Lord Mantis – Death Mask (Profound Lore)

Monday, 14th April 2014
Rating: 9/10

Unfortunately, Lord Mantis may now be more notable for their latest artwork than their music.  Vocalist Charlie Fell has come out and explained himself for the reasons behind the hideous (and a bit distasteful, personally speaking) artwork, and it may in fact work in favor of the band as they are undoubtedly reaching a wider audience.  The truth is that Death Mask, sonically speaking, is as unsettling and grotesque as the artwork that adorns it.

Listening to Death Mask is meant to provoke discomfort and there will be many that will not make it from beginning to end.  The Chicago sludge/black troupe have taken the filthiest and grimiest aspects of their previous two albums and added some more industrial edges to it, while somehow creating some, dare it be said, striking melodies into the fold.  Easily the most diverse Lord Mantis album to date, no two songs really sound alike and will require a number of listens to really grasp the nuances of each track.

So how does the unsettling become melodic then?  The album’s standout track, “Possession Prayer,” uses some dirty-sounding Ministry vibes and chanted screams that burrow into your head.  The final push of the title track uses a heavy groove that becomes hypnotic as it progresses.  Then there’s the slow build up of “Negative Birth” (which features Dylan O’Toole of Indian on vocals) that stacks tension up until everything is released in a barrage of blastbeats, screams, and rabid guitarwork.  They also utilize some foreboding atmosphere in “You Will Gag For the Fix” and spacey yet dirty riffs atop robotic vocals in “Coil.”  “Three Crosses” provides some surreal melody with a solo partway through that makes you think you’ve come to the end, only to pull you back into the belly of the beast as it rages to the finish line with maximum vitriol.

It is a shame that some will be so off-put by the artwork that they will ignore Death Mask.  As an intense and bitter display of rage, Death Mask never fully loosens its grip on the listener until the last possible moment, forcing you to linger in the unwavering cesspool of filth Lord Mantis has created.  Not for the faint hearted, but almost certain to be enjoyed by those who can stomach it.

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