I’ve been a fan of Finland’s creepy Kartonistic Christian cult pop doomers Mansion since 2013’s debut We Shall Live EP. Now at the tail-end of 2015 we have their fourth offering, the Altar Sermon EP, and for what we are about to receive may we be truly thankful. Maybe.
Title track Altar Sermon opens with gothy snyth chords and accompanying preachy vocals, first from front woman Alma and then from (I assume) the mysterious Mikael who is once again credited only as lyricist but seems to be right there on the EP cover. “Behind closed doors. In the night. Just me and you, my child. In God’s sight” – it’s the usual Mansion mix of unsettling, breathy sensual churchy wrongness. For the first two minutes we could almost be listening to The XX or some other gloomy indietronica until the drums kick in and the power chords ring out. “You may never enjoy this,” she sings. “Nor will I love my life,” he replies. “Only I may touch you.” “For you are clean and true.” It’s the same highly polished, studio processed doom rock we heard on last year’s Uncreation EP but… well, maybe there’s nothing wrong with that seeing as that release was only four songs long and this one is a mere two. Yeah, okay, let’s leave it at that for now.
Traitor’s Dirge begins with a very Blood Ceremony riff and vibe and, well, pretty much continues like that to be honest. There’s something weirdly ABBA about some of the melodies and harmonies but, overall, it’s Alma’s wonderful, distinctive voice and the slick studio sounds that turn it into a Mansion track proper. It works. You can’t really fault it. Well, maybe a little bit…
Here’s my problem with the EP: if these two tracks had been numbers five and six respectively on Uncreation then I don’t think I’d have had any problem with them. By my twentieth listen or so, one of them might even have become my temporary favourite. As it stands though, reasonable or not, I think I was expecting something a little bit different twelve months on (well, ten really) from their last release.
Something that worries me is that I can all too easily re-imagine either track on Alter Sermon as a Ghost B.C. song. I really, really liked the original Ghost album but their following two releases have been flat, overly polished, undynamic, undramatic, meh. And I’m not saying that Alter Sermon is as bad as that, not by a long chalk. However, there are no surprises here and even in its doomiest interludes, the EP never seems to quite punch as hard, dig as deep, or sound as heavy as its predecessors.
It’s wonderful to have two new tracks from Mansion and they remain as eerie and listenable as ever. There’s a good chance that, for people who haven’t heard the band before, Alter Sermon could be enough to draw them into the cult. I just hope, and pray, that the polishing doesn’t go on and on until all of the band’s distinctive features are erased. I must have faith. I must have faith. Amen.
Scribed by: John Reppion