(On October 7th MDD Records will release a new album by the Austrian band Mastic Scum, and it’s our honor to premiere a full stream of it today, preceded by an extensive review prepared by NCS writer DGR.)
It is wild to think that were it not for 2017’s Defy EP almost nine years would have passed between releases for Austria’s Mastic Scum. As it stands. almost nine years between full-lengths is getting up there in time, and five years between an EP and a full-length is pretty lengthy as well. Usually when you get gaps like that it is because the band have gone through massive lineup changes or things behind the scenes, usually resulting in some sort of change in sound. Long-lost groups will return and it will play out like a relaunch of the band in those ways, the prior history something for the books and the current format the defining sounding.
It’s hard to even fathom the amount of shit the world has gone through in the span of time between the December 2013 release of Mastic Scum‘s album CTRL and the impending release of their new album Icon. You’d think that with everything we’ve all been through it would be reflected in the Mastic Scum sound, but Icon is kind of incredible because it’s like the band looked at the ever-shifting sands of heavy metal and the constantly changing scenes in death metal, glanced at their own brand of industrial-strength Terminator-murdering death metal, and just said, “Haha, nope”, things are going to stay exactly the same.
Because Icon picks up right where CTRL left off… like almost from the exact moment, down to the four-letter album title that has been every Mastic Scum full-length. The biggest difference here is that Icon is the first Mastic Scum album since 2005’s Mind not to feature a skull up front and center on the album art in some form. Icon is Mastic Scum once again pummeling the planet for ten songs.
If you’ve been following our site for a while you’ll likely have seen the news that among Icon‘s collection of songs are three that first appeared on the group’s 2017 Defy EP. “Virtual Irreality” – now upgraded to a 3.0 edition, hopefully with less battery drain than most of these IOS updates tend to have – “Twice The Pain”, and “Negation” have all been updated to fit alongside the other seven tracks filling in Icon‘s run time.
When we say seven other songs, we mean seven other complete songs. It’s been a little while since we’ve encountered a release that is as zero-pretense as the hammering that Mastic Scum get up to on Icon. There’s no scene-setting track ‘intro’ track, instead you get launched into the deep end, and the musical battle to stay afloat begins from there. It’s why “Digital Dementia” was a good choice as a first salvo in Icon‘s collection.
It’s the first song and also probably the most “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” statement of what Mastic Scum‘s songwriting is like here. If you were worried the band might deviate from that ultra-precise rhythmic section and groove, then “Digital Dementia” should lay any of those worries to rest. If anything, it’s the sort of song that shows that Mastic Scum are still getting terrifyingly good at ramming the musical then-futurism of a group like Fear Factory into their own branch of cyber-inflected death metal. That resulting hybrid gives you some entertainingly relentless beatings like “Front Towards Enemy”, whose mid-section faux-breakdown chugfest may be one of the most musically violent things the band have recorded.
The core of Mastic Scum has remained largely the same after their absence, with the Gandler crew and vocalist Maggo holding down the fort, while adding a new bassist to the mix – Pati Jay – in 2020. With a lineup set in stone like that there’s a guarantee that the group’s trademark surgically precise blasting and guitar chug will remain un-fucked-with on this new release.
Mastic Scum get a lot of ore out of that particular vein as well, providing many opportunities for Harry Gandler to just low-chug that guitar all the way to the center of the Earth and drummer Man Gandler to turn in another inhuman performance. It wouldn’t be shocking to hear that the main thing drilled into someone’s head after the first round with Icon might be a combo of vocalist Maggo yelling over a near non-stop double-bass roll that is mixed so as to sound like a depth charge.
Even though “Negation” is an older song – and blessedly short – it’s natural to listen to that and its follower “Create And Destroy” and wonder how any of them get through those songs without passing out by the time they’re done. Mastic Scum‘s obsession with the technological sees them transforming into musical machines themselves. The music matches, with Icon bearing all the hallmarks of an overwhelming wall of sound whose constant brutality is part headbang-festival, part battle with the listener.
Given their propensity for musical destruction, Mastic Scum‘s releases are starting feel like impact events. Every song on Icon has a singular focus on being as heavy as the band could possibly make it, so that forty minutes later you as a listener feel like you’ve been put through the wringer. On their own, each song is Mastic Scum about as nestled in their comfort zone as they could possibly get. There’s a lot of fun to be found in the band’s musical Earth-shaking, and when ‘as heavy as fucking possible’ becomes the standard, then it’s the norm by which Icon is judged by. In that way, Mastic Scum do a great job discharging another ten songs of musical beating, with light industrial flair throughout, and enough drumming to fill three or four other albums from a completely different band.
You could say there’s room for subtlety, and Mastic Scum do make light use of that – like in the closing moments of ending song “Retribution” – but for the most part the impression of Icon can be credited to the opening blueprint laid out by that first song, “Digital Dementia”. You get the simple count-in after an opening shout and it’s off to the races from there. Crazy to think that nearly nine years later CTRL will be seeing a sequel, but here we are, with Icon picking up the baton in the brutality relay race, happily sprinting right into the next inhuman performance from there.
And with that, dear readers, enjoy our full premiere stream of Icon. You can pre-order the album here or here (it’s being released by MDD Records on jewel-case CD, limited DigiPak in a box set, and a strictly limited transparent-red vinyl edition), and you’ll find Mastic Scum on the web here and here.