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Mass Worship – Portal Tombs Award winner

Mass Worship
Portal Tombs
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 06 March 2022, 4:29 AM

"Portal Tombs" is physically exhausting. Seriously, listening to this album from beginning to end is the equivalent of pulling a double work shift. I don't know if I have ever heard an album like this before, in terms of sonic density translating into physical symptoms.  At the very least, it has been a long time and obviously it didn't leave as much of an impression has this one.

An album that makes demands from its listener is rare; even true masterpieces don't often pull it off. But MASS WORSHIP has dropped such a slab of extreme metal on us that the only possible outcome is the total life drain of the listener. The music within the nine tracks and thirty eight minute run time doesn't adhere to any certain style.  Just about every extreme style from metal is represented here. Is this doom? Black? Death? Prog, even?

The short answer is: it doesn't really matter. Despite what any given track may or may not encompass, they are monolithic, dissonant, and nearly palpable in their presence. Yes, this make mean some of the songs blend in with each other but that also helps make the album a large, noisy, wall of sound from which there is no escape. The opening track, "Specular Void," fades into brackish riffs and vocals that wouldn't sound out of place on a MESHUGGAH album. The drums are hypnotic and their sharp attacks pull your attention to the atmospheric layer created by the guitars and bass. What is so odd about this song, and the album as a whole, is it remains interesting but isn't flashy or catchy. It doesn't need to be—-its very presence inspires enough awe and curiosity to enjoy the ride.

The title track is immediately dizzying, just straight up mind numbing. Listen to this with headphones and you'll be questioning your sanity as you get lost into this other worldy rabbit hole. The riffs are jarring, the bass throttles the senses and the rhythm is designed to hit like a freight train…but hit by multiple ones from other dimensions. At once. The only true respite from this auditory carnage is "Unholy Mass."  The track starts off very quiet—it cold be mistaken for silence itself. But faint guitars approaches from the void like tendrils grabbing hold. This morphs into an oddly emotive guitar solo. From there, a melodic bridge carries the soul to a tomb of darkness before suddenly ending.

"Scorched Earth" is one of the best songs on the album. It is incredibly volatile and the riffs feel like turbulent waters. Combine the vocals, which sound like they are on the edge of breaking, and the encroaching drumming, the result is a song that sounds as broken as it is together. The final track, "Deliverance," is hard hitting send off. The early moments of the track lay the heavy down so stick it almost sounds like static noise. Then dismal and gray melodies birth from the electric muck, crawling out from the seemingly ending darkness. But the song offers no such relief. The bass transcends terms like "heavy" and "massive" and becomes a living entity of destruction—capturing and smothering everything in its path.

The slow tempo and melodic moments add another layer of bleakness but the choppy riffs make sure the song remains disturbingly abrasive. MASS WORSHIP’s "Portal Tombs" is a brutal and  psychotic journey that is as engaging as it is uncomfortable.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Specular Void
2. Portal Tombs (feat. Mark “Barney” Greenway)
3. Revel In Fear
4. Orcus Mouth (feat. Jonas Stålhammar and Jonas Renkse)
5. Unholy Mass
6. Dunes Of Bone
7. Scorched Earth
8. Empyrean Halls
9. Deliverance
Claes Nordin – Vocals
Gustav Eriksson – Guitar
Dadde Stark – Bass
Fred Forsberg - Drums
Record Label: Century Media Records


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