Good hygiene is important; it’s a sign of maturity and, more basically, evolutionary fitness. Society expects cleanliness. But for some of us, that primal little devil inside who so enjoyed flinging us headlong into mud puddles and dirt piles as kids just refuses to grow all the way up. But when we indulge that nasty imp and get down into the proverbial muck as adults, sometimes we realize there’s something more there than watery dirt. It stinks. It’s sticky. It moves. Our stomachs turn and we tremble but we stay because, somehow, we love it.
They call their bilious batter ‘blackened sludge’ and it bodes well that the leading edge of their second LP, the genre tag, signifies a shift for Lord Mantis. Whereas Spawning the Nephilim was a monster in its own right, the band’s debut suffered from something of an identity crisis, being differentiated from the throng of like-minded sludgy beasts by little more than a nimbler gait and quality execution. Pervertor punches this problem in the nuts by augmenting the debut’s rumbling hatred with an unsound rabidity.
The tweak consists mostly of a greater emphasis on the blackened piece of the genre tag and comes through consistently in two ways. One of these is Charlie Fell’s (Nachtmystium, ex-Avichi) raspy vocal approach, which was there on Spawning… but reigns on Pervertor. It’s a particularly sickened rasp, aided by some distortion and reverb effects and going a long way toward perfecting the unnerving atmospheric aims of the record. Fell plays an interesting game of call-and-answer with the guitars and the strongest moments come with rhythmic lockstep where the vocals and guitars roil together as Bill Bumgardner (Indian) cracks the snare in time. The contrasted styles play very well against each other.
Because Lord Mantis is a sludge band first, they necessarily get all down in the goo, tuning the guitars so the strings sag to below the knobs, and riding riffs till they bleed. But where the last album was a pretty straight shooter – ready, aim, pummel again and again – Pervertor is comfortable extending its reach, not by sacrificing that rumbling battery outright, but by tossing it on the rack. The songs here are about two minutes longer on average than those from the debut and do a lot more with the extra space.
The other significant adjustment comes from the guitars. Pervertor’s expanded dynamics mostly elaborate an imposed distress, so there’s nary a flittery glittery note to be heard. Instead, guitarists Andrew Markuszewski (Avichi, Nachtmystium) and Greg Gomer intensify that heavy tone with sharpened and gnarled dissonance that sometimes morphs into minor key melody reminiscent of France’s most contorted black metal. More often, though, it flays and stabs (seriously, check the way Markuszewski accents the roaring rhythm in “Levia”). And when they’re not sticking you in the eye, they’re swarming like angry hornets. Or like flies on shit. Like angry hornets on shit. The summed effect is the pervading sense that something really bad is happening and something worse is on its way.
If there is one, Pervertor‘s problem is betrayed by its name. As great a leap as this record is from Spawning the Nephilim, it still feels a bit more like a sludgy band spraying their stage with black-metally bits than a fully realized fusion of artistic ideas. It’s a small criticism that suggests we’ve got even better to look forward to from Lord Mantis. And for now, they’ve stepped up their filthy game enough that it kind of doesn’t matter that the hottest water won’t wash away the stench. Once you’ve submitted yourself to this fetid bog, you’re likely to find you just don’t care to move.