Thomas Eriksen has been steadily releasing Norwegian black metal as Mork over the years, keeping up almost the same pace as fellow countrymen Darkthrone. The past few full lengths have been supported by EP’s either in the same or following year, and despite how much material Mork has been giving us the group has still undergone significant evolution. 2021’s Katedralen kept that familiar raw tonality and rock edge to the riffs, but the production values were fuller and the songwriting was already starting to branch out from the usual second wave elements. On Dypet this direction has been taken to its logical next step, offering a slower, somber approach to songwriting that’s heavy on atmosphere but still isn’t afraid to kick things up into an icy blizzard when necessary. It’s a bit of a slower burn compared to its predecessor, but the strength of the songwriting will keep you back as these songs start to sink in.
Don’t be scared away thinking that Mork has suddenly gone into radically different territory, as opener “Indre Demoner” still has that abrasive guitar work, lumbering bass lines, and rock ‘n roll swagger to it once you’re a few minutes in. But even early on there’s a hint of something a bit different in store for Dypet, as it builds methodically with softer acoustic guitar work that has a more somber and eerie feel to it before the distortion kicks in. The fuller production first heard on Katedralen is used to the band’s advantage here, as there are more layers than ever before and melodic nuances sometimes hiding underneath some of the sharper exteriors. A few of the more straightforward numbers like “Avskum” still capture the abrasive yet somewhat groovy riffing that still reminds me of Darkthrone or Tulus, but where Mork really stands out this time around is during the slower, methodical songs. “Forfort Av Kulden” slows things down a bit around the halfway point and lets a dominant bass line and airier guitar melody create a sad, darker tone that comes through like a cross between Norwegian black metal and Sweden’s Shining at points. It’s a moodier, slow burning track that may not be as overtly harsh, but the songwriting gets under your skin with its more introspective and reflective nature. And that’s really where Dypet diverges from Mork’s prior discography, as it uses these melodic layers in different ways that sometimes give off hints of everything from progressive rock to the atmospheric variants of black metal. My favorite track is the closer “Tilbake Til Opprinnelsen” where the harsher riffing is merged with otherworldly synthesizers that give off a bit of a Tangerine Dream vibe. It did take me a few times through compared to Katedralen before some of these details jumped out, but once they did, I haven’t stopped listening to Dypet. A few moments may linger a bit longer than they need to, but overall this is another strong showing from Eriksen.
Eriksen has utilized a raspier scream for much of Mork’s career, and his performance still comes through as abrasive and intense as before. While there are plenty of moments where the instrumentals have mellowed out, the way that his screams are layered adds some consistent grittiness throughout. But early on there is also prominent singing that is layered in with the screams, enhancing the somber and reflective atmosphere that is present throughout Dypet. I believe that Eriksen is handling the singing himself, and it comes through with just as much power and confidence as the harsher pitches. There’s only one guest this time around, as Hjelvik contributes some additional vocals on “Hoye Murer”, and his familiar raspy tone fits well. As with the instrumentals, the changes to the vocals go a long way in providing additional depth and pushing Mork in some different directions than before.
When I was reviewing Katedralen I found myself wondering if Thomas Eriksen could keep the songwriting quality at this high of a level given the fairly quick turnaround between albums. Dypet proves once again that not only can he do that, but that Mork can also branch out further and capture an entirely different tone and atmosphere six albums in. It’s a bit less immediate as a result, especially given the slower melodies and controlled bursts of aggressive riffs, but there’s quite a bit that will keep listeners coming back once it sinks in. I’m not sure whether I like this album or its predecessor more just yet, but Mork has delivered another highlight in 2023 and continues to be an exciting band to follow. Dypet is available from Peaceville Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg