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empusae mortusaeIII
Artist: Empusae
Title: Mortusae III
Genre: Electronic / Dark Ambient / Industrial
Release Date: 1st March 2023
Label: Old Captain

Album Review

Nicolas Van Meirhaeghe, also known as Sal-Ocin, is a Belgian artist who creates music in the genres of Ethnic Rhythm Noise and Dark Ambient. He is active not only as EMPUSAE but also in projects such as TZOLK'IN and formerly THIS MORN’ OMINA. Together with Christel Morvan (Nesisart), they created a sound and visual work that is mesmerizing but also unsettling, forcing reflection on a world where living in darkness is an everyday reality. Nicolas is known for creating multi-layered, magical musical landscapes that blur the boundaries of many musical genres. What always unites them is their incredible energy, the beauty of execution, subtlety, fragility, and delicacy, which have the power to enchant and hypnotize the listener.

The disturbing, pulsating, slightly irregular rhythm, slowly increasing tempo, and gradually building layers of sound create an oneiric, mystical atmosphere, cantered around chants. The unsettling ‘Retinae Tenebrae’ develops subtly based on successive layers of sound and contrasts forest and murmuring water sounds with very disquieting musical matter. It is shocking because nature - at least in everyday understanding - is usually associated with calm and positivity, whereas here it bears the signs of entering the darkness, something threatening, unknown, and unsettling. A similar contrast between light and dark seems to be the basis for the slightly more electronic ‘SHäk’, which successfully showcases the transitions between sharp, harsh sounds and fluid, melodic ones.

The beautiful, slightly more rhythmic and dramatic ‘Asok’, is full of diverse sounds and ingeniously arranged instrumental / vocal layers, perfectly complementing the soundscape of the entire release. The sound impulses in ‘Obsidian’ electrify and capture attention, unobtrusively piling up instrumental richness and the leading motif of deep, slightly melancholic sound repetition. It intensifies, gains strength and dynamism towards the end of the track and, especially after the contrast with the previous tracks, hits the listener with great force.

The album concludes with the track ‘Uzurpis’, where EMPUSAE presents his own version of another talented musician Matt Howden’s piece, known as SIEBEN. EMPUSAE’s version is less electronic, more fluid, trance-like, and hypnotic, losing some of its original sharpness and violence and highlighting the leading sound of the violin. It is very much in keeping with the atmosphere of ‘Mortusae III’ - the leading motif of an uneasy, dark melody that I perceive as wrapping and tying all the tracks on the album together, a bit like vessels in the pupil depicted in the artwork - here too, this black, spreading circulation is exactly illustrated sonically, gradually gaining intensity and darkness.

‘Mortusae III’ has thrilled me. It can be read in multiple layers - as a sound story of the artist’s illness, an amazing sound journey - dark and captivating at the same time, as a display of instrumental skill, or as a showcase of the ability to interpret and shape another artist's work. It is a mature and consistent release, without weak spots and with an unobvious beauty and depth that is worth exploring. Bravo!


01. Guiding Light (Instrumental Version)
02. Retinae Tenebrae (Instrumental Version)
03. Asok
04. Obsidian
05. SHäk
06. Uzupis (Sieben Reworked by Empusae)


Nicolas Van Meirhaeghe


Cover Picture

empusae mortusaeIII


Music: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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