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Lord Mantis – Pervertor

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With many bands, album titles often skirt the real intentions of the band’s music in order to create an atmosphere of mystique and dissonance. Let it be known, however, Lord Mantis is not one of those bands. To wit, the title of their second full length, Pervertor, is very, very apt. The entire package reeks of filth, sadism, loathing, and perversion, fleshed out by songs so hateful and black that they might as well be pits of septic waste.

Starting with the exceptionally unnerving cover which one has to see to believe (and which has shades of Dragged Into Sunlight’s Hatred of Mankind), the band wears its perversion on its sleeve. Featuring members of Von and Nachtmystium and hailing from Chicago, a scene noted for its focus on sludge and gloom (see Winter, Cianide, et al.), these dudes have the credentials to back up their disgust. These are tracks about ritual murder, pedophilia, and the glorification of garbage and filth, and by the end of it, as with any good perversion, you come to enjoy it no matter how repulsive it may feel.

It must be noted that Lord Mantis is one of the rare bands who can back up the atmosphere of repulsion and perversion that they’ve created with actual, quality musicianship. On the surface it may seem all blackened sludge in the vein of DIS or Womb, but delve deeper and one can hear elements of Celtic Frost, Meshuggah, and even Godflesh. Like Celtic Frost, Lord Mantis sometimes grind away at open chords over the most bruising of half-time beats; like Godflesh, their assault is mostly a slow, industrial dirge; like Meshuggah, passages sometimes repeat endlessly like a malfunctioning robot. And yet, above all, Lord Mantis’ music remains idiosyncratic due to its inability to leave behind the cornerstones of more traditional metal. At 1:24 in “Vile Divinity”, the previously grating song breaks into a groove out of fucking nowhere, like a NWOBHM band left to rot in an open sewer for several days. Double-kicks demonstrate the desire for LM to have themselves recognized as a true metal band, and songs like “Levia” show that they are as aware of arpeggios and harmony as well as any gothic doom band (as well as including a sweeping effect that to date I had only heard Trey Azagthoth use before).

And yet, for all this, there’s one component of Lord Mantis’ sound which no one else can match: it’s fucking ugly. Vocalist Charlie Fell spits out his lyrics like Gaahl on steroids, buoyed by a harsh, concrete-like guitar tone that rubs at your ears like grime from a dirty wall. The drums pound and pound, booming and relentless. Indeed, the endless repetition of riffs and chords often becomes monotonous, and yet this monotony is almost perverse in and of itself. The opening to “Ritual Killer” repeats the first same goddamn chord and then the same goddamn riff over and over for nearly half of the goddamn song with little variation- until you can hear Fell literally screaming at the oppression the repetition creates. You can count the number of riffs this song uses on three fingers. Likewise, “The Whip and The Body” chugs away at the same riffs and patterns for eight minutes: there is less variety, more crush (although blastbeats do lighten the atmosphere a little). This album is like a sewer in terms of confines as well as refuse: close, tight, claustrophobic, with no light at the end of the tunnel, just darkness and slime and things unwanted. That said, it’s also almost trancelike, as if summoning filth demons from some unholy subterranean slime chasm—one of the songs here is even titled “Septichrist”. Pervertor is definitely not for everyone, especially not for those more interested in aggression over atmosphere. This is not a swift punch, it’s a slow rot, meant to grind at and wear away rather than pulverize.

It’s hard to say at this point where Lord Mantis is headed as a band. This album reeks of filth and depravity, which begs the question: will they continue to follow this path? There’s only so far one can descend into darkness before it, a) becomes passé; or, b). becomes cartoonish and self-parodic. Lord Mantis is not the filthiest band out there in terms of lyrical content, and other bands are heavier, but between the lyrics and the music, Pervertor is an almost perfect storm of perverse grandeur. One hopes they don’t run this approach into the ground, as it would detract from what makes this record truly special. As it stands, however, Lord Mantis have taken the game to a new high/low, producing a grimy, loathsome album that will not appeal to many but will fully absorb some. Listen to it with this in mind. For even in the blackest, deepest septic pit, some life still grows.

— Rhys Williams

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