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Mortillery > Shapeshifter > Reviews
Mortillery - Shapeshifter

Shifting to a vicious thrashing shape - 91%

slayrrr666, July 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak, Limited edition)

Hailing from Alberta, Canada, Mortillery has not only remained remarkably consistent regarding their line-up but also in terms of releases gaining in quality each time out. Following two quality releases in their discography already, this third effort from the group, released May 27, 2016 from Napalm Records.

As has been the bands’ crux from the beginning, there’s an extended and pronounced old-school feel running throughout the album as the main focus on offering thrashy, speed-drenched heavy metal rhythms tends to become the primary focus. Propulsive, tightly-wound riffing, scorching soloing and thumping drumming take center-stage which effectively recalls the old-school thrash scene to a fine extent here coupling those hard-hitting traditional patterns with the fiery excess, aggression and flavor of thrash. As well, the inclusion of the more traditional metal rhythms manages to keep this one engaging when it dips down into a heavy, plodding mid-tempo chug fully showing off a rather fine and heavy style quite well outside of the thrash patterns. Given a great, energetic production-job that highlights those spindly old-school melodies quite well and the album has a lot to like. Though this frantic thrashing certainly works well for the album, there’s the first of several minor flaws cropping up because of that. With the main focus here as fervently mixed with the two styles, it struggles to keep the energy going completely throughout the mid-tempo work and that causes this to stumble somewhat. The need for simplistic riff-work and choppy arrangements are bad enough, but to augment it all with high-pitched banshee wailing vocals completely kills the mood dead as it’s just so completely against the remaining influences present that desperately trying to enhance the energy when it’s not there does give this some decidedly odd moments. Likewise, that brings up the vocals in general which seem really ill-suited for this type of work as they’re draining in pitch, decidedly one-note in general performance and despite the enthusiasm in their reading seem too light to match the hard-hitting work here. Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot that holds this back.

Though there’s a lot of rather fun and engaging work to be had here with this one’s old-school charm, there’s a few minor stumbling blocks out there that does hold this back enough that it’s really mostly worthwhile to more devout revival-era thrash fanatics or those who’ve been able to live with their work in the past.

Toss Up - 54%

GuntherTheUndying, June 26th, 2016

Here’s how to stand out among today’s thrash bands: use something, anything that isn’t mindlessly copied and pasted from Slayer, or Exodus, or Kreator, et cetera, et cetera. Seriously, that’s how little effort it takes (in theory) to not further stink up the standard of a scene next to dirt. Mortillery’s “Shapeshifter” understands this to a degree, though the record is a little lackluster overall; there are things to praise, there are things not to praise. Mortillery lists a number of groups as influences, including Détente and Holy Moses, whom they strongly take after. As interesting as the base mechanics of “Shapeshifter” appear, the album ends up just loafing around. But look on the bright side: at least their riffs aren’t shamelessly stripped from “Reign in Blood.”

Mortillery most represents the aforementioned influences via their vocalist. Cara McCutchen is her name, and she is just an absolute monster holding the microphone. You can clearly hear her belting away with gusto as though issuing a command to charge, adding a gallon of energy to the hurried pace. The riff blueprint follows a more melodic approach—think Holy Moses and Death Angel meet Iron Maiden. The opening “Radiation Sickness” and “At the Gates” work to dial up the melody in the guitar work, and Mortillery generally has a healthy arsenal of thrashy riffs that manage to stimulate. The larger focus on songs that aren’t created for the sole purpose of going a million miles an hour opens a few creative avenues for the band to explore, including fancy lead guitar work and chorus schemes that work quite well.

The problem is the album is completely insufferable when anything goes even slightly awry. McCutchen occasionally sounds wonky and out of place, the choruses try way too hard to be huge when that bombastic tenor has no room to work, and Mortillery acts as though a deer in the headlights. The drumming, for example, is basic and formulaic; a percussionist using Lombardo-esque fills rather than the standard stuff here could have colored this up considerably. And towards the end of “Shapeshifter,” things just fall apart. The title track, in particular, ends the thing on an awful note, the vocalist crooning, “Whoa, oh! Whoa, oh!” like this is suddenly a Trivium record. There is never a reason to try this hard, but here they are, trying way too hard.

My take on this is split. At times I find myself enamored by the Iron Maiden-ish assault of “Radiation Sickness” and the little flares of Holy Moses sprouting up like oysters spitting in the ocean. The vocals, too, are worthy of praise when aptly placed, and the production at least leaves a little bit of raw flavor usually culled from modern thrash records. It doesn’t take long, however, before Mortillery drops the ball and sinks down with it. “Shapeshifter,” overall, is a giant wash of an experience. The parts to make an excellent album are here, just not the excellent album.

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