When an explosion of black metal bands began pouring out of the art schools of Brooklyn, neighboring boroughs followed suit, with most bands pulling from their past lives bringing elements of punk, post-rock and avant garde indie rock into the mix. Few drew from the Northern European roots of the genre, with bands such as Krallice and Tombs showcasing influence from progressive rock and post-punk, respectively. Mutilation Rites separated themselves by keeping metal the most prominent part of the equation on albums such as 2014’s outstanding Harbinger. Their new album Chasm finds the band staying true to this direction, and the closest to they come to punk is in the hints of grindcore heard on the first song “Pierced Larynx.”
The production on this album gives the band a bigger and heavier sound. This adds heft to throbbing groove of “Ominous Rituals,” though the song itself doesn’t do anything that hasn’t already been done in black metal before. It does take the album in a darker and more melodic direction. The vocals feel like they were an afterthought rather than being an integral part of the song, but this is a common problem when metal is taken to heavier extremes. The band comes across as their more powerful when grinding a riff rather than just blasting away at the listener. They also lean in a more death metal direction at this point in the album. There is a riff buried under the the frenzy that reminds me a little of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” though it’s suffocated beyond recognition. The last time I saw Mutilation Rites live, their drummer was a hairy beast in cutoffs who effortlessly churned out blast beats. This is the band’s first with new drummer Tyler Coburn (Yautja, Gnarwhal), so the fact he can replicate the intensity is impressive.
The title track finds Mutilation Rites edging toward darkness before blasting off into a rapid rage powered by double bass drum beats. It feels more thrash-driven with a vocal spew that makes its lyrical content a moot point. They offer enough dynamics to keep my interest, converging into a death metal pounding before taking off again rather than just mindlessly blasting away. The album closes with “Putrid Decomposition,” which kicks off with a really cool riff to launch its ten-minute journey. Every minute of it is well invested and not wasted on drone. Angular dissonance possesses many of the riffs here, finding the band leaning more on the death metal side of what they do. Drumming aside, most of the improvements in their sound come from the production end, but the identity of the band is firmly intact even with line-up changes. It wasn’t broke, so they didn’t need to fix it.