(NCS guest contributor Austin Weber reviews the forthcoming second album by Tasmanian death metal band Mephistopheles.)
In the past couple of years, the number of creative and talented Australian metal bands has grown and become a force to be reckoned with. Which is not to say their scene hasn’t always slayed; I’ve been jamming plenty of bands from there for years, including the almighty but now defunct Alchemist. Well, we can add another name to the pile of Australia’s best in Tasmania’s own Mephistopheles. A band on the cusp of releasing their second album Sounds Of The End, they have crafted an album that will stand as among the best metal that comes out this year. While few know the name, many will recognize members of their lineup which includes vocalist Matt Chalky (Psycroptic) and sole guitarist Ben Lawless (live for Spawn Of Possession), who also performs vocals.
Sounds Of The End matches its name not only in ferocity but also with an uplifting beauty that sometimes includes some very emotive clean singing. Sonically, Mephistopheles mix and match technical death metal of the Spawn Of Possession school and old-school death metal variety with a rarely straightforward and often reflective black metal side. Their love for songs that revolve around big groovy riffs instead of a shower of leads and solely blazing nature further sets them apart from the preconceived notion of what technical death metal sounds like. Mephistopheles also likes to use that back and forth, wind-sweeping build-up sort of riff that you hear in The Faceless, but done a bit differently, and used to good effect.
What truly makes Sounds Of The End so killer was the band’s decision to write their songs in that frantically switching way that divides time between ruthless death metal aggression, esoteric black metal, progressive moments, and some occasional blasting blackened terror. The only band I could compare them to is Arkhum, not sonically, but in the way they combine and switch so often between death and black metal in a new and interesting way.
As for the individual members’ performances, Chalky’s vocals seem to have even more power here than what he has displayed before, while still retaining that gritty throatiness and crackling to his screams that is uniquely his own and drips with evil. Guitarist Ben Lawless is some sort of vicious riff machine, and blankets Sounds Of The End with a grooviness you can sink your teeth into while also doing backing vocals. Which brings up the tastefully included and surprisingly good clean singing. Since the band does not state who does the clean singing, it could be Chalky or it could be Ben Lawless. Either way, tracks like “Soldiers Of The End” and “Great Orbs Of The Sky”, which feature passages of soft yet powerfully sung parts, lends yet another facet and further depth of emotion to Mephistopheles’ identity.
Since the band only has one guitarist, that leaves plenty of room for bassist James Excell to bounce around in the mix and add a different texture to the music. Finally, drummer Sam Dowson has his work cut out for him just following the ever-shifting guitar-work, and yet he somehow succeeds by following pace with a barrage of complex stop/start drum work and frenetic blasting.
Their riffs are a huge part of what sets them apart from what you think of when you hear technical death metal, and contain an inherent deadly elasticity and elongated groovy nature. Yet they can slay at those hyper tempos when they so desire, as on some parts of “The End Of All Light” or the opener “Pariahs Of The Universe” after its initial, hypnotic then doomy, intro. Sounds Of The End rings forth with a rapturous divinity; overwhelmingly, the feelings I get from this are not chiefly disgust but sadness and beauty. Reading the lyrics for “The End Of All Light” shows a definite Lovecraftian influence of mythic aliens and monsters. In these lyrics, what we cosmologically see as black holes and quasars are monsters devouring worlds, and now Earth is the target. While I haven’t seen the other lyrics, judging from the grotesque monsters on the cover, I can safely guess this is central to the album’s theme.
If you’re looking for something different and challenging, give Sounds Of The End a listen. This album is spectacular from start to finish but my absolute favorite tracks would have to be “Silver Doors”, “Pariahs Of The Universe”, “A Dolmens Makers Lament”, “Soldiers Of The End”, and “Generation O.” That’s a lot of favorite tracks, and for good reason.
Mephistopheles’ Sounds Of The End comes out October 1st through Willowtip Records and can be pre-ordered here. A full album stream via Metal Underground can be found via the link below, and one of the songs is embedded after the links: