Released: 2014, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Brooklyn quartet Mutilation Rites describe themselves as “filthy black metal.” And it’d be hard to argue with them on that account. But for “necro” purists, don’t mistake “filthy” with anything low-fi or minimalistic.
The old school-style black metal of Mutilation Rites’ second album Harbinger is played with unbridled, crust-punky ferocity, with a raw, abrasive sound to match that accentuates the band’s gargle-and-shriek vocals, gnashing guitars and full-throttle, pummeling tempos. The music may seem comparatively stripped down, but it rages hard and brings plenty of volume to the table.
Indeed, Harbinger is one of the more assaultive albums of its ilk I’ve heard in a while. Where the band’s 2012 debut Empyrean boasted some doom/sludge elements, Harbinger is all-out nearly all of the time. There’s not much in the way of atmosphere or dynamism here, just a corrosive cascade of riffs driven by Justin Ennis’ d-beat/blast-beat battery that are punctuated by the occasional surging groove – as on the opener “Black Pyramid,” “Gravitational Collapse” or the shimmering “Ignus Fatuus.” And that’s not such a bad thing. Black metal should kick ass.
The often vomitous vocals, courtesy of guitarist George Paul and bassist Ryan Jones – take a bit of getting used to here, as they sound a bit like the Carcass tandem of Jeff Walker and Bill Steer from way back in the gore-grind day. But their gnarliness certainly fits the aesthetic of the music, and are an effective substitute for the typical shrillness.
With their no frills and no bullshit attitude and approach, Mutilation Rites are really onto something – even if it’s not a terribly revolutionary ideal. But with Harbinger, one hopes it really is a sign – or omen – of things to come.