Lord Mantis - _Death Mask_
(Profound Lore Records, 2014)
by: Dan Lake (8.5 out of 10)
Hail Charlie Fell. In the long-established pantheon of painting art with pain, Fell ascends to a seat among the mighty. You wouldn't want to actually be him, and hanging out might get frighteningly intense or depressing, but the recorded results of his private darkness channeled into Lord Mantis's music is undeniable. The Chicago-based vocalist recorded multiple voice tracks for most of the songs on this year's _Death Mask_: one lead scream session, and several more to provide whispers, phlegmy noise, and background shrieks to the proceedings. And though Fell is the band's mouthpiece (in both performance and interviews), the musical pedigree of Andrew Markuszewski (Avichi), Bill Bumgardner (Indian) and Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams) filling out the bill positions the band as a premier underground metal monster.

Where debut _Spawning the Nephilim_ was a tentative first step and _Pervertor_ was a demonic coming-out party, _Death Mask_ feels like a pinnacle achievement, a profound and precise proclamation of the Lord Mantis aesthetic. Menacing sludge masterpiece "Body Choke" lurches with an almost industrial cadence, within which various divergent drum attacks wreak mental havoc, accented by clean guitar lines that worm through the center of the song. The title track mummifies the listener in slicing claustrophobia, like an ever-constricting shroud of thorn-riddled gauze. "Possession Prayer" simmers with sonic undertones akin to last year's Altar of Plagues sendoff, _Teethed Glory and Injury_. Without ever straying from the septic stage on which all Lord Mantis songs fester, the song feels more experimentally vivid than we have any right to expect.

"You Will Gag for the Fix" trembles with noise-laced piano, then transitions into the excellently strangled doom of "Negative Birth". The brooding slither of "Coil" plays an important role near the end of the album, as it relaxes the highly agitated state of earlier songs while doing nothing to release the trachea-squeezing tension, before "Three Crosses" slams into its primeval, undiluted statement of purpose -- what it means to be Lord Mantis. Bludgeoning doom mixes with tortured-bluesy guitar leads and racing blast beats, with Fell's damned-soul rasps splashed over it all like the spilled acidic seed of an impossible reject of nature.

The artwork by Leviathan's Jef Whitehead -- a gut-wrenching, green rot-tinged horror show revealing a bound and bleeding figure well endowed with both breasts and swollen penis -- recalls the transgendered Christ cadaver from Justin Bartlett's _Pervertor_ cover, and suggests the band's strong identification with the struggle toward becoming a whole person. Lord Mantis is here to unsettle you, yes, and maybe demand that you swallow their grimy red pill; but they might also, however inadvertently, teach lessons of patience, resilience and compassion to those of us who haven't been as far down the rabbit hole as they have.

Contact: http://www.lordmantis.com/

(article published 22/7/2014)


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