PICK OF THE WEEK: ‘Harbinger’ has Mutilation Rites upping ante in their filthy black metal game

MRDespite what you might think, not a whole lot of effort is needed to figure out our picks of the week. I know, you probably thought we went through mountains of paperwork, complex algorithms, and beakers and beakers of chemicals in order to arrive at the decision, but no. It’s more that I hear a record, it hits me in the guts, and I know that nothing that week will top it.

This week, it’s Mutilation Rites’ drubbing new record “Harbinger,” and I pretty much knew it would be from the first time I heard the thing over a month or so ago. This band is one of my go-to choices if I need music while on the road or running or any time I need a boost, and this album was one that was on my most-anticipated list all year. And from just one listen, I knew the NYC-based, filthy black metal band had outdone themselves, both making a record that would please their minions and push them to the next level. The band keeps progressing and getting more devastating, and there are moments on this masher where they channel the most hate-filled of ’80s thrash and burn it to the ground as well as weave even more entrancing melodies than before into their black metal sections. This band has a very identifiable musical fingerprint, which is so rare these days when everything runs together and bleeds color all over each other. When Mutilation Rites comes on, you absolutely know it’s them, and that should put sick glee into listeners’ hearts. And I know it does to mine.

MR coverPart of what makes this band so recognizable as soon as they begin to assault your eardrums is guitarist George Paul (also of Ruine, Hexer) and his throat-vomiting-staples vocals. They are raw, damaged, and sound painful, and sometimes it appears he is not ever blurting out words, but rather angry, pained grunt and cries. Along with him are guitarist Michael Dimmitt, bassist Ryan Jones (ex-Today Is the Day), and drummer Justin Ennis (also of Ruine). They’re a dangerous machine, pumping out black metal that is not hostage to trend or other sounds around them. Yes, they belong in the genre, but there is a lot more to their sound and their approach, and it’s one of the things that makes them so damn refreshing. They also happen to write killer songs that leave you guessing at to where they’ll go next and that bring total devastation in their wake.

“Black Pyramid” is the first crushing blow dealt on “Harbinger,” with the drums lacing with intensity, the band kicking into a blazing assault, and the vocals belching out like black tar. The song builds into a tricky, trance-inducing section as it winds toward its second half, and before all is said and done, the vocals figure out a way to sound even more menacing and out of control. “Exhaling or Breathing” is full of melody and pulls back on the reins just a bit, going for calculating instead of clobbering. There’s a nice thrash groove buried in there, deep growling that sounds scraped from the belly, and a storming finish that rushes into “Tactical Means of Ouroboros.” That track charges full speed into the mayhem, with more hellacious drumming and vocals that are practically spat out half digested. There’s an interesting segue into the second part of the song that makes you think things are going one way, but instead they punish you with precision at the end. “Gravitational Collapse” signals a change of pace for the entire record, one of savagery and pure thrash leanings that makes my old heart glow. Lurching growls, meaty riffing, and outright violence begin to turn you on your face for a through beating.

“Contaminate” makes me think of “Rust in Peace” heyday Megadeth, but even more explosive and ambitious. The playing is fluid and intelligent, and it makes complete mush of your brain as it goes on. It’s a sinister, barn-burning song, and it’s one of those tracks that enlightens you on just how diverse these guys can be. “Suffer the Children” greeted the internet around the end of May, and it’s a great first taste of this record. The track is a steamroller, absolutely blending your guts and helping you see blood. The song eventually pulls back and begins to boil on medium, but the back end is absolutely scorching. Just a killer song. “Ignus Fatuus” starts with a mud-thick bassline that rolls into a metallic haze, and muck-caked growls begin stomping hard. The guitar work gets tricky and dizzying, something you don’t hear every black metal band try and pull off this well, and a rush of melody takes the song to its conclusion. Closer “Conspiracy of Silence” is a solid meat-and-potatoes finish, with sludgy guitars, drums the rumble you to death, low and gurgly growling, and swirling melodies that could make the room spin. It’s a concise, to-the-point finale that wraps the record up with a nice, plasma-encrusted bow.

Mutilation Rites continue to prove they are one of the most creative bands in black metal, and their willingness to push their own creativity and the envelope has completely worked to their advantage. “Harbinger” is rock solid through and through, an incredibly strong effort from a consistent band that deserves to play to increasingly larger audiences. Not every record you peg as an anticipated release comes through once it’s in your hands, but this album surpassed expectations and has me really excited to hear these guys execute these killers live.

For more on the band, go here: http://mutilationrites.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://mutilationrites.com/store

Or here: http://store.prostheticrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://prostheticrecords.com/