Mutilation Rites’ ‘Empyrean’ is one of year’s meatiest servings of black metal

People who regularly visit our fine site probably realize we do a lot of positive entries. We (or I … it’s one person here) go negative when we have to, but for the most part, Meat Mead Metal is here to celebrate music and metal that makes us want to break down a brick wall with giant robot hands. There’s enough negativity and hostility out there anyway, right?

But I worry sometimes that because I write about things I love, that when something comes along that moves mountains for me, that it may get lost in translation, or at least amid all the other glowing reviews and pieces you’ll find here every week. That’s kind of an issue with doing a site like this. So with that out of the way, let me categorically, undeniably, affirmatively, fully fucking endorse “Empyrean,” the brand new full-length effort from NYC black metal crew Mutilation Rites, my new favorite band. I know they’re not technically new, as they have a few demo recordings and other mini releases on their resume (I also spoke lovingly about their “I Am Legion” 12-inch a few weeks back, and their other 2012 release “Devoid” also is a crusher), but they’re just now finally breaking through the underground smudge and are ready to take shit over. This record is their first for Prosthetic (vinyl will be handled by Gilead Media), a label that’s really beefing up its roster with some impressive singings, and the association should get the band’s music out to way more people.

Despite “Empyrean” being a little different sonically from their earlier work, I instantly loved it. I have listened to this record just about every day since I got it a few weeks back, and that momentum hasn’t dissipated at all. It’s massive, hulking, and unquestionably impressive. They’re one of the finest black metal bands this country has produced lately, and they’re right up there with FALSE as the groups that I feel will be the flag bearers for years to come. What’s also cool about them, like FALSE, is that they have dashes of other stuff in their music that keeps them fresh. Like, you can’t deny there’s a vintage thrash and punk influence to what you hear on “Empyrean,” and Mutilation Rites’ ability to have a core sound that expertly reaches out to other areas proves just how diverse and dexterous they are as players.

Mutilation Rites — guitarist/vocalist George Paul, guitarist Michael Dimmitt, bassist Ryan Jones, and drummer Justin Ennis — might take some heat from people who only like their raw early days. People are like that. The band definitely stepped up their sound, have a richer production, and show serious artistic ambition. Anyone who pulls the elitist card and claims the band isn’t doing the thing as nasty as they did last year means they’re dismissing one of the most impressive recordings of the year. It’s only May, but “Empyrean” seems like a sure shot as an album of the year candidate. It’s that good, and it’s absolutely essential listening.

The record opens on a bristling note with “A Season of Grey Rain,” a song that I cannot stop revisiting. The vocals are harsh, there’s a true sense of mangling thrash, and the guitar lines weaved throughout the song are infectious, playing over and over again in my head. It also doesn’t help to get comfortable with any section of the song, because they constantly rip you out of your comfort zone and push you into a speeding wagon to the next violent section. “Realms of Dementia” settles into a bit of a groove riff that really makes the stand song out above the rest. Eventually the dudes settle into a slow burn, but they destroy that with lightning speed riffing that sets you up for what follows, namely “Ancient Bloodbath.” This is the other song on “Empyrean” that I play most often, and it has a lot going on within itself as well, from some mathy wizardry to imaginative guitar work to hellfire vocals work, and they even pull out a new trick by drowning the whole ending in doom suffocation.

“Fogwarning” breaks out of “Bloodbath” and stands as the most mangling, unforgiving track on the disc, with fast but melodic guitar work, furious blast beats and a segue back into thrash, which sets the table nicely for “Dead Years.” The opening of the cut reminds me a lot of “Rust in Peace” era Megadeth, only faster and filthier, and when the song is reaching its conclusion, there’s an atmospheric, gazey pocket of guitar that sits behind the song and adds a whole new array of colors. “Broken Axis” makes sure to end the record on a volcanic note, with fast-charging melodies, maniacal vocals, and a rush of noise that’s awfully dangerous.

“Empyrean” is one of the year’s best albums, and you’re going to hear a lot more about this thing come winter when scribes gush on and on again about this thing. I know I will be. This is an incredible record, an amazing first full-length from a band that’s only gotten better over time. Mutilation Rites are the black metal warriors of tomorrow, and you’d be wise to join their cause now to avoid feeling like the millionth asshole on a crowded bandwagon once more people catch onto their greatness.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy “Empyrean,” go here:

For more on the label, go here:

To grab “Empyrean” on vinyl (should be available late June/early July) or “I Am Legion,” go here:

To grab “Devoid,” go here: