Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Guilty as charged! - 85%

Diamhea, November 25th, 2014

Although Mortal Sin never quite lived up to the hype encircling them during the manic heydey, the pattern of events that befell these Australian thrashers sealed in poser blood the indisputable proof that a great vocalist is oftentimes the deciding factor between second-line idiosyncrasy and something approaching greatness. A stellar thrash vocalist needs to espouse that air of barely controlled chaos alongside feverish instability. It is oftentimes annoying and hard to truly appreciate, but hey it just works. My point is, Mat Maurer is that fucking guy, ultimately proving that Mortal Sin was nothing but a hollow shell without him. After the dissolution of the first lineup, Eftichiou tried to restructure the band around the theatrics of one Steve Sly, and the band dropped the bomb that was Every Dog Has It's Day before rightfully calling it quits shortly thereafter. The band reforms with Maurer and delivers two solid modern records before collapsing again after his second departure, all but proving the aforementioned point.

So while the band garnered quite an agglomeration of attention following the raw but charming debut, they doubled back with even more vigor and focus on Face of Despair, during which Mortal Sin coherently takes bits and pieces from the American scenes and forms a patchwork of their own making; wholly unique while still proudly displaying their influences on their collective sleeve. The Metallica comparison is one often cited, and while obvious parallels can be drawn between Maurer's exaggerated drawl and Hetfield's soured rasp that was just coming into its own around this period, musically there is quite a detachment to navigate before calling Mortal Sin a second-rate clone. For one, Maurer's style is far more heterogeneous, alternating between percussive syllable-spewing tantrums and more drawn out, howling wordplay most evident on "I Am Immortal" and "H." The vocals demand attention and are oftentimes emphasized, but there is certainly more to appreciate here.

For one, Campbell is a fairly busy drummer, and his unequivocal love for a consistent outpouring of steady double bass is somewhat atypical for the style. If that wasn't enough, the bobbling and weaving concerning both tempo and tone keep Face of Despair cooking on all cylinders for nearly all of its duration. A great example would be "For Richer For Poorer," which comes off as almost spastic at first, what with its scattershot inclination, but the band tugs on the reins just in time to keep the flow natural and inherent. The droning chords on the chorus remind me of Overkill's "Coma," and the politically charged lyrics avoid coming off as trite or played out. Sincerity goes a long way on cuts like the aforementioned riff monster "I Am Immortal" and the clearly Slayer-influenced "Suspended Animation."

The overuse of gang shouts varies depending on the song, but some like "The Infantry Corps" could use a scant trimming of vocal fat. Discounting the silly joke track/closing number "Robbie Soles," the only song I can truly do without here is "Martyrs of Eternity," which reeks of the band phoning it in and honestly sounds like an incoherent mess for some reason. Chalking up the shortcomings (and there are a few) with powerhouses like "Innocent Torture" isn't even fair to the former. It is interesting to a point, because while Mortal Sin clearly claim a large swath of their influence to the Bay Area, their riffs aren't quite as hooky or overtly melodic compared to acts like Forbidden. These guys rely more on the concerted, punishing allure of the rhythm section, and with Maurer at the helm they can get away with a fair bit of experimentation if proceedings begin to dip south a bit.

I have made no qualms about my adoration for the material Mortal Sin put out after the reformation, but Face of Despair stands high and mighty above the rest of the band's discography, and is yet another notch in 1989's bullet belt; a heavy metal resume that goes a long way toward solidifying its position as one of the greatest years for thrash. If you are fond of early Exodus, Overkill's Under the Influence and the like, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you pass this one up.