Turku, Finland’s Mansion have been consistently impressing listeners with their highly polished, Kartanoism themed, doom rock since their début single We Shall Live was released in February last year. The We Shall Live EP followed in June 2013, and the slightly more upbeat The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 in April of this year. Now we’re treated to a new four track release Uncreation which, according to their notes, “features three older tracks from our live shows now recorded in studio and a brand new track recently written and recorded”. Having never had the pleasure of seeing Mansion live, I couldn’t tell you which are which, but I can tell you that if you’ve enjoyed their output up to now, you’re going to enjoy Uncreation.
Child Preacher‘s portentous intro gives way to the familiar burnished doom of Mansion. “You’ll get a whipping if you cry, child” sings Alma – who takes her name and, to some extent persona, from Alma Maria Kartano; one of the leaders of the Kartanolaisuus Finnish Christian sect. Written from the viewpoint of one of the sect leaders, the song tells of the strict training given to one of the child preachers who were once a real and important part of Kartanoism (which stills has a handful adherents in Finland). The Kartanoism mythos threaded through all of Mansion’s songs adds something so much creepier and infinitely less corny than so many of their “occult rock” contemporaries; this isn’t goblins and witches (although there’s nothing wrong with that, in its place), it’s things that actually happened and beliefs that were (maybe still are) held. That’s pretty clever, and pretty interesting. At the six minute mark Child Preacher breaks into an almost NWOBHM stompy outro as the time of the tabletop sermon approaches. “Don’t be shy, don’t you sigh, don’t deny your sacrifice”.
Uncreation opens with soft yet ominous church organ drones which swell then stop abruptly to be replaced by music box tinks. These are joined by more choral drones creating an ethereal backing for Alma‘s gloatingly triumphant opening verse. Twin guitars summon the rest of the band into life: “At last the waiting’s over, Rapture is ever closer, the end of tribulation, Heathen’s face damnation”. This is a song about the joy of being proven right when judgement is rained down on all the sinners. “Come, come settle down. Settle down among the righteous” purrs the chorus. The doom slowly disintegrates until Alma is left alone delivering a bitter-sweet sermon. The band lumbers back into action and we get a darkly exultant crescendo. Finally, a solo church organ plays the vocal melody one last time and the whole thing feels quite unsettlingly convincing as an actual hymn.
I Am The Mansion has a big, fat, epic synth and sampled choir introduction which breaks into a doomy slow march onward. It’s the tale, so far as I can make out, of one of the Kartonists (or “Mansionites”) and their life within the cult. The chorus once again makes use of church organ tones within the mix of the band keeping things eerily spiritual. Four minutes in we get a bass drop down that becomes a full band nod-along which, with a couple of phasey psychedelic breaks along the way, drives things along until the track’s conclusion.
Divining Rod is a swirl of voices and studio ambience which flares up into the biggest gloomiest riff on the record. Alma utilises a little Siouxsie Sioux-esque vocal tic throughout the song which lends some extra Gothiness to proceedings. As with all of Mansion‘s recorded work to date there’s a lot playing with the mix, the sounds of the instruments, and additional atmosphere – this is nothing like a live recording of a band in a room, it’s carefully crafted.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was my favourite Mansion record (We Shall Live is still hard to top), Uncreation definitely does not disappoint. Their lyrical content being the polar opposite of the cartoon daemonology often associated with “occult rock”, part of me is surprised that they haven’t broken through into the mainstream by now (whatever that actually means these days). Mansion make music so polished – Alma‘s voice so genuine, clear and listenable – it really wouldn’t sound out of place on “normal” radio. While Papa Emeritus II is off preaching his Scooby-Doo Satanism to the masses, Mansion are offering what is essentially fundamentalist Christian doom. Surely Bible Belt America would love that? Now that’s a scary thought.
Scribed by: John Reppion