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Mutilation Rites - Harbinger Award winner

Mutilation Rites
by H.P. Buttcraft at 04 August 2014, 9:05 AM

As is tradition by now, I usually share some sort of story or factoid at the beginning of my reviews. I got the chance to see MUTILATION RITES play at a free showcase during the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas several years ago. MUTILATION RITES were the opening band for the Brooklyn Vegan set that included HULL, THE ATLAS MOTH, PALLBEARER, NACHTMYSTIUM and ALCEST all while serving out free beer from Jester King brewery. As memorable as that show was for me, what was equally as memorable was seeing MUTILATION RITES kill it on stage at the now-closed Lovejoy’s Tavern. In fact, they rocked out so fucking hard that all of the power to the amplifiers died during the middle of one of their songs, forcing the band to conclude their performance earlier than expected.

So it is with great pride to say that the power never blew out during my experience listening to their latest release, ‘Harbinger’. I was already hooked on their authentic Black Metal scores after seeing them perform back when their last album ‘Empyrean’ was circulating. ‘Empyrean’ is an album I’d recommend to go along with ‘Harbinger’ if you plan on giving one or the other a chance. Don’t let the vastly different cover art of these albums dissuade you, MUTILATION RITES work real hard to offer up quality USBM to their audience (that’s United States Black Metal for all you greenhorns out there).

Harbinger’ straddles the line between Black Metal that is accessible and Black Metal that are for die-hard fans only. Upon first listen to the beginning of the album, the opening two tracks on ‘Harbinger’, “Black Pyramids” and “Exhaling or Breathing In” reminded me a lot of the TAAKE 2011 album “Noregs Vaapen”, one of my favorite releases that came out that year. Like that record, MUTILATION RITES accomplishes at producing the sub-zero atmospheres and nihilistic essences of true Norwegian Black Metal while still leaving a small fragment of space for melody and hooks to keep the record from falling off of the edge into idiosyncratic obscurity. There is only just enough Rock ‘n’ Roll in this music to keep it from being too ugly for a larger appeal.

Perhaps this could be even interpreted as a proposal to the scene of Black Metal where the music, once completely void of politics and ideologies, must maintain a form that is simple to consume but without omitting any of the misanthropic and bleak motifs and characteristics. If that were true, it would be a reasonable request to Black Metal but, then again, coming from a band based in New York City, European bands may take this as a call-to-arms that they should make their music even less accessible than it already is.

My favorite track, aside from the very powerful dual-song opening of ‘Harbinger’ was “Suffer the Children”, which I unfortunately discovered wasn’t a NAPALM DEATH cover but it was still immensely enjoyable. In fact, this album never gets tired at any point. If anything gets exhausted on ‘Harbinger’, it’s going to be you.
Listening to ‘Harbinger’ is a lot like a staring contest but if you’re competing against a small team of staring contest champions. Their challenge for you is defiant and intimidating and if you grow weak even for a second, you will lose and be ridiculed incessantly in front of your peers. Don’t blink, don’t break a sweat, don’t even think for a second that these antagonists will take it easy on you or the champions will exploit your weakness like the puny, pathetic rival that you are. You cannot over-shoot yourself when you listen to MUTILATION RITES. You are not permitted to meet them halfway on ‘Harbinger’. This is an opponent worthy of your strengths. This time, you go big or you go home; it’s as simple as that.

4 Star Rating

1. Black Pyramid
2. Exhaling or Breathing In
3. Tactical Means of Ouroboros
4. Gravitational Collapse
5. Contaminate
6. Suffer the Children
7. Ignus Fatuus
8. Conspiracy of Silence
Justin Ennis – Drums
Michael Dimmitt – Guitars
George Paul – Guitars, Vocals
Ryan Jones - Bass
Record Label: Prosthetic Records


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Edited 04 February 2023

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