. They see a world lost in screens, attuned more to the quick and dirty headlines, gossip, or misinformation that are all around us. Yes, other bands tackled this theme before, whether by crying out against “cancel culture” or worrying about divisive political trends. But Pulchra Morte is more subtle in their approach to contemporary life. They are looking for a larger perspective, something that requires ceremony, reflection, and purpose. Given that 2020 has been a year of extremes, there may be good reasons to think about how we live now and what we can do about it.

Can you enjoy this album without worrying about its themes? Certainly. Songs like “Knife of the Will,” “The Archer and the Noose,” and my favorite track “Prince Among Shadows” make for some excellent listening. Pulchra Morte is one of the best new bands working in this genre and this album should clearly establish them even more. As things (hopefully) improve in the world, we might even get a chance to catch them on stage. Like other strong albums, this one will make a great first impression but it gets even better with subsequent listens. I am especially taken with the middle of the album. As the band moves into tracks like “Prince Among Shadows,” their tendency toward melancholy settles in and shapes the music in ways that are both haunting and beautiful. Death and danger still lurk around every corner, but the band’s willingness to explore those fears is giving their music additional depth and power. I suggest listening to this one a few times; it’s worth a deeper dive, both into the music and the lyrics.

It’s easy to say that one album improves over another, but this one is definitely a step forward for a band that was already excellent. The music is tighter and more confident while it also conveys stronger sense of purpose and direction. “Prince Among Shadows” and “The Archer and the Noose” especially stand out for their overall balance and grace. Here’s hoping for more from Pulchra Morte!

Track Listing:
1. The Serpents Choir
2. Fires of Coil
3. Knife of the Will
4. In the Mourning Light
5. Prince Among Shadows
6. The Archer and the Noose
7. To Suffer (The Way You Do)
8. Locust Humanity
9. Ex Rosa Ceremonia

Added: December 10th 2020
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 586
Language: english

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