It’s no secret that Charlie Fell has issues. Anyone reading the few interviews he gave to promote Death Mask (Profound Lore Records), his last outing with Chicago’s Lord Mantis prior to his acrimonious departure from the band, won’t fail to be staggered by some of the personal revelations feeding his lyrical contribution to that album. Coupled with the tragic loss of revered drummer Bill Bumgardner in 2016, it was hard to see a way for the soul of this truly disturbing entity to continue forward: yet here we are with Universal Death Church (Profound Lore Records), Fell back behind both bass and microphone and re-absorbed by the nucleus of Andrew Markuszewski, fellow returnee Ken Sorceron and honorary fifth member, vocalist Dylan O’Toole. Continue reading
So, to recap: evil Chicago entity Lord Mantis spawns from three-quarters of Blackened Sludge quartet Indian. In 2014 the band split spectacularly with troubled yet horrifically effective vocalist Charlie Fell: upon which the parent band folds and becomes the new incarnation of the progeny, Indian vocalist Dylan O’Toole assuming the role of the heinous rasp. Moreover, since the recording of new EP Nice Teeth Whore (New Density), guitarist Scott Shellhamer and bassist Will Lindsay have also departed, with Alletta Ergun moving in.
Got all that? The debris from the Fell departure has finally settled and it’s now time to see if the Mantis can silence those who doubt the credibility of the band without him. Initially Nice Teeth Whore seems something of a return to the excellent days of sophomore album Pervertor (Candlelight Records): the slurring, quickened Black boom of ‘SIG Safer’ swelling to a final crescendo and highlighting O’Toole’s hostile bark, spearing the mind yet missing that sense of ‘serial killer’ depravity Fell exudes so effortlessly.
The title track runs at a more familiar and ominous, Doom-laden pace: the sheer violent malevolence of O’Toole’s delivery complementing Bill Bumgardner’s colossal drums; the switch between rumbling riffs, shimmering Blackened passages and some wonderfully emotive yet spiked leadwork utterly compelling. It’s this reined-in brutality, desperately attempting to break free yet unable to escape from the choke-hold, that is the essence of both bands and leaves the listener fraught, nerve-shredded and exhausted in a blissful fashion
Bumgardner’s drums are again to the fore in ‘Semblances’, pummeling their way through a savage, sawing chorus from which screams resonate and slice the skin. It’s the languid, funereal hostility of ‘Final Division’, however, where the heady days of this terrifying outfit truly return: vocals so oppressive as to clog up the throat; a hateful, slow-burning intensity crawling lazily through the gut, leaving hungry leeches in its wake.
The warm, beefy production and undercurrents of howling leads may steal a little menace, but make no mistake: Lord Mantis are back to their punishing best. Let’s now hope that some stability can allow this febrile ferocity to fester…
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2015 was a big year for Californian duo Keeper: the original issue of EP The Space Between Your Teeth following mere months after their mammoth split with Sea Bastard, and just weeks before an evil joint release with Canadians Old Witch. This reissue (Third I Rex) sees its two epic, crawling tracks get a fresh press and boy, do they deserve it.
The howling, lamenting guitar opening ‘The King’ decorates a Funeral pace before Penny Keats’ hideous, prurient larynx covers the body in unholy juices. A Blackened scream full of pain, evocative of ex-Lord Mantis rasper Charlie Fell, its relentless pitch is both unnerving and affecting. The weight of the brutal yet monolithic mid-section is pulverising and lifted only slightly by the evocative bass passages of Jacob Lee, so reminiscent of Dylan Desmond. This graces the final move toward a consuming, resounding swell: a euphoric yet terrible triumph, The Great Diseased railing to the skies against their plight.
Segueing seamlessly into ‘The Fool’, Keats’ slightly more uplifting drum pattern duels against the harrowing squall before a reverb-drenched riff accompanies more horrific utterances. With a filthier, more malevolent expression does the EP’s second half spew forth, creeping with similar intent to that of the girl emerging from the well in the remake of The Ring. It’s an oppressive sound yet, with the merest hint of quickened pace from those cleverly dictating drums, it is lifted from the occasionally turgid monotony: a gradually building wall of portent suddenly dropping into an utterly crushing mid-section. In raising the track back from the floor Keats’ voice assumes demonic proportions in both foetid hostility and power, underpinned by more subtle bass lead, until a barely controlled explosion seeps and squeals through the speakers, and alarming drums send the fulminating close careering into the dank earth.
It’s hard to acclaim a reissue as a tour de force, but this is as close as it gets. It’s a testing listen yet, for those of us with a more disgusting and slow musical palate, it’s an opportunity to bask in the most wondrous embodiment of acrid recrimination and ferocious protest.
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From highly-rated Belfast quartet War Iron comes a morose, ponderous noise infected by the pure evil of Andrew ‘Baggy’ Bagwell‘s nefarious, slurring rasp. Dual leads pluck the heartstrings at intervals through the crushing riff and crawling, titanic rhythms of ‘Bludgeon Lord’, the opening track of third album Precession of the Equinoxes (Independent). A warm, crackling production heightens the sinister feel and prevents the quickening bridges from exploding into a full-on Death assault; instead applying the reins enough to make one marvel at how such a precariously-balanced pace is kept.
The desolate peal of ‘Summon Demon Scream the Abyss’ is initially accompanied by a penitent chorus before that terrible lascivity seeps over the body; a funeral groove, twisting with the slowing power and weight of a dying anaconda. Baggy’s repetitive early vocal has the sneering perversity of ex-Lord Mantis‘ screamer Charlie Fell, the track fizzing and swelling with all manner of sadistic sorrow. The introductory bass notes of the title track cause concussion, some unsettling low growls whispering around the floor before the most fetid scream tightens the sphincter: whilst colossal, almost Blackened riffs make the tension nigh-on unbearable. Oddly-pulsing leads at the mid-section combine with bone-crunching rhythmic gymnastics and brutal chops to the coda, all the while staying close to the Doom template. Closer ‘From Napalm Altar’ sees a return to that funereal hostility: the intermittent quiet moments filled with eerie language, setting the teeth on edge for the forthcoming bludgeon; every chord, note and single beat flung from Thor’s Hammer; the accompanying roars and rasps the embodiment of despair and terror.
Finally, the UK has a contender in the Blackened Doom market. Although the winding noise of an Indian or Coffinworm is absent, it’s replaced by an Ophis-style mournful tolling which adds to the ominous feel rather than detracting attention from it. The resonant, single-kick sequence closing this fine, startling album chills the spine, and leaves the feeling that nothing good will ever happen again. To Serpentine Path: if you want to scare the shit out of people at a snail’s pace, this is how you do it.
Following the news of Lord Mantis and its internal restructuring, the recently departed members have resurfaced as a new venture called Missing. The new collective was initiated by Charlie Fell (Abigail Williams, ex-Lord Mantis, ex-Avichi), Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams, ex-Lord Mantis, ex-Aborted) and Jeff Wilson (Abigail Williams, Wolvhammer, Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium). They later brought in longtime collaborators and previous and current bandmates Jef Whitehead (Leviathan, Lurker Of Chalice, Twilight), Sanford Parker (Corrections House, Twilight, ex-Nachtmystium, ex-Minsk) and Fade Kainer (Statiqbloom, Theologian) into the mix.
Missing has already begun talks with studios and engineers to record their maiden works this Summer for release in the Fall months. Stand by for tour dates and additional info on the band’s 2015 plans for annihilation to be released in the weeks just ahead.
Chicago’s Lord Mantis has issued a statement in regards to lineup restructuring with the addition of new members and parting ways with several as well. Founding members and drummer Bill Bumbardner and lead guitarist Andrew Markuszewski (Avichi, ex-Nachtmystium) have brought in former Indian members, Will Lindsay (Anatomy Of Habit, Abigail Williams, ex-Indian, ex-Nachtmystium, ex-Wolves In The Throne Room) on bass, Dylan O’Toole (ex-Indian) on vocals, and Scott Shellhamer (American Heritage, ex-Mares Of Thrace) on guitars. Additionally, the band will also collaborate with former Lord Mantis member Greg Gomer who will contribute to the band’s upcoming new recorded works.
Lord Mantis has gone through a purgatory this winter but now steps out into the light again. This is part of the reason why the last tour with TITD had to be cut short and our appearance at Roadburn 2015 was cancelled. Now we have a new lineup in place.
Dylan O’Toole (who has contributed lyrically and also performs vocals in the studio on songs for the past two records Death Mask and Pervertor) is no longer an unofficial 5th member of the band. He is now the vocalist. Will Lindsay (who also played guitar in Indian with Dylan and Bill Bumgardner) is now the bassist. Will also had a guest spot on Death Mask in the studio. To say there hasn’t been a major crossover between the Chicago bands Lord Mantis and Indian over the years would be a ridiculous statement. Indian and Lord Mantis shared the same rehearsal room together at Superior Street Studios in Chicago since the devil knows when. Scott Shellhamer, musician and artist of the band American Heritage, has also joined on guitars. The original founding member of Lord Mantis from 2005 Bill Bumgardner remains along with lead guitarist Andrew Markuszewski who has been in the band since 2008. Greg Gomer (also one of the two founding members along with Bill) hasn’t been in Lord Mantis since Pervertor which is the last record he was a part of. Greg has planned on contributing as a guest spot on the future recording currently in plan. Ken Sorceron and Charlie Fell are no longer members of Lord Mantis.
The ship has righted itself and in a very natural fashion. Even with the new lineup at this time, Lord Mantis will not be appearing at Roadburn and the subsequent tour in Europe.
An EP is being worked on already to be recorded this Spring. There are no shows being booked at this time until further notice. More news on the EP and further plans for 2015 by Lord Mantis is soon to come.