Elitist – A Mirage Of Grandeur Review

[Cover art by Tobias Holmbeck]

On debut A Mirage of Grandeur, Copenhagen’s Elitist are a whole lot of things and also not a lot of things. For example, they play Danish death metal that is not what you’d typically expect from the scene, while simultaneously earning genre tag add-ons such as dissonant, grind, technical, progressive, noise, and post-hardcore all without fitting the typical combination of those items with death metal.

It’s all of them at once and none of them in totality. A Mirage of Grandeur gets plenty grindy but also has too much of an attention span to really be death/grind; it’s dissonant like Ulcerate but tight, blunt, and focused like Death; it feels brutal and experimental like Gorguts circa From Wisdom to Hate, but also has the swagger of attitude of Sulaco; and it’s a vortex of vitriol and pointed negativity but also possesses the type of dynamics and occasional space you’d expect in great noise rock.

Release date: November 17, 2023. Label: Indisciplinarian.
One thing Elitist most certainly is: exquisite at their chosen craft, no matter how complex it might seem on paper. The key is that they aren’t remotely as kitchen-sinky as those above descriptions might hint. Rather, this sounds like the work of a seasoned band that earned that seasoning together, which they did, with three of the four band members ‒ vocalist/guitarist Simon Stenbæk Christensen, guitarist Rasmus Moesby Sørensen, and drummer Niclas Sauffaus ‒ having worked together in grinders Piss Vortex, and vocalist/bassist Thomas Fischer (no, not that one) also playing with Sørensen in UxDxS and Christensen in Dysgnostic. These cats know each other well, and the results are a very direct purpose and airtight songs.

And it’s all so smooth, even when it’s trying to rip you into 1,000 little pieces. For example, “Deluded Fallacies Spew From Rancid Mouths” is a complex, occasionally groovy, and downright wacky tune, opening with pure sass and dissonance that borders on microtones, and tied up with a preposterously thick and extremely mobile bass, neat but unflashy solo, and frequent moments of hyperblasting. “Sustaining Collapse” shows off the band’s ability to be both unsettling and intimidating at the same time, with Christensen and Sørensen shifting from unified brutality to jangly rhythm guitar riffs that seem to battle each other.

Elsewhere, “Ahistorical Pride” is slippery but never greasy, using time signature trickiness to add another level of appealing discomfort; “Vacuous Magnificence” rumbles and gets super rubbery but then allows the bass to dominate while the other instrumentation sounds a mite drunk; and “Funneled into Oblivion” takes the dual rhythm approach even further with varied phrasing and a lot of sharp, harsh accents. Each tune uses most of Elitist’s wide set of tools to paint their bleak but thoroughly infectious pictures, all with nary an awkward shift in sight, even when those shifts come suddenly, resulting in a brutally efficient (some might even say too short) 30 minutes of devastation.

But “what’s in a name?” you might ask, and the answer is “quite a bit.” In the press materials, the band states that the record “is dedicated to those who are utterly convinced of their own magnificence and therefore have nothing to spare for the undeserving; those who believe that their status makes them untouchable; those who would simply prefer to shrug at the oncoming catastrophes facing humanity.” It’s a mission statement that is backed not just by the moniker, but by the words throughout the album, if you weren’t already aware based on the song titles. Some key subjects and snippets:

  • Revisionist history to justify racism and fascism: “Neo-pagan fighters / In the war against / Imagined foes / Time shall be your banesman / And to dust you shall return.”
  • Demagoguery: “With chants of adoration / The sheep bleat at their herder / Led by confident swings of the staff / In a perpetual circle, infinitely / Going nowhere.”
  • Polishing populist turds: “Masking and adorning / A banality / Presented as the height / Of grandeur.”
  • Late capitalism and extreme inequality: “The aberrant and the destitute / Battle For scraps / At the masters’ feet / While the seats at his table / remain empty.”

Not uncommon themes these days, for very good reason. It’s all delivered with unmitigated rage through the dual vocals of Fischer and Christensen, who provide a high/low contrast of deeper growls and screams, both contrasting and complementing each other. This approach helps ground the songs in both the more traditional death metal world and the grindy/noise arena. Their ability to both exude a ton of personality obviously aids the album as well.

Another fun tidbit: A Mirage of Grandeur was mastered by Colin Marston, and from the lyrics and skronkified strangeness to that layered dissonance and the capacity for space, it seems like an album that needed to have him involved. (Sound engineer Lars Mayland obviously deserves a ton of credit for this impeccable sound as well, but just run with the angle, will ya?) Elitist absolutely shares traits with other Marston-aligned bands such as Aeviterne (minus the extended drifty and rumbly modes) and Pyrrhon (minus the improvisation and spiders-under-your-skin vibe), and it’s hard to imagine that glorious bass tone happening without his involvement. These associations are also more evidence that this isn’t the type of death metal that was mostly inspired by 80s horror movies. (This is meant in no way as a slight to those death metal bands that were inspired by 80s horror movies. Some of the best death metal bands were inspired by 80s horror movies. This should be obvious.)

The most credit should of course go to Elitist, who bursts out of the gate as a fully formed monster on this record. A Mirage of Grandeur is as scathing as it is relatable, as infectious as it is dizzying, and as violently discordant as it is oddly melodic, all adding up to one wicked great debut album that ought to be a big time highlight for a certain corner of the extreme music world.

Posted by Zach Duvall

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Obnoxious overuser of baseball metaphors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.