Mortician (United States Of America) – Hacked Up For Barbecue

This is Mortician’s first ‘official’ full-length album, and probably their best, although all Mortician albums are great (excluding the live one which even I can’t excuse). It’s the most atmospheric of them all, it’s got great, thick production, and apart from the great, memorable songs, the unmemorable ones are still great while they’re being played. All in all, it’s a great death/grind record that I listen to constantly due to its unbelievably consistency. It’s a great album, and Mortician are a great band.

I’m not entirely sure why so many people criticize Mortician, because everything you say to theoretically criticize the band can be refuted by saying that, well, it’s Mortician, and you can’t criticize them for what they are. The songs are just mindless blasting and tremolo or stupid chugging? No shit, it’s Mortician. The bass is just noise and the vocals are completely indecipherable grunting? No shit, it’s Mortician. All the songs sound the same, the band uses the same riffs over and over, and they don’t even seem to try to make actual songs? No shit, it’s Mortician. How can you really attempt to criticize the band for this stuff? THAT IS THE BAND. The whole IDEA of Mortician is mindless brutality and a horrific atmosphere, and anything above and beyond those two elements is a bonus. Insulting Mortician for the way they sound is like going up to a champion pole vaulter and getting on their case for not being awesome at synchronized swimming. They’re there to vault pole, dumbass, not to swim, so stop being retarded.

Okay, so if you don’t know Mortician, the average song is made of a hyperfast, hyperobvious drum machine, insanely downtuned tremolo riffing, noisy, tuneless, ultra-distorted bass, and similarly ultra-low growls from Will Rahmer. There are other songs which revolve more around slow, chugging riffs and slower (but still really obvious) drum machine, and everything else is the same; generally it breaks into a blast at one point anyway, so there’s little difference. There’s a stock horror movie sample at the beginning of nearly every track. Riffs are reused CONSTANTLY and are really more useful as another layer of noise than they are at communicating any sort of melody. In general, the blasting sections are really more noise than anything, as it’s just a collection of drum machine rattling, indecipherable tremolo riffs, and churning vocals. They’re there to be brutal and nothing more, just as the samples are designed to introduce atmosphere and nothing more. There is nothing multilayered about this album.

The riffs that Mortician use are not death metal riffs. I’d say they’re pretty much grindcore riffs minus the punk. The slower sections are very death metal influenced (and have older influences like Celtic Frost as well), but all the tremolo riffs have not a trace of metal in them. However, it’s more that they don’t have a trace of ANYTHING in them. If you look at a tab for a Mortician song in its blasting sections, you’ll clearly see riffs that have NOTHING to do with death metal. They aren’t composed with any purpose; they’re essentially random notes strung together because they needed a riff (because they need the guitar noise) and you won’t be able to tell the melody anyway under the blast beat. This is why you see meaningless, tuneless 4-3-2-1 riffs throughout Mortician’s catalog; it’s because the band doesn’t care and they’re completely unimportant anyway.

The blasting sections are just used as filler between the slow and mid-paced bridges, and THAT’S where Mortician comes into their own. Consider the blasting sort of a necessary evil to give the mid-paced sections the gravity they need. Slow Mortician tracks are some of the most crushing metal songs ever made, like on ‘Fog Of Death’ or ‘Witches’ Coven’, which both pack insanely brutal and heavy riffs into essentially meaningless song structures. They’re not really groovy, just punishing, and you really can see the influence that Mortician has on later brutal and slam death bands on tracks like ‘Inquisition’, with probably the most convoluted chug riff on the album. They get you headbanging, but not moving. The music is just completely brute force from square one to end. If you can’t appreciate brute force, though, you’re just not going to enjoy it.

In actuality, it’s hard to communicate any real description of the music on this album because it’s so brute and innate. You could kind of say that this is death metal stripped of the ‘metal’ part; unlike other bands, you can’t really trace Mortician back to Morbid Angel or Possessed or any of the extreme thrash bands, or even to Napalm Death or the oldschool grind artists. They just sort of came out of nowhere and have been perpetually existing since then. There’s such a sharp delineation between when the band is actually trying and when they’re not that it’s impossible not to notice; you can tell by how much more coherent the riffs and drum programming are in the groove sections, where the blasting and gore-polka stuff ala Cock And Ball Torture are just there to be there and give more meat to the music. It’s practically death metal dadaism, because Mortician proves that you only need to try where effort is a necessity.

Every track on this album sounds essentially the same. How can you criticize that, though? It’s unbelievably mono-dimensional, as it intends to be, and as it SHOULD be. There is atmosphere; there’s a primitive brutality that’s genuinely ominous, and actually gets communicated as much through the mindless brutality as it is the more written chugging. It seems to reflect a sort of creepy, psychotic, utterly emotionless feel that isn’t replicated anywhere else, where death and gore are sought for death and gore themselves. I can’t even say that this album is primitive, because it almost seems like a glimpse into the future, at death metal’s ultimate endpoint: a pure expression of brutality with no thought or philosophizing getting in its way. I don’t even know why they bothered to write lyrics.

This album is perfect at what it is supposed to be. It’s beyond criticism on the terms of any ‘normal’ music, because this isn’t normal music. It’s Mortician, and it has to be judged as such. Listen to it if you get it, but don’t complain if you don’t.

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~ by noktorn on January 30, 2008.

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