Lord Mantis – Universal Death Church

Band: Lord Mantis
Title: Universal Death Church
Label: Profound Lore Records
Release Date: 22 November 2019
Country: USA
Format reviewed: MP3 320kb 

A never-ending argument in the metal community definitely is which sub-genre is the heaviest. This might be because we might have different definitions for the term “heavy”. The fast rhythm section of a thrash record, the thundering double bass of an old school death metal band and the unending shower of blast beats and shrieking vocals of a black metal group can all be viewed as heavy without anyone being wrong. All this is, of course, subjective and so, I must have my own opinion on this matter. In this situation, I have to side with sludge metal. The abundant distortion, the spiteful vocals, the prominent bass, all deliver a complete package that scratches my “heavy” itch. So does LORD MANTIS tick these boxes?

LORD MANTIS hails from Chicago, the same city that houses bands like The Atlas Moth or Indian. Since 2005, the group took the mission of poisoning the world with their brand of noisy blackened sludge metal and did so with three full-lengths, “Universal Death Church” being their fourth effort. The album consists of eight songs, adding up to a total of 44 minutes of playtime, quite the right length for this type of record. 

It all starts with the shortest song, “Santa Muerte”. Despite the fact that it’s just a tad over two minutes long, it doesn’t waste even a second: blast beats and guitars explode almost right out of the gate, the wailing distorted vocals making an appearance shortly after that. The chorus, if you could call it that, will definitely get your heart running and infuse your mind with blind rage and, without notice, you might find yourself screaming “Against us!” like you’re taking part in a riot. The following track, “God’s Animal” goes for a more mid-paced tempo, but doesn’t give any of the hatred up. By this point, it should be evident that the vocal performance by Charlie Fell is terrific. While every word that comes out of his mouth is so heavily distorted that you can just barely understand anything, you don’t need lyrics to know this is not about flowers and friendship. It sounds pissed off, it sounds as if he’s ready to snap your neck off through your speakers. Another stand-out song is “Consciousness.exe”. This one also fits in the category of shorter pieces on the album, but it has a somewhat melodic riff that should feel out of place, but isn’t. The odd one out of the bunch is the interlude, “Low Entropy Narcosis”, but I’ll get to that in a minute. “Damocles Falls” is a solid song that displays the qualities of this record, however, it’s “Fleshworld” that grabbed my attention and stuck with me. I believe it’s the most feral track on “Universal Death Church”. Even in its quietest moments, it still manages to feel intimidating. After that, it all ends with “Hole” that offers a small twist I never expected. 

As I asked in the beginning, how does LORD MANTIS fare in the “heavy” category? Really, not bad at all. “Universal Death Church” is a very solid album with a high replay value that’s sure to make a good soundtrack for those bad days. Listening to it, I found myself going on an imaginary rampage with a blunt object in my hands, swinging left and right indiscriminately, almost hearing the sounds of caved in skulls. However, I have a few comments on it. Compared to “Death Mask”, their previous album, I can’t help but think that U. D. C. sounds a bit flat. “Death Mask” sounds even more like an unhinged beast, with a prominent low end that contributes to a punchy sound and a better sound overall. When it comes to sludge, especially the nihilistic kind, I want to feel like I have two constant moving graters stuck to my ears, slowly peeling away my flesh. Also, there’s “Low Entropy Narcosis” that, for me, brings the album to a screeching halt. Yes, “Death Mask” also had an interlude, but that one was more brooding, it was more like stopping during a killing frenzy to catch our breath, whilst this one isn’t so menacing and it resembles stopping on an escalator while chasing someone. 

Despite all this, I played “Universal Death Church” a considerable number of times and these little issues didn’t stop me from enjoying it. I’m sure it will not leave my playlist anytime soon. After all, we all feel like breaking some spines from time to time. 8/10 Metal Gentleman

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