Founded in 2013, the Symphonic Technical Death metallers Mordant Rapture from San Jose, California, are finally releasing their first EP on the upcoming Friday the 13th. According to guitarist Ben Wilkinson, the work on the record was a “culmination of countless gallons of coffee, sleep deprivation, and doubts”, so let’s give it a spin!
The first track of the EP, Unsightly Beast, begins with a trickling and elegant piano melody, that are soon accompanied by violin synths until the vocals kick in suddenly and forcefully: The rhythmic and bellowing growls tie in well with a strong execution of both rhythm and melody in the guitars. Overall, the song very quickly shows off its precise and technical character, which is supported by the very clean and triggered drums as well as overlaps in the vocals that create a sense of hectic chaos and polyphony. The digital sound of the solo guitar is reminiscent of speed masters Dragonforce; paired with the clean drum sound it clashes with the somewhat kitschy violin synthesisers repeatedly resurfacing in the background. The piano also makes a short comeback only for the finale to kick in: This time, the guitar solo sounds more bright and resounding, which ties in way better with the bigger picture here. It feels as if the song could have ended after this second solo. However, we move on with another rhythmic and blast-beat-supported piece of verse that pushes towards the climax and simultaneous end of the song, whilst adding more synths in the background, which seems like a bit of a sensory overload.
Luckily, Withered gives the listener a tranquil piano and synth breather at the beginning that is, again, wiped out by a somewhat sudden assault of the heavy instruments. Not only the beginning but also the overall picture is quite similar, perhaps too similar: fast thrashing, blast beats, even more aggressive vocals and perhaps a little less melody in the guitars make the song seem like a continuation of the first. The echoy and transparent guitar solo sound towards the end stands out and is matched up with the rest of the instruments but appears like a good idea to end the song at 2:51 rather than drawing it out more.
A Plea Above Ashes serves as an interview with violin synths, soft piano and then also sounds setting in. The somewhat artificial sound of the instruments matches the technical and digital aesthetic of the record. At last, the piano creates a mysterious pace and preparation for the next song; however, the combination and alteration of the different instrumentals seems a bit too mixed up and partly abrupt, especially as the choice of instruments primes the listener to expect more instrumental coherence and slow traditions as they are found in classical music.
The high violin-like synths in the next tune Quell the Voiceless produce an eerie atmosphere in the background of very raw and thrashing instrumentals and angry vocals. A controversial passage is the breakdown passage that impressively succeeds in featuring blast beats; unfortunately the choir and violin synths setting in at the same time feel like an aural overkill. The incoherent character only gets amplified by a passage confronting the listener with spoken vocals, a very fast but not very emotionally emotive guitar solo as well as somewhat out-of-place Nightwish-like choir synths. In addition to that, the listener is left wondering whether winding down the speed for once would have done the song or the album a favour as there is a lot going on that flies by so fast that it does not really hit the heart.
The mysterious atmosphere built up in last song Natal Trophies caters a bit to these wishes. Again, the drums and guitars set in pretty abruptly but in this case the melancholy of the melodies and the slightly toned down tempo do the band’s signature move a big favour. After the second minute we move into furious thrashing, overlapping screams and rhythmically pushing guitars again, which unfortunately does not seem to expand the emotional potential the song has started out with. A fast guitar solo and another aggressive verse passage do not come unexpected after having heard the previous tracks. A staccato guitar communicating perfectly with the darker drum beats towards the end, manages to surprise the listener a little but the outro featuring somewhat synths and choir sounds feels somewhat sudden and forced.
All in all, ‘The Abnegation’ should be a musical treat for die-hard fans of both Tech Death and Metal Core. This record offers a lot of food for speed-hungry ears, whereas the partly unorthodox sound combinations are perhaps a little over-ambitious.