Norway’s Mental Disaster bring the old school thunder with their latest offering “The Repulsive Abomination.”
Death Metal typically falls into some rapidly identifiable sub-sections these days, and the old school flag is unmissably and proudly flown on “The Repulsive Abomination.” It must be said that if you’re going to kick it old school you must live and die by the riff, and revel in song structures that are accessible when compared to the standards of brutality and nuance that have come to fruition over thirty or so years of development in the genre. This Norwegian act manages to achieve that accessibility and explore a range of thematic sensibilities from the classic to the Blackened extremes of the Metal lexicon.
Right from the outset “The Repulsive Abomination” represents a significant step forward in production from 2016’s “Raping the Symbol of Humanity,” and sonically it is difficult not to fall in love with the mid range of the guitars and the way they sit in the mix. Vocalist Jan Åge leaps from an addictive low rasp to searing highs that although yin/yang with little between, give the songs an effective stylistic breadth. Thundering drums that sit across the soundscape beautifully and a Floridian low end reminiscent of many seminal acts round out a muscular sound that nails what it sets out to achieve – which I daresay is not to break new boundaries but serve up great steaming slabs of festering Metal.
Start to finish the album presents high standard fare with “The Repulsive Abomination” launching into the fury with its eponymous first track. The start-stop introduction draws the listener before taking all of fifteen seconds to erupt into the mayhem of which these Norwegians are capable. The title track serves as an executive summary of all to follow…brutality, melody, dual vocal, and an unyielding approach to song craft.
But it is in mid-paced riffery that Mental Disaster truly delivers in spades – and as Pink Floyd would have it you can’t have your mid-paced pudding if you don’t eat your meat… meat being onslaughts of discordant passages, enraged rhythmic ferocity and wild double kick mayhem. Old school Death Metal has a particular version of light and shade that revolves around this pudding/meat construct and Mental Disaster serve it up with aplomb.
“Disciples of Ignorance” is a great example of this and a mid-pace addict’s wet dream. With an absolute cracker of an intro riff it takes all of ten seconds to flip the double kick switch and inside thirty seconds we are back to that killer opening riff for verse one. A ripping tune with some top-notch pure Thrash Metal passages that play a significant part in keeping the listener firmly strapped in for “High Priest of Doom” and “Bow to the Blade” to rollick along as the album kicks into gear
“Graveyard Symposium” regales with some Blackened beauty and exquisite delay dripping melody that would find a proud home within many far less abrasive Metal forms. There is an artistry here that demonstrates from how far and wide Mental Disaster draw stylistically, and serves as an excellent fulcrum to the latter half of the album where some of the choicest cuts and superior musicianship can be found.
Almost taking breath, “Sword of Vengeance” allows itself to wade in some comfortably pure Metal waters before commencing the slide into the hellish domain of the remaining songs. It unleashes one of the finest moments on the album – an intricate twin guitar lead of immense discordance that resolves to some beautiful tapping melody into an almost Trad-Metal link to more tremolo-picked, double kicked phrenetics. A must listen track and another that displays the incredible agility of a band that retain an OSDM feel while taking things farther afield than many a contemporary.
“Testify and Repent” is one that eschews the meat and jumps straight to the chugging pudding… and this little piggy was feasting unashamedly on some sweet, sweet pudding. One of the finest tracks on the album from the very first listen, “Testify” showcases Mental Disaster at their best – an accessible structure built around classic riffing, coupled with a thundering and varied rhythmic assault that builds serious satisfaction when it resolves to the central idea.
The cracking, stomping romp of “Mauled Beyond Belief” yields arguably the crowning riff of the album. It is thematic to the song beyond its recurrence, as fragments of it seep into the guitars throughout creating a cohesiveness that it both compelling and a fine example of the continually improving song writing and arranging of the band.
“Berserker Rage Unfold” revolves around another central theme that shoots straight to the old school aesthetic and hits the target unwaveringly. The tune thrashes along with real glee apparent in the musicianship and arrangement: a genuine good time being had here it seems. Sometimes the best tracks happen with the least effort and there is an immediacy about “Berserker” that is hard to ignore.
Closing out an album with a song that genuinely feels a closer is a skill that eludes artists of many musical backgrounds and it is superb to hear Mental Disaster utilise one of their key weapons in reverb drenched lead tones to prepare the listener to disembark from the feasting table.
If you intend to dine on “The Repulsive Abomination,” dine on it loud…exceptionally so: it’s a great example of how the foundational ideas of the Death Metal genre can still be worked to perfection with brevity and simplicity, kicking it old school whilst indulging in a wide array of brutal colours at the same time.
Mental Disaster: Can they kick it? Yes they can.
Rating – 4/5