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Mutilate > Contagium > Reviews
Mutilate - Contagium

Old Sky Glare - 85%

Cosmic Mystery, June 9th, 2019

I almost skipped over this and wish I had gotten to it earlier, due to receiving so much physical media, thus being forced to prioritize those higher than digital; but I’m glad it did not get lost in the piles of intangible music. Mutilate is comprised of high skilled musicians, its evident with every note played. Back to front Contagium is a complete record of sound compositions on an exotic cloudy production that gives the listener impressions suggesting Mutilate recorded this material just where the cover art depicts. Contagium has to be one of the best death metal albums released in 2019. There's been a-lot thus far but Contagium cackles at the feeble efforts of many. Every song is a blast of thrashing death metal fury filled with scourging guitar leads, dynamic drumming and cadaverous vocals. In addition, Mutilate has a sound they can call theirs thanks to the production heard on the record; it brings to mind the mid 80s style of thrash metal records with a low but audible bass and a heavy emphasis on lead guitars. I have heard their 2018 output Tormentium, which I thought was a good debut full- length record but, Contagium is way better, in every way. The production is still raw sounding (something I liked about Tormentium), but the song writing has taken a turn towards improved structuring, transitions and thrashing guitar leads that grab your attention on every entry making Mutilate’s second record a case of pulsing adrenaline and a more serious force within the underground. This is a must have for 2019,

From the tramping drumming of “Vile and Disgusting”, the ear-gasmic licks and vocal antics of “Quartered”, to impulsive energetic sonic-storms of “Black Faith”, “Falling into Darkness”, “Decapitator” and “Skeletal Haunting”, you rarely find reason to complain unless you're burnt-out or just don’t appreciate this kind of material. I mean it's been done in the past, but to hear it replicated in the modern era to this much effect tells me the genre is in a healthy state (at least where the underground is concerned). Apart from being so deeply rooted in fiery thrash /death metal, Contagium reserves some space for doom metal sections that can be heard on tracks “Eyes of a Child” and “Falling into Darkness” with the latter having some of the stand-out lead guitar work. Even a punk metal aura is created on “Black Fate” which is again another track worth mentioning due to the guitar leads. The licks on Contagium are something-else, with every transition you’re presented with a string of notes or vocal piece that pulls you in every-time. Not excluding the drumming, showing the competency of keeping momentum, but also providing a memorable drum attack that mimics many styles, from doom metal, death metal, thrash metal, punk metal and even “war metal”.

It's the artwork on Contagium that caught my attention, it holds a mysticism often associated with death metal when it was merely an embryo, and the music here supports the picturesque mystique. This isn’t one of those records that only has an eye-catching image, the music here is just as strong.

Headbang till your nose bleeds.

Published at

Await the immortal reaper. - 78%

GrizzlyButts, June 8th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Iron Bonehead Productions (Limited edition)

Primitive by design and all the more memorable for that ingrained directness the ‘old school’ death metal of prolific Ithaca, New York quartet Mutilate bring the creeping rage of 80’s death metal demo evil and punches it up to a ’91 standard of fidelity. Subtle in movement but brash in delivery their second full-length in three years, ‘Contagium’, continues to explore a unique set of shared pillars of influence from Abhorrence and Paradise Lost to the punched-out eyes of Hellhammer worshipers like Usurper and Goatlord. Little has changed in the grand scheme of their unassuming minimalist approach to performance and production but a hint of blackened-death influence now arrives in subtle, ambiguous bursts. These intermittent and slight changes leave bare-naked the intentions of ‘Contagium’, and Mutilate in general, as a subtle but hard-grooving mid-paced death metal act that grows on the mind like moss on distended tomb.

Mutilate‘s debut full-length ‘Tormentium’ (2018) released nearly a full year ago and though it would more-or-less knock my own socks off with references to Acheron, Death Strike, and pre-’93 Midwest United States death metal in general it didn’t appear to make enormous waves across the board. I’m somewhat sour about that because it was almost terminally catchy and had a satisfying rawness that was never stupidly brutal and almost always some kind of clever. ‘Contagium’ is a follow-up in every sense as you can tell it is still Hans Kristianson holding the guitar and largely providing the direction and main interest. This time around the ‘hooks’ come subtle and slow as often as they do abruptly depending on the song, this reads as a small bit of inconsistency that gets lost in too-similar rhythm and pacing.

The biggest standouts within a full listen to ‘Contagium’ bring very plain choruses that often plainly state the title of the song (“Vile and Disgusting”, “Eyes of a Child”) and this often feels like an early Paul Speckmann influence in motion and a relic of extreme thrash songwriting. Where I fall off their boat a bit this time around comes with the realization that there are no unforgettable “Hacked Up Hands” moments up front. More than ever I began to think of Slaughter, perhaps with a different focus of pace, as I listened to ‘Contagium’ but there are a few moments where a second guitar provides a lead or counter-melody that invokes death/doom classics, primarily ‘Lost Paradise’. Those elements of primitive Celtic Frost-esque jogging and slapping death metal mildly coalesce as the album plays. Although this provides some of the most memorable moments on the album, such as the middle portion of “Eyes of a Child”, a few breaks in “Quartered”, and the brilliant title track the majority of the record is otherwise tedious at first glance.

The first time I fired up ‘Contagium’ I was walking my dog near a park where I live in downtown Seattle and in the midst of waiting for him to poop “Quartered” came on, did its thing and finished with this mouth slurping Donald Duck-assed eating noise like Nibbler from Futurama and for a second there I nearly said “Fuck this album” out loud. The drumming is the plainest of jane, the riffs come fast but the nuance is often very subtle and it sounds like a non-Satanic Nunslaughter demo trying to get serious with 90’s death metal. So, as I had that severe allergic reaction to the mouth noise I realized how cool that reductive ‘insult’ had actually sounded as a description. Sure, it is a little bit meat-headed and snaggle-toothed but I’ll be damned if that isn’t what I love about records like ‘Journey Into Mystery’, ‘Zzooouhh’, and anything from Cianide. Its all very metal and not such damned serious art. I was probably 4-5 listens in when I’d really latched onto the middle portion of the album starting with “Eyes of a Child” and “Black Fate” showing classic Mutilate with some new slightly more blackened ethos. The mushy thrash metal groove of “Skeletal Haunting” is another weird highlight as it should just be an amateurish mess but there is something vitally repeatable about this track and its strangely eager pace leading towards the death/doom lurch of the final song. The overall listening experience appreciated over time and I’d eventually come to enjoy the differently dulled charm of ‘Contagium’.

There’s almost no way a fan of ‘Tormentium’ isn’t going to like the scuzzy rip of ‘Contagium’ at face value. Mutilate have slicked their sound up just enough to make their more rabidly mid-paced and blackened touches succeed amongst increasing bouts of repetition, darker doom, and a generally cleaner execution. It isn’t a better record but, a different record that is equally as good as the last thanks to a small list of evolving traits. Moderately high recommendation, a bit higher if you’re already on board with the band’s dry-humped ways. For preview I’d suggest starting with “No Faith” for the faster pace and simple-but-effective guitar runs then move onto the pairing of “Eyes of a Child” and “Decapitator”. The full spin will roll out easily from that point.