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Mutilate > Tormentium > Reviews
Mutilate - Tormentium

Hacked up hands. - 80%

GrizzlyButts, February 15th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Iron Bonehead Productions (Limited edition)

Resembling the rhythmic birth of garage-riffed, 80’s death metal history Ithaca, New York old school death metal band Mutilate set upon the world around them with a claw-hammer swinging philosophy guiding their way. You can smell the stench of decomposing victims bubbling up from the stacks of chained-shut freezers packed into their rehearsal space the moment their debut full-length ‘Tormentium’ begins. Dryly delivered rotten death metal riffs are simply banged out in every case with a growl smacking of the cold sociopathic confessions of a serial killer. Beyond the greater appeal of Mutilate‘s tuneful take on a classic style ‘Tormentium’ is uniquely unsettling in it’s menacing minimalism.

Inspired by the glowering doomed hell of Goatlord, Death Strike and early Acheron the bulk of Mutilate‘s songwriting takes influence from an era where musicians did more without the aesthetic extremity of performances to pad out their ideas. The most immediate comparisons that generally hold up across the bulk of ‘Tormentium’ are Master‘s 1985 demo and Speckmann‘s thrashed out work with Death Strike, Devastation‘s long lost 1987 tape ‘Dispensable Bloodshed’, and some of the songwriting feel of Morgue‘s ‘Eroded Thoughts’ on the side that featured Cianide‘s drummer. Across ten tracks I never got the feeling that Mutilate were even capable of filler material as they seem entirely intentional with their rhythms and riffs.

Depraved poetry of crimes against humanity, gore, pain and torture is delivered with a callous understated growl not too far from Devastation‘s rasp but with some of Paul Speckmann‘s ‘doubled’ effect use on his early demos. It isn’t all gore and death/thrash permutations though as the guitar work ventures from early death/doom towards riffs that could have fit on a Dream Death or Winter record. Perhaps because of the range of old school and orthodox influences paired with a sharp snare sound the drumming has a punkish early Autopsy-like feel to it that occasionally spins off-kilter. Because of it’s relatively straightforward delivery I think many death metal folks will have to mentally scramble a bit to connect with the ‘amateur’, mid-80’s demo aesthetics of ‘Tormentium’ at first. Memorable, rhythmic guitar work and the impressive variation on display absolutely supplant any complaints about Mutilate‘s low-frills approach.

Coming from a band that formed just last year Mutilate‘s ‘Tormentium’ is easily one of my favorite debuts of 2018 so far. Something just filthy, straight-forward and ragged enough to shake you out of your atmospheric fluff metal stupor. It’ll more than likely have greater appeal to death metal demo tape chasers and old school extreme metal fanatics should rush towards the value within. If you’re not bought into the menace displayed on the title track then I think “Life in Pain”, “Execution” and “Splattered Remains” should convince you one way or another and I’d recommend those songs for preview.


H.G. Wells Presents 'Morlock Death Metal' - 70%

autothrall, July 1st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Iron Bonehead Productions (Limited edition)

While the majority of throwback death metal bands attempt to emulate their favorite acts of the 80s and 90s as closely as possible, there are others who seek to strip back the years to the point where that style was just lifting off, and then attempt to create a primal and even intentionally pedestrian sound as if the rest of it never existed. The strength of New York's Mutilate is that they manage to pull that off by hooking you with the most simplistic riffs, riffs you've probably heard before, a thousand times, and yet for some reason feel timeless in the hands of these brutes. One can tell just by the band's name, and half the song titles here ("Severed Limbs", "Life in Pain", "Sadistic Butchery", etc) that there's literally nothing new going on here. Creativity wouldn't come anywhere near this album, for fear of contracting some infectious disease...

And yet...YET, Tormentium is a fairly charming, bludgeoning way to pass 40 minutes when you're seeking out the sort of escapism you would turn towards death metal for when albums like Scream Bloody Gore, Eyes of Horror, To the Gory End, Master and Fuckin' Death were novelties. Heavily rooted in pummeling thrash riffs, driven towards the grave by the blunt and (admittedly) monotonous, muffled vocal growls. Drums that give you a mechanistic beating beneath the efficient, predictable rhythm guitar progressions. That said, because the material seems so formulaic, the album does offer up a surprise or two, like how the morbid, Death-like guitar at the opening of "Splattered Remains" is slathered with this raucous, wailing, super-minimal lead. Or those evil, neolithic grooves in the belly of "Sadistic Butchery" which are inescapable. Mutilate knows the boundaries within which it works, and never stretches them to any appreciable degree, but between those lines they give you about as much punch as you would desire, without sounding too much like a copy.

Does this have a lot of lasting value, when you could go back and listen to the other albums from the era to which it aesthetically strives? Probably not. There are only a scant few catchy guitar parts, and there aren't quite enough atmospherics to bind it all together. The vocals could use a little more of a dynamic, evil range to them, and a few compelling bass lines would have gone a long way to help with that dingy, subterranean atmosphere which the material dwells upon the fringe of. It's a murky mix, but more like something from a sewer or back alley than an abandoned catacomb or a swamp. The themes go for the violent imagery and proto-brutality that the Death debut and its ilk carved out for the coming kingdom of death metal, but offer up nothing new in that sphere. But for all of its flaws and irritations, Tormentium is still an album which achieves that bare minimum of enjoyment, a thuggish approach to death-metal-that-was-and-will-be, a clubbing of the senses; so if you wish your extreme metal was forever stuck in a cycling time-loop of 1987, give it a listen.