Mortillery – Shapeshifter (Napalm)

Thursday, 19th May 2016
Rating: 8/10

The third album Shapeshifter from Edmonton, Canada’s Mortillery comes three years beyond Origins of Extinction – in the interim shuffling in a new lead guitarist Kent Quinlan while gaining a two-month European jaunt during the winter of 2014 opening for Sepultura, Flotsam & Jetsam, and Legion of the Damned plus crisscrossing the homeland for shows. No better way to establish your thrash wares than slugging it out with the veterans, eh? Wisely using the expertise of Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind for part of the recordings in his Portland, OR studio (along with Terry Paholek in their native hometown stomping grounds), it’s time to see whether Mortillery can elevate their game to be a future headlining sensation – or at least elongate their career arc.

Stylistically the quintet come from a semi-gallopy/speed stance that can be part Bay Area, part Teutonic – as well as a touch throwback to their domestic Exciter, Razor, and Sacrifice brethren. Guitarists Alex Gutierrez and Kent Quinlan unfurl a number of melody/ hook runs that often appear outside of the lead break spot, which gives “Age of Stone” an early qualifier for maniacal crossover insanity as the tempo shifts back and forth between punkish uppity abandon and comforting, mid-tempo ‘mosh’ passages. Drummer Kevin Gaudet must sweat out pounds of water weight during live shows, especially as he roars on the snare/double bass and tom rolls for the jackhammer roller coaster that is “Bullet” or the spacious, semi-progressive “At the Gates”. Do not discount bassist Miranda Wolfe’s low end work, often acting as a third harmonic element even during the speedier sections of these tracks while holding down the groove in that crossover Overkill/Anthrax manner.

As mentioned in previous reviews, singer Cara McCutchen can rival Schmier, Dan Beehler, and Nicole Lee/Debbie Gunn (Znöwhite/Sentinel Beast for those curious) in terms of lung capacity for screams and gritty, caustic larynx delivery to keep the Mortillery machine rolling just fine. You’ll feel the ‘fire’ burning from her high pitch antics during “Torture” while switching things up between the clean and extreme facets on another dynamic race runner “Mantis”. Shapeshifter keeps Mortillery’s meat and potatoes attack intact. Respectful of the NWOBHM/classic roots where thrash gained more of a musicianship aspect, there’s plenty of tasty riffs and segment changes to headbang and careen to and fro in a live setting – making this probably the best of their three full-lengths to date.

Mortillery official website