Written by Jason Cantu
My anticipation of “Death Mask” might have been a bit more extreme than your average listener. My most played album of 2012 and 2013, by a long shot, was Lord Mantis “Pervertor.” I still listen to it almost every day. Expectations were very high.
Being incredibly anxious for any understanding of what was to be heard on “Death Mask,” I studied reviews and scourged the edges of the internet to find clues. To my dismay, I just became bitter and frustrated as I read these metal blogs’ late acknowledgment of band members’ past and current projects, including Indian, Avichi, Nachtmystium and Abigail Williams. “How did you not know that? You’re a metal blog. You have one job!,” I shouted to the confused face of my pug. Not to mention discussing the album as being exhausting, or a rough listen. Do you even like Lord Mantis bruh? Apparently not. I could expand on my discontent until the pages rival the thickness of your most hated ex-lover, but I digress.
After the release of their first new single “Body Choke,” I think I slowly transformed into a sweaty hot dog. Once the entire album reached my inbox, I was having hot flashes that would impress your grandma. “I’ve been waiting so long for this,” I reminded myself as I pressed play.
The warm hum of guitars with whispering voices tickle your ears. A repeating scream feels like it’s being thrown from the back of a cave, right into your open mouthed face. The cracking pop of the snare is perfect. The production is perfect. I can’t even begin to tell you what an amazing producer and musician Sanford Parker is; but I’m sure you already know that and expected greatness. Charlie Fell’s lyrics and vocals are in top form. You can just feel the confidence, and yet, the despair and frustration. The ending of “Body Choke” is one of my favorite musical patterns ever created. I still can’t get it out of my head. Bill Bumgardner’s drumming really shines.
Next, the self-titled track “Death Mask” is punishing and will leave your neck sore in the morning. I really admire Andrew Markuszewski’s creativity, skill and determination as a musician. Combined with Ken Sorceron, this line-up is fierce. This song made me say, “Oh shit.” Well, I guess almost every song gave me the same reaction, but this one really made me smile and raise an eyebrow. Also, there’s fewer things more fun than screaming, “Death Maye-yaye-yaye-yaye-yask!”
“Possession Prayer” has unexpected nuances and a change of style that I love. For example, filtered voices that bounce from your left ear to right ear, digital layers that bring to mind Godflesh and a mass sonic landscape of noise that rises and fades like a dying star. This song could be the soundtrack to a movie that was a combination of Halloween and Blade Runner. If these guys made a whole album of songs like this, I’d be stoked. Hell, if they made a whole album of polkas I’d probably buy it, because their imagination and capability of raising the bar for all things heavy is truly something to revere.
Then “You Will Gag For The Fix” gives you a chance to calm down, and I feel is like the metaphorical eye of the storm. You’ve just seen houses torn to shreds, people flung into the sky and you know you’re about to see that cow fly by again. This is a really calm and relaxing piece that provides a momentary false sense of security.
Soon, a slow groove kicks in and then those infamous Dylan O’Toole vocals shred you. For brevity’s sake, “Negative Birth” and the rest of the album are great!
“Death Mask” is everything I hoped for and more. It’s a buffet of abrasive grime and grit that peels the skin off your teeth and has you in line for another helping. These guys get it. This is what metal is all about. Perfectly crafted darkness that constantly pushes the envelope and all that you perceive as heavy. I have no doubt that this will be on many Best Of 2014 lists, but it will top mine. It’s been an extremely enjoyable listen that I’m going to visit every day until the next album. Pre-order this now from the mighty Profound Lore Records.