Mastiff – Deprecipice


‘If you haven’t heard Mastiff, prepare for your intestines to rupture and your bowels to fail you. Their hybrid brand of sludge and grindcore is nastier than a bout of swine flu,’ said Scream Blast Repeat in praise of the band’s 2021 album, Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth. As one of the heaviest records of recent years, the Hull quintet have the task of following it with something even more monstrous, and they do not disappoint with their fourth full-length outing. They’ve dropped their guitar tunings even lower and ramped up the hardcore aspects of their music, and they want to bring extreme metal to the council estates and offices of those that live under the pressure of the daily grind. In other words, everyone but the rich one percent and the educated middle classes that can afford the luxury of a settled family life.

The world is not a nice place. Most of us know this and do our best to keep it at bay and often do so with solace in the arts, sports, or creative endeavours that can focus our energies onto something positive. Yet, sometimes, the art that comes out of this environment dares to confront the harsh realities of life. Mastiff are a living example of this. They sugar-coat nothing and fear nothing. Because you must be brave to contemplate the things that will leave you despondent. Opener, ‘Bite Radius’, is a vile down-tuned hardcore attack with deafening bass frequencies and hostile vocals that sound like a boxer being worked to his limit before the big fight. Listen to the blast beats in the chorus as all musicians play their instruments in murderous contempt. Who knows what the members of Mastiff would be doing with their lives if they didn’t have an outlet in their mid-40s to unleash their frustrations onto the world? The groove in this music is the most astounding aspect when you consider the brutish nature of it. Here, a welcome death-doom passage precedes the heaviest breakdown of 2024 as it simmers like classic Sepultura before flexing its biceps in full momentum. The guitar tone is heavy enough to leave craters in the earth.

As bleak as their music is, it also remembers to aim for the heart of the metalhead. ‘Everything is Ending’ is a departure from the band’s earlier work, on this occasion following a classic Meshuggah crunch in the intro. Then the hardcore muscle takes over, and Jim Hodge rages like a resistance leader burying the dead. Imagine Stampin’ Ground injected with the might of Decapitated. A music video of people bouncing off walls at the detonation of each drumbeat would be the best way to express the adrenaline surge. Will any other artist produce anything as heavy this year? The second breakdown at the end answers the question emphatically. To what depths of violent depravity might you sink if listening to this in a vengeful mood?

Mastiff’s predecessors are easy to identify, but that does not damage their mission. ‘Void’ reminds us how well Napalm Death do Killing Joke, and how much better it would be with Mastiff’s guitar tunings. The grooves will widen your eyes and leave you licking your teeth. “We’re so close to the fucking end,” is the sentiment here, yet the music makes you feel like you’re in control of the payback against those that wronged you. ‘Cut-Throat’ is caveman doom filtered through a Godflesh hostility of industrial drumbeats. Listen to the radio dials and high frequency loops buried in the harsh amp overdrive. The distorted bass sounds like a blockage in a sewer pipe.

Though contemptuous of ambiguities, Mastiff remember to include a few subtleties. On repeat listen, you’ll notice an undercurrent of death-doom running through their music. But you might miss it among the shock and awe of their guitar riffs. ‘Skin Stripper’ needs no explanation. Here, Hodge approaches his microphone like a hardcore vocalist at ease with his masculinity (which you’d expect from a northerner who hails from the East Riding of Yorkshire). You’ll need to tuck your chin into your neck and breathe in to survive the onslaught of ‘Serrated’. “I hate this feeling of loss and despair,” roars Hodge. Look no further than ‘Worship’ if you want to hear Slayer fed through the early Machine Head grinder.

We already know Mastiff to be the heaviest band in England, and it will take a colossal effort to knock them off this perch. But Deprecipice is more than just an absurd exercise in musical annihilation. Listen how the guitars ring out with a downward crunch in the opening bars of ‘Pitiful’ as if issuing an ominous warning to those that might dare to antagonise them. “Fuck this world / Let it burn,” screams Hodge. Cue the self-destructive breakdown as your head droops and wonders if it will ever recover its strength. Has nihilism ever felt so gratifying? Will anything beat this to album-of-the-year in 2024?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 22/03/2024

Record Label: MNRK Heavy

Standout tracks: Bite Radius, Everything is Ending, Pitiful

Suggested Further Listening: Burner – It All Returns to Nothing (2023), Verminthrone – The Cull (2024), Kollapse – AR (2024)