The occult themes, heavy use of the purple, and tendency to get weird have always been prevalent in the heavy metal history of a specific country: Italy, the birthplace of “violet doom metal”. In the same era of Italian traditional doom metal, some other local bands, like Bulldozer or Necrodeath, were pushing the limits of the sound towards extremity, making a dent in the first wave black metal history. However, none of these bands had that “Italian weird occult” touch in their sound until a group of young people who were obsessed by necromancy set out to play music.
The long musical journey of Mortuary Drape began in 1986, probably around the same time their journey into the catacombs also did. The first demos they recorded in 80s were raw, sloppy, dirty, and they laid the foundation of the timeless classic full-lengths they would release ten years later. Before these demos were even recorded, the band had already decided on the occult themes, their stage shows, and costumes, and weirdly enough they were not directly influenced by their countrymen Death SS – who had already mastered similar themes and settings as early as the late 70s.
Even though they were not a direct influence for Mortuary Drape, the similarities in their approach to music can be easily found. Starting out their journey to play evil occult music in a time when the borders of black metal were not yet clearly defined, they rooted their sound in heavy metal: a Venom or a Mercyful Fate sound taken to the raw and eerie extremes in the presence of crosses in graveyards where they gathered in black nights with doomy overtones to it all.
The band was always clear in what they wanted their music to convey: necromancy. They claim that they were seriously into such dark arts back in those days. When Drape started playing live shows for the first time, the overt occult themes and stage settings were off-putting even for those who were already into the obscure world of extreme metal in 80s, let alone the completely uninitiated majority. Thankfully they kept doing what they were doing and this ultimately resulted in their remarkable discography.
Consisting of re-recorded 80s demo tracks with a cleaner production mixed with quite a few new songs came Mortuary Drape’s first two albums – the first steps of a very consistent and long discography that is still going strong today. The cleaner sound emphasized two things that demos failed to show: the strong heavy metal influence in their extreme sound and how at the forefront bass guitar can get in black metal. The debut full-length, All The Witches Dance, also featured heavy use of interludes and intros to set the occult atmosphere right for the funeral chants they sang – an approach they would not keep on their next output.
All The Witches Dance might have some of their finest moments, but cutting off the heavy use of interludes resulted in an album that is simply a relentless occult black metal attack. Coming out in 1997 after a number of demos, a debut full-length, and two EPs, Secret Sudaria is Mortuary Drape in its purest form: bass driven black metal with distorted heavy metal riffs and solos, d-beats, and strong harsh vocals with just one thing in mind – keeping it occult and primordial. The photograph they used for the album cover artwork, while keeping the eerie feeling, is much tamer this time compared to All the Witches Dance’s infamous album cover that spawned countless rumours. The cover of Secret Sudaria with its setting of the pile of skulls, the inverted cross, and more importantly that heavy shade of yellow became an iconic artwork over time for those into occult black metal.
With the exception of the synthy title track interlude, any song on
Secret Sudaria could be picked as a single to introduce the uninitiated to the band – every single song on the record is a perfect showcase of the occult Drape sound and there are quite a few that demonstrate vocalist Wildness Perversion’s maniac laughter. The album doesn’t have any weak moments as the band somehow managed to make a selection of songs, combining both some of the 80s demo tracks and new works, without losing the steam or fluidity in the 47 minutes runtime of the album.
The vinyl pressing of Secret Sudaria is a whole other story by itself. To make that story short: originally the band combined their forces with the European cult black metal label of 90s, Nazgul’s Eyrie Productions, for the CD release and it was, in theory, the perfect match for both parties. However, communication issues between them led to a falling out early on and what could have been a strong relationship that would last decades died prematurely. While the band were on the lookout for new deals themselves, the label gave publishing rights of the album to the US based More Fucking Hate Productions and the band consider this first vinyl pressing of Secret Sudaria a bootleg. In time, they started working with their countrymen Iron Tyrant which eventually resulted in some variations of Secret Sudaria double LPs and picture disks.
Mortuary Drape are one of the earliest bands playing the traditional metal infused, bass heavy, and occult style black metal. They are the band who opened the gates for future bands like Cultes des Ghoules and Negative Plane who took the sound that came from Mercyful Fate through the filter of Mortuary Drape and distorted it even further with excellent results. While the new generation of bands that are heavily influenced by Drape create new material, the pioneers are not planning to quit, either. After a long discography with no outright bad material, Drape are working on a new album, also Iron Tyrant is revisiting the early corners of their discography for reissues. There is no rest for these necromaniacs in sight.
Album rating: 100/100
Favourite song: Necromaniac