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Mutilate > Tormentium > Reviews > autothrall
Mutilate - Tormentium

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.