It’s that time of the year when the weather starts to get more menacing and all the ‘kvlt’ things which lurk in the darkness begin to rise up and the folks who handle press and distribution across the music world are bombarded with a storm of emails which prominently feature bands on the ‘kvlt’ side of the spectrum. Luckily, bands who fall outside the ‘only surfacing round winter’ circles are still releasing material at this point and thankfully, anything which isn’t black/blackened-metal stands out as a big point of interest for me, thus this review.
Mass Worship hail from Sweden, a country of massive significance in the death metal genre, therefore there is a sense of expectation and excitement around them. Add in the fact that Century Media are set to release their self-titled debut album and there has been some good promoting of this release on the part of the label, you have something which has created interest and been given enough exposure to really cut through everything else out there, especially if you’re not particularly looking for a release to check out!
Exposition aside, this release is pretty much a straight shot of death metal. It clocks in at just under 30 minutes in total runtime and the nine tracks on it are all loaded full of some serious riffs, rhythmic groove and heaviness. It’s not a release which does anything by half-measures, it is unrestrained, aggressive, angry and ridiculously heavy. To give you some context if you haven’t checked them out yet, think elements of Meshuggah, Obituary and Max Cavalera’s sound/approach all slammed together to create this monster of a release.
If that doesn’t give you a brief idea of what to expect, simply hop onto youtube or another streaming service and look up the opening track “Celestial” and you will soon come to understand things. A massive, steady paced riff hammers away methodically. It instantly draws the urge to headbang along to it and when the vocals come in, angry and raw, screams and shouts full of fierceness, you know this is something special. With the vocal feel of Meshuggah and the rhythmic precision of Max Cavalera with a sound reminiscent of Obituary’s tone, it’s one big dose of thrash/death/groove metal. Solid sounding drums which thunder out and a subtle droning haze adding to the atmosphere works brilliantly with the guitar/bass unit and as an opening statement, you cannot fault it.
“Spiritual Destitution” is slightly faster in places, leaning a little more to the Chaos A.D and Roots era Sepultura feel in terms of pacing but it has all the death metal ferocity of the first track. Once again, the sustained rhythmic and riff based assault which provides a canvas for the scathing vocal delivery works wonderfully and it’s almost like the old ‘Hammer and Anvil’ strategy when the background riff/lead section kicks in; it adds the edge whilst the main riff smashes through with unrelenting force! “Sibylline Divination” is pretty much Meshuggah like but lacking the polyrhythmic headfuckery the Swedes are known for. The colossal wall of music hits like a sledgehammer and even when the track shifts things about to a more sustained chord approach which acts like an atmospheric bombardment, it is still intense as hell. The solo which follows this is wild and cuts through like a hot knife going through butter and as this all goes on, you cannot help but sit there in awe at the controlled musical chaos.
Just these three tracks alone show how heavy the album is. It doesn’t give much breathing space and its sheer presence simply dwarfs many releases this year in terms of just how heavy it is. “Serene Remains” shows the band being a little more creative with some interesting clean guitar dynamics and a solid bassline before showing off some superb soloing skills later in the track, “Below” is an adrenaline pumping death metal assault packed with surges of gallop friendly riffs, simplistic composition and devastatingly heavy execution. A distortion to clean switch in the track leads to a tremendous explosion of riffs and wailing feedback which signals the outro which fades out, only to surge right into the following track “Proleptic Decay” which is a drum-led intense death metal experience which despite being short, has a massive presence and impact on the release. “Dreamless Graves”, the penultimate track brings back the ominous and atmospheric work, this time mixing it with a gratuitous serving of melodic death metal leadwork, leaving you with a feel of an even heavier At The Gates and this track, much like it’s start, returns to that ominous ambience which fades right into “Downpour”, the closing track which is once again an all-out assault of relentless, hammering groove metal.
Despite only being 27 minutes in length, “Mass Worship” is a serious contender for being in the top 10 albums of 2019. It does everything it needs to with little problems, the only problem it has in my opinion is that 27 minutes isn’t enough!