Mutant Supremacy – Infinite Suffering (Self Released, 2010)

A good death metal album will power you through many an unsavory situation. An excellent death metal album will also engage the senses when you don't need to take the world by force. Infinite Suffering is such an album, an engaging confluence of riffs, rhythm, attitude and ingenuity. This celebration of anger, retribution, desecration and death proves that the old ways are still the good ways. You don't need to trawl the the metal waters and cook up a schizophrenic genre gumbo to hit the spot; just serve death in the raw.

Mutant Supremacy reek of Incantation's musty miasma and assault you with a rolling cadence redolent of Morbid Angel. Any way you cut it, Infinite Suffering emits the comforting fetid aroma of early American death you'll recognize and appreciate. Finely reticulated riffage forms the backbone of this “mutant beyond control.” There are memorable and distinctive riffs at every turn, with an astounding amount of rhythmic variation soaked into the noxious atmosphere. Excellent solos waft high above the mix and feature quite a bit of demonic mojo.

Sam Awry's vocals display a satisfying sneer and evoke a bit of John Tardy's garrulous eccentricity. The lyrics make for quite an entertaining read, rhapsodizing about the repulsive end that awaits us all. “Morbid Dismemberment” is the only track that really steps over the gore threshold, detailing the acts of a grave robbing interior decorator. A few choice moments offer singalong opportunities. The chorus of “Extinction,” in particular, compels me to scream “Onward, onward, to death” into the faces of Times Square tourists.

Robert Nelson's drumming is fluid and perfectly reflects the loose, organic meter of these songs. The lively rhythms never slip into sloppiness as they swirl and swerve below the guitars. The production on the album is arid and unoffensive, letting the putrescent olfactory assault of these tracks shine through. Infinite Suffering stands up well to repeated listens, and I don't think any fan of the old school would regret adding this to their collection.


Infinite Suffering is available from the band on CD or vinyl through their Myspace, and you can stream the entire album here.

Mutant Supremacy have several upcoming NYC shows, including an epic evening with Wormrot, Defeatist, Psychic Limb and Curandera on Sunday (10/3) at The Acheron. I'll certainly be there.


Wormrot/I Abhor - Split (Scrotum Jus Records, 2010)

This split serves up a gourmet grind meal. I Abhor plate a curiously delicious appetizer to whet your appetite. Then Wormrot deliver the main course, a transcendent dish served on perfect porcelain and devoured in four bites. Of course, this breed of fine dining does nothing to fulfill your appetite, and you sure as hell don't belong in this establishment. Hit repeat, toss the tables, thrash the clientele and get the circle pit going.

I Abhor start you off with “Downfall”, where semi-clean, fat guitar joins a cymbal ride to create an austere, Assückian atmosphere. The first few seconds of this song make you wonder whether or not you're going to get some “Corporal Jigsore Quandary” action, but then I Abhor rev the engines and reveal their true nature. Dueling vocals battle over fantastic drumming while the guitars mostly slink and slither deep in the mix.

I Abhor change speeds frequently and do evoke an Assücking atonality in my infantile grind mind. Some guitar riffs border on experimental but at many points the mix obscures exactly what's going on. Blasts and grooves get equal space, and I really dig the snare-heavy drum action. The real charm here for me is the vocals. One guttural voice has swallowed the mic, while the other persona provides scathing vocalizations that remind me heavily of Daniel Jansson's work in Culted (purveyors of blackened doom). Everything here makes me want to hear more from I Abhor.

Then, well, Wormrot hand you your ass. If you are a fan of Abuse, this is mandatory ownage. These eight tracks reveal a band moving forward, gaining momentum, writing better songs and gunning for glory. Each tune has an individual personality, astounding hooks and complete memorability. “Twelve” gives us a Sesame Street sample out of left field and showers us with screams for 15 seconds. “Critical Human Stupidity” then dispenses a deft punk intro in 4/4 time that will throw you for a loop with its gleaming simplicity. A gurgle from Arif lets us know this motif won't last long. 35 seconds in we get a superlative riff that mutates through another groove and devolves into a barrage of blasts.

These tracks might display a greater rhythmic diversity to my ears than Abuse, and that's part of the magic. “Talkshit Holocaust” and “Terminal Turbulence” lay down distinctive riffs over an array of beats that you won't forget. “Retarded Collisions” has one of the most preposterously glorious grind riffs I've ever heard. No shitting; your motor neurons will be starting their own pit before you know what's going on.

I heard most of these songs for the first time when I saw Wormrot live a few weeks ago. It's a sure sign of their quality that each track was observably distinct and memorable. It was fascinating to witness Arif spew each of the numerous vocal styles displayed in these tunes. Rasyid may effortlessly rip off perfect riffs and Fitri might lay down many a precise blast, but Arif's dementedly dissociative vocals are the element that push Wormrot into madness.



Black Anvil – Triumvirate (Relapse, 2010)

Triumvirate came as quite a surprise to me. Black Anvil have evolved at a rapid clip, taking a step past the palm-muted, Morbid Tales informed chugging of Time Insults the Mind. That album galloped and grooved, dispensing death from horseback. Triumvirate barrels along like a locomotive, mercilessly mowing you down and only occasionally slowing the pace to hose blood off the cowcatcher.

Black Anvil have a certain street-smart, common sense approach to songwriting that really appeals to me. I can't tell you how much I appreciate songs that are catchy, memorable and crushing all at the same time. The band's black metal ambitions are free from dissimulation. This music simply kills, radiating a genuine desire to triumph and destroy. “What Is Life If Not Now!” is a statement, not a question. This veritable Zen koan of a song kicks off Triumvirate with prodigious force and purpose.

The production on Triumvirate is on a completely different plane from the band's debut. It sounds as if someone scraped off a layer of crust to reveal a gleaming monstrosity. Gary Bennett's guitars are huge and enveloping, Raeph Glicken's drums are mixed to perfection, and the bass is particularly percussive. If anything, Paul Delaney's vocals sounds twice as venomous on this album. The lyrics read like an evil poetic psalm, eloquently annotating an impious theosophy.

Triumvirate is filled with riffs that roll relentlessly down the tracks, alternating tromolo picked propulsion with sections of crushing combustion. The railway is not always straight; this train hits some pleasantly unorthodox melodic curves that don't derail the menacing atmosphere. Gary Bennett's predilection for spectral arpeggiation has become a pleasant trademark of the Black Anvil sound. “Dead and Left” sports a Christ-crushing, hammered on riff that gets me up out of my seat and sends me sprinting around my house in hysterics. “Angels To Dust” drives home a memorable melodic riff, then lets loose a rhythmic bombardment that does wonders for wrecking my neck.

I'm not fucking around with the train metaphors; I don't think I've ever heard an album elicit such a distinct sensation of raging along the rails. Be that as it may, Triumvirate is in no way limited by the sentiment it engenders. It's merely the sign of a perfect rhythmic execution of some damned fine tunes. If my constantly growing enthusiasm for Triumvirate is any indication, it will certainly end up as one of my favorite albums of the year.


Black Anvil Myspace

Triumvirate comes out on September 28th in America and the band will be playing a record release show that night in NYC (details here). I'll be there. After that, the band heads out on a month-long tour with Watain and Goatwhore in November.

Full disclosure: Relapse provided me with a promo download.


Wormrot – September 5th – The Bowery Electric, NYC

Sunday night was a tale of two shows. They happened in the same venue, they happened contiguously and the crowds overlapped a bit, but they honestly had nothing to do with each other. Maegashira and Wizardry walloped us with some massively entertaining, doomy, psychedelic grooves. Then Evoken crushed our souls, slowly pulverizing the crowd with a mind-blowing set of abysmal death. When their set ended in cataclysmic cacophony it was already pushing past midnight; these shows didn't even happen on the same day.

I was there for the three early bands, but I wasn't totally present. My mind was occupied with the drama surrounding the show's last minute headliner. After visa issues canceled the initial dates of their first U.S. tour, this would be Wormrot's first American performance. There was just too much anticipation involved to fully comprehend the paradox of this evening’s music.

The Wormrot dudes were exhausted after their 20 hour flight from Singapore, but they were clearly excited to grind America into dust. I spoke briefly to Arif before the set, and the prevailing desire was just to scream “GO” and do this shit. But Wormrot had to wait their turn. When Evoken finished their set, some people left, but most stayed, and an entire crowd of grinders who'd been loitering outside the venue materialized.

People gave a raucous yell when they heard Rasyid's guitar during the brief sound check. That same full-bodied, perfect Abuse tone was present. It made me drool instantaneously. As Wormrot started their set I think every person in attendance was plastered with stupid, slack-jawed smiles. The band raged with ease, blasting through most of Abuse, a good portion of the tracks off their new split with I Abhor, and at least one new track.

Arif is a complete fucking madman, belting out guttural gurgles and horrifying screams while treating us to strange interpretive dance moves during each and every groove. The long flight was clearly still on his mind; one song was dedicated to the pilot of their plane, and yet another was dedicated to the horrific turbulence they encountered while flying through the remnants of hurricane Earl. Arif has got those intangible front-man skills that are hard to define but absolutely essential. He asked at one point, “Does anyone here like black metal?” When folks enthusiastically cheered, Arif responded “Uh-oh,” before introducing “Blasphemy My Ass.” Wormrot are all about sarcasm.

Fitri's drum kit essentially fell apart several times during the set from the beating it was receiving. The ensuing repairs introduced some dead air that Arif broke by noting “This is why we're not rich.” Aside from those brief interludes, Fitri hammered the living hell out of the drums, effectively recreating the rhythmic perfection of Abuse. Like each of the band members, he looked at ease while fixing our broken minds. I would have liked if the drums were a bit higher in the mix (a rare sentiment at a metal show), but all told, the sound was quite excellent for Wormrot, if not a mite deafening.

Rasyid stood stone-cold serious as he deftly dispensed perfect grind riffage. He whipped the small pit into a rash of retarded collisions with his bombastic combination of speed and groove. His guitar seemed to retune itself throughout the performance, but it never sounded off. He never once touched the pegs; in grindcore there is no tuning. “Murder” probably produced the most insane action from the five or six guys who dominated the floor. During the thirty minute set Wormrot hit every track I wanted to hear and induced intense banging of the head. I was smiling through the whole affair, most likely spraying drool from my flapping lips like a hound.

This, my friends, was pure grind bliss. I can't tell you how excited I am that Wormrot are going to play again in NYC on the tail end of their tour (with a killer line-up including Defeatist, Mutant Supremacy, Phantom Limb and Curandera). I encourage you to catch this band at all costs. Wormrot toted a decent bit of merchandise across the globe, including two t-shirt designs, Abuse vinyl and the new Wormrot/I Abhor CD split. I can vouch for the excellence of the new split, which I picked up. The band played a handful of songs off of it, and they sounded fantastic live.

During my earlier chat with Arif, I asked about the band's travel arrangements, as I'd seen them post an advertisement for a NY based van driver for the tour. According to Arif, none other than Mike Hill of Tombs is escorting them on their American jaunt. I was in half disbelief of this tidbit until I saw the man himself talking to the band before their set. Really? Now there's a road warrior.


Altar of Plagues - Tides EP (Burning World, 2010)

My interest in exploring new black metal has really washed out to sea in the last year. That growing tide of indifference led me to pass on Altar of Plagues' White Tomb, despite a boatload of acclaim. News that the band would cross the Atlantic for a North American tour this summer eventually nudged me to check out the EP of which we speak. Tides flipped my dinghy on the first listen, tossing my black metal ennui overboard. These two songs (clocking in at 36 minutes) will dump you straight into the fathomless freezing depths to ponder the Pyrrhic victory that is existence.

“Atlantic Light” is possessed of a tonality that rolls like a tolling bell. To my ears, these riffs manage to transcend the atmospheric black metal norm, rolling along in grand melodic gestures that are propelled by the steady drumming. There's not even that much distortion on the guitars, but that's irrelevant. There is an emotional power here that's immersive and immense. I'm fascinated by the guitar stylings on these tracks; the subtle distortion lays bare the tremolo picked notes that would otherwise blend together into a wave of noise. There are some moments when I'm positively blown away by the maelstrom of melodies that flow from these guitars.

Tides is a journey through melancholy and rage with no lifeboat. Part of the appeal of these tracks is the transposition of traditional black metal screeches with semi-sung/screamed vocals that exude a crushing hopelessness. The lyrics to “Atlantic Light” are a fascinating meditation on the mighty ocean and mankind's unceasing quest to drain it of life. “The Weight of it All” dwells in the same emotional space, pondering our ability to blissfully ignore weighty matters.

At no point during these two expansive tracks does my attention wander. I personally consider the word “drone” to be a epithet in metal, and these songs do no such thing for me. As with any decent exploration of atmospheric black metal, the excellent drumming is a cornerstone of the songs' dynamics. “The Weight Of It All” contains the lion-share of blastbeats, navigating through a bleak tempest with a coxswain's discipline and a pleasantly organic drum sound.

In retrospect, Tides is much less produced than White Tomb, and I think that's part of its allure. An excellent interview with James Kelly (over at Brooklyn Vegan) provided quite a bit of insight into the spirit of this EP and also transcribes the lyrics. White Tomb obviously grew on me and is now a cherished brick in my metal wall, but Tides holds sway over my attention. This is the music that will be playing when my ship is crushed on the shoals of life.


Altar of Plagues are also mind-blowing in a live setting, as I found out here.



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