I heard rumors. Rumors that former works of Mercyless somehow didn’t quite convince. Records yingyanging wildly about the quality spectrum, new styles that didn’t fit the mood of the fan crowd. C.O.L.D. of 1996 that really lost them a lot of followers. Boy, that’s a ton of baggage right there.
And Max Otero even said as much during this long-gone interview with Tough Riffs Magazine back in 2015. But let’s not dwell too much on the past, no good will come out of it and this is not the History Channel. And – also – because the present can actually do better. Or – at least – this is what we like to think.
Mercyless‘ latest unholy concoction The Mother of All Plagues depicts a monster. The beast in all its ghastly splendor. So, already the neat album cover the band presents us with hints of a story. And truly, the old-style visage in black-and-white elicits promises of tons of blackened goodness. All that nice dopamine to look forward to when the rasps, cruel riffing, and dark vibes start to flow your way. Right? Only, this is a Death Metal record, for death heads made from older steel. Sorry to disappoint.
Yet, Mother does have its modern allure. Infection and Contagion were the first two words I saw on the tracklist. Doesn’t bode well, or does it? Because what good is yet another pandemic release with loads of viruses?
True, we found pestilence masks and virus themes galore in 2020. But all of these pieces saw the studio well before our favorite enemy Covid hit our shores. This record included1). And, we already enjoyed a pretty stellar piece with that theme, but from the progressive arena, not from the fiery pit like this one.
Which bears the question of what tack The Mother of All Plagues will take.
Well, Mercyless didn’t take a lot of chances this time. They embarked on that somewhat worn-out rant of good vs. evil. The epic fight between god with his wavy beard and the stinky beast. The Goat, Lightbringer, Lucifer, all the same in one.
These are crimes the band already committed in the past because new styles don’t suit them much. In short, the band set its sight on known values, with none of that newby stuff.
And truly, after the dime-a-dozen Infection leaves the stage, Rival of the Nazarene storms off with that smell of Rotting Christ2) all over it. This one really puts the pedal to the metal with this super-tight and deadly aggressive Death Metal offering that really made us hope for a good record.
At first, I recoiled at the very short airtime of only 35 minutes, though. ‘Tis usually a sign of a lazy composition or pure lack of ideas. But this time, this super-compact and straight-in-your-face piece of lava-hot metal really only warrants a relatively short blurb. Lest your brain just switches off from sheer metal overload.
And I love the guitar work of Max Otero and Gautier Merklen. Mother gorges with dense riffing on ever-changing patterns and sometimes pretty outstanding solos. And those always align themselves to the level of ambiance and teeth-gnashing wrath currently on display.
The record also sports some riff patterns that Heavy Metal already visited a long time ago. Only here, Mercyless translates all that stuff into Death Metal speak, if you will. The excellent Laqueum Diaboli is testament to that. The incoming riff sports that slightly maidenesque flavor that quickly transcends into its deathly realm. And here’s also where themes converge. Heavy Metal often screams about demons and angels. Yet more from a podium of light3), not that ever putrid stance The Mother of All Plagues depicts with its terrible darkness.
I would have fancied a bit more bass in this brass, though. Yann Tligui‘s contributions sometimes bubble to the surface. And if they do, kudos are due. Yet, more often than not, the bass disappears into the mix. And that is not4) a good thing.
In the end, The Mother of All Plagues delivers a Death Metal platter that transcends the ages. Not at proto levels, but old enough to please the stone-cold metal hearts of fans like yours truly. A super-condensed record of steely, slightly melodic deathly delights. Angst-ridden, angry, harsh, and rough. With that old good vs. evil theme that may seem somewhat outdated to some. In short, a pretty delicious metal piece, but one so intense we finally were glad it only lasted a short while.