Without Mercy – Seismic


Is Canada going through an extreme metal renaissance? Not a week goes by without the staff at Scream Blast Repeat receiving a promo link to yet another band from the North American nation. Now it’s the turn of Without Mercy, and, yet again, we’re speechless. Who’s up for a progressive tech death band with a groove metal stomp and a riff machine underpinning the type of manic vocals that make the pupils of your eyes turn red? Surely, not one of you shook your head in the negative, right?

Despite their thirteen-year recording career, this is only the second album from Without Mercy among a plethora of EPs. The reason for this in unclear, but it may have something to do with the fact that guitarist, DJ Temple, and drummer, Matt Helie, run their own music academy in British Columbia. As respected names among professional musicians, they don’t hesitate to call in the favours, either. Jeff Loomis and former Megadeth shredder, Chris Broderick, both lend their chops to this record, yet it remains an independent release backed in the digital sector by Nuclear Blast spin-off, Blood Blast Distribution.

Like Cult of Lilith, these Canadians make it a mission to accommodate a multitude of styles and notes into their compositions within the framework of extreme metal. The guitars are tuned low and bludgeon like Decapitated at their staccato best, full of virtuoso chromatics and classical scales that recall English shredder, The Great Kat, at her plectrum-swooping best. Opener, ‘Thunderbird’ bruises with a vintage Meshuggah polyrhythm and segues into the type of mathcore/prog metal that Textures did so well before their split in 2016. ‘Abysmal’ is extraordinary in its technical prowess. Is it groove metal, djent, death metal? Who cares? The Stevie Ray Vaughan solo gives us an emotive blues outburst that seemed unfathomable at the beginning of the song. Yet it works as well as Ozzy Osbourne’s pacemaker and gives the music an edge of originality. Just when you think it can’t get any better, they assault you with ‘Left Alone’, a track that feels like Kataklysm covering Dillinger Escape Plan with Buckethead on lead guitar and Les Claypool on bass. Holy fuck! This is straight out of the prog metal school of excellence with all sorts of twists and turns and a dirty Pantera lick thrown in for good measure before the discourse between lead guitar and bass reaches the standard of a musical dialogue.

It’s no secret we prize technical ability here at Scream Blast Repeat, but we also like our music to have soul, and there’s plenty of that on this record. But it’s a troubled soul, one that seems imprisoned in a doom loop of neo-suicidal madness. Vocalist, Alex Friis, is more unhinged than Dennis Hopper’s character in Blue Velvet and as demented as Christian Bale’s portrayal of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. You know the scene, where he chases the prostitute around the stairways of his Manhattan apartment building with a chainsaw. Every song on here is like an attempt to keep the intensity levels on a par with Strapping Young Lad’s legendary ‘Shitstorm’ track from their 2005 album. The magnificent, ‘Disinfect the Soul’, is a brutal seven-minute detour through a hurricane of eye-widening death metal riffs; ‘The Disaster’ even more ferocious, like fellow Canadians, The Myopia Condition, except with classical guitar runs providing the ammunition for Matt Helie’s barrage of double-kick rhythms.

Yet somehow, Alex Friis is determined to be heard over the tech death brilliance and does a great job of illuminating his psychotic madness. The lyrics are one man’s descent into catatonic insanity, writhing with paranoia and subservient to an alter ego that threatens to drag him into self-destruction. Read the verses to ‘I Break the Chains’ and marvel at their poignancy: “It is better to die from curiosity than cancer/ Be wary where you air your demons/ Everybody holding hands will never be the key to peace.” These are not generic words. Clench your jaw and re-read them.

Without Mercy more than live up to their name. The members are as ugly as you’d expect from four chunky men with long hair wearing cargo pants. As a quartet, they create a euphoric hysteria that threatens to spill over into outright obliteration, yet they come out of the other side intact. It’s a remarkable achievement to be so heavy and so insightful at the same time.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 20/11/2020

Record Label: Blood Blast Distribution

Standout tracks: Thunderbird, Left Alone, Disinfect the Soul

Suggested Further Listening: Meshuggah – Destroy Erase Improve (1995), Cult of Lilith – Mara (2020), Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (2018)