Pictura Poesis is a Dutch Symphonic Death Metal band which was founded at the end of 2012. Their music is inspired by paintings and literature, hence the band name 'Pictura Poesis' which is a Latin verse from Horace's 'Ars Poetica' meaning: "As is art, so is poetry".
Prior to this full length album Pictura Poesis had already released two EP's: 'In Death's Embrace' d.d. 31 August 2013 and 'Demonic Delusions' d.d. 6 September 2014, both of which were received very positively by the press and metal audiences in Holland and Belgium. In 2015 the band started writing their first full length album. However while finishing writing this album, vocalist Mike Vogels parted ways with the band due to creative differences. Mike was replaced by Bas de Esch in August 2016 and 'Miseriae Mundi' was recorded with Bas on vocals.
Pictura Poesis describe their music as Symphonic Death metal. Listening to the first tunes of 'Legions Of Doom' this totally makes sense. A thrilling classical piano and orchestral one minute intro immediately set the mood for this Symphonic song which is very easy on the ears. Bas de Esch sets in with his deep growling voice right after a very catchy string section theme. The epicness of this song is clear. It has a very nice virtuoso keyboard solo too which also fits the Symphonic label they gave themselves.
Having said the above, whoever assumes that 'Miseriae Mundi' is a straight Symphonic metal album will be left surprised. Reading the lyrics, which for 7 out of 10 songs were written by former vocalist Mike Vogels, one would think of a Folk metal/Viking metal band like Slechtvalk or Heidevolk rather than of a Symphonic Death metal band. Main topics of the lyrics are war, death, mutilation and despair. Most gruesome are the lyrics for the second song 'Wholy Whore', which musically fits more into the traditional Death Metal genre of bands like Cannibal Corpse and Aborted. What most Death Metal bands lack however is live keyboard on stage. Pictura Poesis pride themselves of never working with orchestral samples on stage but with two live keyboard players. 'Wholy Whore' ends with a very nice keyboard section which indeed would sound awesome on a live stage.
'The Paralytic Child' is one of the shorter songs on the album. Even though it has a catchy keyboard theme and some nice djenty guitar riffs, it tends to sound a bit monotonous in the melodies. The crucial factor that makes this song interesting enough is the Industrial Metal feel of pounding guitars. It is a gruesome story about the beast within each of us which is being told from the first person perspective.
'Visions of Death' is the second 'War-song' in the 'Ego Sum Bellum'(I am war) trilogy of the album. The tempo is slower than 'Legions of Doom', like a vision of deathly barbaric legions marching their way up to the killing fields with only one deadly purpose: eradicating the enemies without sparing any of their miserable lives. It seems a song of contemplation though, taking a moment of concentration and reflection before the murdering violence starts. The guitars sound a tad too soft while the keyboards are predominant, this wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for some keyboard lines which sound slightly delayed. As an effect a delay is totally okay but the mix would sound better with the keyboards a little less dominantly present, or at least more balanced with the guitars during the vocal parts.
Bas de Esch - Vocals
Didier Lasoe - Guitars
Rick Krause - Synthesizer & Piano
Sheree Hoogenberg - Synthesizer
Maurice Braam - Bass Guitar
Harald Bouten - Drum & Orchestration
'Persephone' is another up-tempo song, this time with an Ancient Greek Underworld theme about the abduction of Persephone by Hades. In this song Bas de Esch alternates more between growling and screaming for dramatic effect. Even though his forte lies within the low growls, his screams sound very convincing as well. The electric piano tunes at the beginning give this song a nice modern touch. The guitar volume sounds more evenly balanced with the keys in this song compared to 'Visions of Death'.
'Nightfall' is a short instrumental intermezzo. It has a very atmospheric and cinematic vibe due to the low percussion and orchestral wind instruments.
'The Bockereyders' is the name which was given to several groups of violent robbers who were active in the 18th century in Limburg The Netherlands. Even though there is no evidence of an organized larger criminal group, the name Bockereyders or Bokkenrijders was given anyway which also helped to create a myth around them which gave them a Robin Hood like heroic status. In this Death metal version of the Bockereyders story they are depicted as demonic creatures obeying to Satan rather than as heroes. A nice touch is the last verse which is written in Dutch. Since Dutch is my mother language it gives a very recognizable element to the song. Undoubtedly for non Dutch speakers it must sound very odd but nonetheless interesting too. Even though the guitars are better balanced in this song, the keyboards are still predominant. The electronic organ suits the theme of the song very well since even religion can't save you from these demonic thieves and killers.
'De Witt' another story theme taken from our rich Dutch history, political this time about Johan and Cornelis de Witt. These political leaders were lynched by an angry mob in 1672 because they were betrayed by their political adversaries. Noticeable is the gruesomeness of their lynching, their bodies being eviscerated and mutilated horribly. Of course for a Death Metal band no story is too gruesome. This song is sung entirely in Dutch. Surprisingly to me it sounds good too! Another band that uses lyrics in their original language comes to mind, also because of the Industrial Metal double bass drum section and melodic keys: the almighty Rammstein. Of course Till Lindeman never has been a true growler using a mix of clear singing voice and growls. The way Bas de Esch articulates the Dutch words sound much a là Lindeman, and he does so very effectively. 'De Witt' is one of my favorites of this album.
'Plains Of Existence' is a story of despair because our existence is futile and meaningless. 'You live, you die, you're left to rot': our life on earth in a nutshell. It is a great Heavy Metal sounding song which certainly will make audiences bang their heads.
'Father of Destruction (Ego Sum Bellum pt. III)' is the last and longest song of 'Miseriae Mundi'. I like the progressive sound it has and the elaborated and complex structure. It is the most 'epic' song of the album too. Nice shredding guitars, drum works, orchestration and keyboard solos as well. Only the end where the melody just fades feels a bit unfinished and could have been more epic or climaxing. Nevertheless it is one of the better songs on the album.
In conclusion Pictura Poesis to me is a professional sounding band which can be proud of its first full length album. The blending of various metal styles is very original but I hope and expect they will choose a more trademark 'Pictura Poesis' sound in the future. Having two keyboardists does have its advantages like being able to have a live sound on stage instead of samples. However in some songs I would personally prefer more accentuated guitars and less predominant keys, still leaving the formidable keyboard solos intact. A special word of praise to drummer Harald Bouten who wrote all music except for The Bockereyders: what a great accomplishment! And finally Bas de Esch to me was a big and pleasant surprise: not only is he gifted with a beautiful deep growling voice but being able to sing with such ease while replacing the original singer during the recording process, means he is truly committed to this métier. Very well done Pictura Poesis and I'd love to see and hear you on stage very soon! I give 'Miseriae Mundi' an 8 out of 10.
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