Mutilation Rites - Harbringer | Review

Black metal is the new black. And while the scene doesn’t struggle with an overt fashion crisis, at least not currently, it’s certainly the new cool. The genre has always been great but nowadays it seems bands lean more towards Deafheaven or Darkthrone. A broad generality, but not wholly inaccurate. Then there are bands like Mutilation Rites. Bands that have a way of hitting the pure switch on genres and making it work.

Mutilation Rites is a four piece hailing out of Brooklyn, New York playing a fusion of black/thrash/doom metal. The four-piece released their first demo in 2010 and haven’t let up for much since. Their first full length Empyrean portrayed a heavy Darkthrone influence while also breaking things down into bouts of drone. The album was solid but sometimes felt a bit stretched. Their latest offering Harbinger expands on their capabilities and showcases a more perfected craft.

Harbinger is thrashy, thrashy like the last Nocturnal Graves record. From the opening chords of “Black Pyramids” Mutilation Rites bring the rage back as though a sharper blade has cut into these songs. The crunch and smash is more honed. The stomp-march tempo that black metal has perfected is brought in spades. Ex-Tombs drummer Justin Ennis shines brightly throughout as the band charges full force. “Tactical Means of Ouroboros”, perhaps the album’s strongest song, thrashes and blasts away; one of the most energetic and destructive pieces on the album and possibly one of the best songs the band will ever write. It’s filthy and frothing.

While the drone/shoegaze is still present it has also vastly improved. Melodic sections take on an eerie tone and don’t feel like they’re stretching Harbinger for a run time. “Exhaling or Breathing” brings out seething melancholy tone that sounds like something Deathspell Omega might have penned (without the neck-breaking time signature changes). The piece crawls along while still managing to sound creepy.

What makes Mutilation Rites a stand-out amongst a black sea of black metal is that their approach works. The way the band brings in other genres to their black metal template shows just how great their songwriting is. “Gravitational Collapse”, for example, melds genre after genre without sounding like it’s trying to over achieve. It thrashes as much as it pummels forth while still tossing in some d-beat/crust influence towards the end. Pieces like “Suffer the Children” and “Contaminate” sound like the band was sampling heavily from the Disfear catalog.

Harbinger is the follow up that Empyrean deserves. Fear of a cluttered, muddled album was valid with the way Mutliation Rites carried themselves, but they’ve come out of this one standing far and above. We could’ve gotten a piece that was riddled with good intent and instead we got a vicious killer. Riffs are tighter, melodic sections are both more harrowing and glorious, and George Paul’s vocals have never sounded so pissed and sinister. Mutilation Rites continue to be more Darkthrone and Nocturnal Graves than Deafheaven but would hold their own with any black metal band. Harbinger is loud, sharp and a great slice of truculent black metal.

Christopher Luedtke

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Chris is a film reviewer for (good luck finding his work there) and journalist for Metal Injection (better luck finding his work there). In his spare time he video blogs and promises a second installment of the Guilty Gear Retrospective on YouTube under theOfficialChris. He also writes novels, applies for jobs, attempts to write music, eats cheap food, drinks lots of coffee, enjoys opera, worships grind, and works. He can be found posting songs and bitching about the awful V/H/S film franchise on Twitter: @CoffeeCupReview.