Without playing a note, Mortal Vision accomplish what even the most veteran bands often fail at—wearing band shirts that serve as semi-appropriate reference points for its sound: Sadus, Sodom, Voivod, and Cannibal Corpse.
OK, so more Sadus and Sodom than Voivod or Cannibal Corpse. But the thrash technicality of “Possessed” and death metal bludgeoning of “Apophenia” suggest otherwise. Yet, despite all the early name-dropping here, the best thing about Mind Manipulation, Mortal Vision’s debut full-length, isn’t how closely its sound mirrors some pretty awesome bands. In fact, the best thing about the album is how, irrespective of reference points, it sounds immediate, nuanced, deliberate, and, most surprising of all, incredibly polished.
Not polished in the clean sense. But polished in the professional sense. Polished in the sense that Mind Manipulation is not only well thought out, with near-perfect pace, but also chockful of distinct songs that, while diverse in sound, also seem part of a singular aesthetic. All this from guys who look young enough that their fathers were probably still in grade school for Agent Orange in ’89. Or maybe they just use really amazing face cream.
Mind Manipulation’s eight songs clock in at about 33 minutes. Given that none of these songs would sound out of place on Sadus’ Chemical Exposure (or Illusions), the relative brevity is a good thing. And while even Chemical Exposure had the odd instrumental closer, every second here feels a necessary part of the puzzle.
As you’d expect from the name-dropped bands above, this is a guitar-heavy album. And the production accounts for that, to the detriment of Ivan Dyshlyuk’s vocals. I thought maybe it was my listening to the album in the car that made the vocals sound muffled, but it sounded much the same in decent headphones. A small quibble, but something most will pick up on fairly quickly. Lean into the fact that the guitars here have that perfect, almost live-sounding punch and you’ll care as little as I did.
Despite the frenzied riffing from said live-sounding punch, the attention to detail helps make these songs distinct. Whether it’s the sharp note threaded throughout the crunchy “Possessed” or the Schizophrenia-era Sepultura sound of “Devastated Existence,” it’s the little touches that make the songs memorable. Because of the production choices, the vocal hooks are few and far between, so the memorability largely comes from the guitar work, which, fortunately, is nothing short of stellar at times. In fact, the guitar work is so good, that it makes you wish there were a little more lead, because the rhythm can sometimes give off that monotonous, bouncy vibe you’d hear more in crossover than the more technical, speedier thrash this band largely plays.
You don’t hear a ton of younger bands paying homage to early Sepultura and Sadus—at least not pulling it off this well. Maybe that’s what sounds refreshing about Mind Manipulation. There’s a deliberateness to the chaos, and this was clearly well thought out. Though not as technical as, say, Schizophrenia—nothing approaching “Inquisition Symphony”—this is as promising a debut as I’ve heard in a long while, and I can’t wait to hear the follow up.