As much as metal continues to expand outward, taking influences from within and outside its heavy foundations, adjective-happy genres like “blackened sludge-thrash” or “crusty stoner-doom” or what-have-you eventually inhabit their own mashed-together signifiers. It’s where experimentation loses ground and has the potential to become streamlined. From Mortals’ second album, Cursed to See the Future, “Epochryphal Gloom” dynamically digs into the gnarliest extremes of metal in eight minutes.
The trio is from Brooklyn, but its deliberate approach to song-building feels more like multifaceted Bay Area bands like Ludicra and Hammers of Misfortune: Show the seams, don’t cover them up with in-the-red production buzz. When bassist Lesley Wolf’s lumbering two-minute riff transitions into guitarist Elizabeth Cline’s galloping black-metal frenzy, the effect is more like a dead weight tossed into the river than a swarm you’ve seen coming for miles. When Cline locks into a sinister groove at 4:43, drummer Caryn Havlik breaks the beat with a New Orleans bounce. (It should be noted, by the way, that not only has Cline appeared on NPR’s airwaves before, but Havlik is a producer for WNYC’s New Sounds. Who says NPR isn’t metal?) It’s not only the element of surprise that makes “Epochryphal Gloom” noteworthy, but the way you can feel Mortals sweat as the band bounces into a thrashed boogie.
Cursed to See the Future comes out July 8 on Relapse Records.