Did you ever get a message, or see a bizarre social media post, or have someone say something ominous to you that left you worrying about that person’s frame of mind? It’s one of those things where you don’t know if someone is trying to blow off steam or if there is a genuine reason to reach out and intervene to prevent something awful happening.
We now have three Lord Mantis records at our disposal to basically act as a cry for help—merely by definition, not that he actually wants it–from its deranged mastermind Charlie Fell. And I say “deranged” based on his art and not from having met the man before. There’s something about what he does with this band that stands above your basic death or black metal. Yeah, there is shadowy, scary imagery all over the place from other faceless groups, so much so that it all has become numbing to the senses. But there’s something about what Fell does that is so genuinely alarming and frightening, that I worry as a listener if it’s not just art he’s creating. It feels like he’s literally bleeding himself on his records, and his latest opus “Death Mask” is his most aggressive and most experimental document to date.
Or this third album, Lord Mantis call Profound Lore home, a place it feels like they should have been all along, which is not meant to be a slight at Seventh Rule or Candlelight Records (who capably handled “Spawning the Nephilim” and “Pervertor” respectively). It just seems like this band is more in a place where the surroundings match the band’s chaos, and there probably isn’t a label more able to handle something so dark and sick as this record. Added to all of that is the album art that already has created controversy (created by the infamous Jef Whitehead of Leviathan) among some, although Fell has clarified that the painting is not designed to express hatred or intolerance toward the transgender community. But you can see where people might get that idea had he not cleared the air. So with all of this swirling in the air, it adds yet another element of madness to the Lord Mantis name and the tension surrounding “Death Mask.”
Fell handles bass and vocals on this record, and joining him this time around are guitarists Andrew Markuszewski (whose Avichi also records for Profound Lore) and Ken Sorceron (an original and current member of Abigail Williams), and drummer Bill Bumgardner (Indian). Guitarist Dylan O’Toole, also of Indian, contributed vocals to a couple of tracks on the record, which is fitting as he knows a things or two about uncomfortable situations and letting loose his psychological horrors. Sanford Parker was behind the boards for this one, and he gets the most from the band and also helps bring out some of the more daring tendencies from their muddy brand of black metal and doom.
The record begins with the abrasive “Body Choke,” a song built on harsh riffs, eerie guitar work, and Fell howling, “Kiss the snake, kill the child!” The vocals hit deranged on more than a few occasions during the track, speed eventually ignites and gets the fire burning brightly and toxically, and weird spacey noise and a heavy dose of ugliness take the song to its end point. The title cut is pure madness, with heavy punishment dished out, vocals that sound like they are trying to do you psychological harm, and drums that blow everything to dust. As the song progresses, Fell’s vocals grow more and more sinister, with him howling out, “You lay your curse!” “Possession Prayer” is bathed in industrial chaos and feels like it is trying to do war with the machines at the same time. “My life will end in blood,” Fell vows, one of those lines that make you wonder if the threat is real, and pulsating noises and power that fully engulfs you should make it easy to feel the pain and anguish contained in this song.
Interlude “You Will Gag for the Fix” drizzles over into “Negative Birth,” a track has doom-infested guitar work, noise that sizzles and corrodes, terrifying screams, and a tempo that gradually builds into a speed assault that continues to pound away without mercy for the rest of its running time. “Coil” is the real curveball of the set, with strange vocals that are treated with alien robot effects to make Fell’s message feel that much more detached. Noise wafts throughout the song, and everything here feels wholly unhuman, like it was sucked in from a wormhole or from a parallel plane where that world’s version of Fell tries to reach out to find his suffering twin. They both end up having out-of-body experiences. The 10-minute closer “Three Crosses” begins with guitars firing on all cylinders over a slow-driving track that takes its time to maul and deface you. The vocals are savage and purely ugly on purpose, some melodic guitar lines slip in to give a hint of hope, only to be snuffed out later, and total chaos re-emerges later in the track. The violence is spread thick over the back end of the song, and Fell goes for his final cries and moans of desperation, going out in a final blaze of fury that feels scarring and mean.
Fell’s hatred, anger, and misanthropy never has been thicker or more apparent. This record feels like hate and disgust piled on top of misery and depression, and if it makes you feel good inside, there might be something wrong with you. That said, “Death Mask” is an incredible metal record, one that finds this band throwing caution into hellfire and doing whatever they want. This feels sick and depraved, it’s destructive as hell, and it’s the best, most mentally challenging Lord Mantis record to date.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.lordmantis.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/