Mortals – Cursed to See the Future (Relapse Records, 08 July 2014)
I don’t know who wrote the official band bio for Brooklynite trio Mortals (the one that accompanies their press kit and also appears on their record label’s website), but I don’t think I really understand what it’s trying to say. It starts off by contrasting this band with the way most other bands come together:
Many heavy bands follow a straight line — they start a band with some people they know, they pick a well-worn genre, they write riffs and drum beats that sound pretty similar to all the other riffs and drum beats that have been written. That isn’t Mortals.
…but then it goes on to explain how the three members met when they were involved with various other bands (for example, two of them were in a Slayer cover band together, two of them were in a math-rock band together) and eventually the three of them found they had enough common interests that they decided to form a new band; chemistry developed and gradually they found themselves evolving into their own style. Which, in essence, sounds like a variant of the history behind almost every band I know. So that’s got me feeling slightly confused.
But anyway, none of that really matters. What the band sounds like is far more important than any written description, when it comes to me picking what I want to write about and share with you, and the music should be able to speak for itself. And here it certainly does. It also helps that I’ve been watching for news from this band over the past couple of years — on the advice of Meat Mead Metal (whom you should absolutely familiarize yourself with immediately if you aren’t already a regular reader, because not only is this without a doubt the best music journalism you’ll find here in Pittsburgh, but this guy churns out high-quality writing with a consistency that could rival just about anyone else out there!), who has had plenty of good things to say about Mortals on several occasions (like here, for example). About a year after that particular article was written, the band had signed a deal with Relapse Records, and today marks their first release with that label, the full-length Cursed to See the Future.
Most of the time, when the terms “death” and “doom” collide in a band’s genre description, you’d expect death metal style vocals and riffs slowed down to a doomy snail’s pace. However, here we find the heaviness and general aesthetic of doom metal with the tempo cranked up, thrust into the milieu of grimy blackened death. Opening track “View from a Tower” explodes out of the gate in this vein, chock-full of galloping riffs, thundering death metal drums, and scarily vicious snarled vocals. About halfway through the song, though, a barely perceptible directional shift takes place — the bass steps ever-so-slightly into the spotlight and leads the rest of the band into somewhat doomier territory (although the tempo remains fairly constant). With only three members (although the recording usually has multiple simultaneous guitar tracks), the bass often assumes a more prominent role, and this frequently lends a sludgier/doomier tone to the music when it happens. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the introduction to “Epochryphal Doom” which opens with only the bass, performing a thick and heavy riff, dripping with sludge, which the guitar and drums then accompany, only to make their way back to a quicker death metal tempo shortly thereafter.
All of these compositions display subtle stylistic shifts: here full of blast beats and blackened guitars, there venturing more into a post-metal tone, here giving off definitive death metal vibes, and there devolving into a nice fat helping of sludge. There are only six tracks on the album, but with an average length up around eight minutes — the band executes these changes of direction so seamlessly that one hardly even realizes how much variety is incorporated into their sound, but this is exactly the reason why none of these songs ever feel stagnant or boring, which (considering the fact that most of them range between 8-10 minutes) is quite a feat to accomplish. In fact, the full 47+ minutes worth of material remains remarkably consistent in terms of quality. Individual parts may stand out from the group on rare occasions — such as the aforementioned bass highlights, or during some of the more black metal flavored parts, like in “Devilspell” and “Series of Decay” which have some of the most venomously hissed vocals, as well as tremolo-style guitar parts in between the death-doom riffs, and unexpected explosions of ferocious cymbal-abuse — but for the most part all three members blend together in a near-perfect unholy harmony.
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Mortals Summer 2014 Tour Dates:
- July 18 – Brooklyn NY at the Acheron
*Record Release show / Music video screening party
- July 23 – Providence RI at AS220
- July 24 – Worcester MA at Ralphs Diner
- July 25 – New Bedford MA at No Problemo
- July 26 – Northampton MA at 13th Floor
- July 27 – Montreal QC at Turbo Haus
- July 28 – Toronto ON Smiling Buddha
- July 29 – Detroit MI at Yonka House
- July 30 – Chicago IL at Cobra Lounge
- July 31 – St Louis MO at the Livery Company
- Aug 1 – Lexington KY at Al’s Sidecar
- Aug 2 – Columbus OH at Carabar
- Aug 3 – Pittsburgh PA at The Smiling Moose
with Soothsayer and Dendritic Arbor (more details)
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