On Saturday afternoon, there were endless lines to get in, Rock Al Parque Festival was starting its day dedicated to extreme sounds under the always uncertain weather of the Colombian high plateau. After I passed the security belts around the entrance of the Plaza – the biggest of the three stages at Simon Bolivar’s Park – it was just a matter of time to reach the frontline of this stage. As a custom amongst metalheads in Colombia, and I must say a very bad custom, Plaza Scenario had a bit less than the third of its full capacity with young metalheads waiting for the performance of one of the local bands that fought and won their place in the festival, Mortuorum.
The Colombian metal scene and fans are accustomed to melodic death metal bands coming from afar with a thematic more in tune with their inner battles and psychological issues. But being a Colombian band, Mortuorum also follows more native themes that can go along with the transcendental meaning of death. At 4 p.m. sharp, the band took the main stage, and many scattered attendants approached the front at the first riff. Mortuorum has eleven years under their belt, but it is clear that their sound and stage presence became solid around 2010, and now, having a first gig in such an important festival in their native land, they are not going to waste the opportunity. With that being said, I must say Mortuorum made a good first impression when it comes to the details used in their wardrobe with all members using the jacket uniforms inspired in the 1800’s around the time Colombia went through its war of independence. This last aspect also made an analogy to the band’s second studio album ‘In Dependence’ a very clever word play if you know a bit of Colombian history.
Mortuorum started their forty minutes set with ‘Spear In My Neck’, a song with great potential, if only the sound in general was not a complete mess. Whoever did the sound check on previous days did not take into consideration the weird effect that the Plaza Scenario’s strange shape had on the sound, the guitars and bass were saturated and low, and the drum sound overtook the rest of instruments, a true shame considering that Mortuorum was about to play most of the songs from the album ‘In Dependence’. Despite the fact that the sound was awful, the young bloods that were curious enough to attend earlier to check the early acts participated vigorously by headbanging.
During their performance, Mortuorum showed they have a great understanding of what aesthetics, visual engaging and music can get from public, for in each of the songs they played they used imagery that fit the song. For instance, in the song ‘Hymn Of The Fallen’ they used images from their official video as a background while playing, depicting the independence battles in Colombia. It is very refreshing to see a Colombian band from that genre that takes many aspects into consideration. Also, it is notable that for a melodic death metal band the way they played their bass lines is very distinctive, proving that each member of the band takes good care of their own sound and create a unique signature.
As I mentioned earlier, Mortuorum mix elements proper to the death metal with Colombian themes, such is the case with the song’s lyrics for ‘Legado Del Sol’ where they take an approach from the native inhabitants of Colombia after the colonization of these lands and the false idea that after the independence battles their existence would be acknowledged by the country. Another clear example was the inclusion of part of Colombian’s native culture with an ode to an ancestral beverage in the song ‘Chicha’. For most of you the term sounds strange to the core, but the beverage is one of the few indigenous aspects that still lives in today’s highland culture and that a metal band rents tribute to it not only to make a song, but also to have a drink of it on stage was truly amazing.
Even so Mortuorum portray their Colombian roots, their main thrive is in melodic death metal which was showed through songs like ‘Stronger Than You’ where they showed why this song became a benchmark for the band as it is the first single from their debut album ‘Solar Labyrinth’ released in 2011. As part of the repertoire for that Saturday afternoon, Mortuorum played ‘Spear In My Neck’, ‘Head Held High’, ‘Unconditional Prayer’, ‘Wasting Our Blood’, ‘In Dependence’ all of them part of their sophomore album ‘In Dependence’. During their performance, and despite the saturated guitars, the band showed a proficiency in their stage time, with an audience responding positively for much of their set list.
Debuting on a stage that big can be somewhat challenging, even intimidating, but Mortuorum approached the stage with confidence and a certain level of defiance not in small part due to their incursions in Mexico and Argentina. However as everything in life there is still room for improvement when it comes to handling the silence between songs, for as everyone knows keeping both the mind and the ears engaged in something will create the perfect atmosphere and the audience will be involved in the gig from beginning to end. In my humble opinion, Mortuorum have great potential to reach other markets besides the Colombian, in fact, I believe they are aiming for those markets instead of focusing on the local scene.