Mercyless - Pathetic DivinityFirst, we have Fronch fries. And Fronch dressing. And Fronch bread. And Fronch death metal. And to drink, ta-da! Peru! As with most bands full of old guys like me, I have a long history with Mercyless. I received a cassette promo of 1993’s Coloured Funeral right after losing access to a free copy machine that put a nail in the coffin of the print version of Unchain the Underground. While I never got around to reviewing it, that particular slab of adventurous Fronch death metal stayed in regular rotation and made the cut through upgrades to CD right into the digital age. Now, when some people think of the French, if Groundskeeper Willie is to be believed (and he always is), they’re a bunch of cheese-eatin’ surrender monkeys. While the last thing I would EVER do is reinforce a stereotype, Mercyless mirrored their homeland’s surrender to Germany in WWII with their second and third Limburger-laden, So-Bad-They-Shall-Not-Be-Named albums in an attempt to cash in on the nu-metal craze. They had the good sense to put themselves on time out, moving over to the band Day Off Sin and subsequently winning the 2010 French Council of the Arts “What The Fucking Fuck??” award before mercifully putting that shitbag to bed and reforming under the leadership of original member Max Otero in 2011. 2013’s Unholy Black Splendor found them firmly returning to their dark death metal roots. Now, with the release their sixth full-length, Pathetic Divinity, on the cusp of their thirtieth anniversary, do Mercyless deserve pearls or a pearl necklace?

After brief requisite intro “Blood of Lambs,” the title track opens the proceedings with a funereal plod that could well serve as the march that accompanies the malevolent misfits following the trumpeting angel out of a vortex like the undead Pied Piper on the cover. Mercyless don’t rest long, blasting away at an F5 level for less than 15 seconds before pulling the tempo back for a double-bass drenched chugging verse. The chorus name drops Deicide‘s excellent 2006 return to form, and then the first real curveball hits post-chorus with a deliciously disgusting melodic interplay between bass and guitars right off of Mental Funeral. That visceral slime peppers all of Pathetic Divinity, much to its benefit.

It’s their ability to take from various sub-genres of death metal and forge them into something that incorporates the best of them without diluting any one in particular that proves Mercyless‘s most formidable skill. “My Name is Legion” is a perfect example. A dual guitar harmony over a riff that sounds like an angry swarm of yellow jackets meshes a moment of beauty with one of menace, then the thrashy kick-snare verse leads to perhaps the tastiest and most downright malevolent moment of the whole album – a spine-tingling chorus that’s equally noisome and nefarious with sparse keyboards accentuating the guitars to a haunting effect. “Left to Rot” finds them at their most Scandinavian. It’s an old school barbaric basher that wouldn’t be out-of-place on Left Hand Path or Into the Grave. “How Deep Is Your Hate,” showcases a tasteful blend of unhinged ferocity and aching melody, particularly during the guitar solos where the lead work shines brightly. The band, and especially drummer Laurent Michalak (who was also somehow in Day Off Sin), provide a perfect backdrop, embellishing the playing of Gautier Merklen and Otero rather than just providing a flat canvas for them to colo(u)r.

Mercyless 2-16

As with last year’s excellent The Unburiable Dead from Ares Kingdom, the production is very live and the sound of fingers swishing on strings is audible throughout, helping to keep things warm and organic. The inclusion of Otero’s deep inhalation before the frenzied tirade that opens “A Representation of Darkness” is another such touch. Vocally, the man is a monster, able to keep pace with George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher at his most manic but also with range enough from a snarled rasp to scraping the very bowels of hell with a monstrous roar. Bassist Matthieu Merklen’s playing is tasteful and his sound cuts through the guitars when he varies from them and thickens things when he plays for the team.

Brutality gave Floridian death metal a strong dose of Cialis with Sea of Ignorance earlier this year, and now Mercyless have unleashed a beast with Pathetic Divinity that not only wipes the slaughterhouse floor with their own discography to date, but much of what has been released since death metal’s peak. The Satan thing in metal has been done far beyond death. For a band to interject this much vitality back into a genre that all but descended into self-parody when Deicide recorded “Kill the Christian” two decades ago is not just impressive, it’s downright miraculous. As is adding two albums from 2016, both guaranteed to stand the test of time, to the lexicon of death metal.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Kaotoxin Records
Releases Worldwide: October 7th, 2016

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  • No one under the age of 40 will get your intro’s reference, you olde bastard!

    • Grymm

      “THIS IS PURE SNOW!!! It’s everywhere! Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?”

      Also, I’m *almost* 40. ;)

      Better Off Dead is awesome.

      • I’m sorry your mom blew up, Ricky.

        • Grymm


          • “Truly a sight to behold. A man beaten. The once great champ, now, a study in moppishness.”

          • It’s got raisins in it. You like raisins.

          • Hulksteraus

            Ahh, The Corey’s… Haven’t seen that movie for aeons… Can’t even find it streaming…

    • If they don’t get it, that is because people under 40 are dumb. All present virtual company aside, of course.

      • Westpaceagle

        Agreed! Old guys rule haha! Also, yay this Mercyless sounds promising. Another yay for a new Ravencult album (but that’s probably just me)

    • Factually accurate. I’m 38 and I have no fucking clue what the “fronch” thing is about.

  • This could still be album of the month september!

    • It’s actually that good, but would it look good adorning the borders of AMG. We must take façade into account, you know ;)

  • Handy Donut Hole

    I stroked my horns to that embedded track. Fucking ripping.

    • That is one of my favorite on the album

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Oh shit talk about blast from the past.. Colored Funeral is a fucking ripper!

    • We’ll reissue it through our sublabel KaosKvlt in 2017 including a vinyl version for the first time ever :)

  • Reese Burns

    No offence to any of the other reviewers here, but Al reviews are just on a whole other level.

    • The potty level?

    • Merci buckets.

      • Hulksteraus

        I note that this is the second review in a row that goes down the potty route… Is this Steely D management in action?

        • It’s a filthy business.

          • Hulksteraus

            Have you taken their staplers from them and moved their desks to the dungeon closet yet?

          • I, I, I’m going to set the building on fire.

          • Hulksteraus

            So expecting to see you on a Carribbean Island some time soon?

          • I said no salt, NO salt for the margarita

          • Yeah, I’m gonna need you to just go ahead and work this weekend.

          • The Unicorn

            NO. RED. STAPLERS.

        • When you’re over forty your bowel movements become very important.

      • “Mercy buckets” surely?

        • I’m dead serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

          • Patrick Bearden

            BWAAAHAAA!! Don’t you DARE call him that!!!

  • Thank you SO much for this awesome review!

  • jetblindracos

    I like a lot when this is audible; “the sound of fingers swishing on strings”.

  • I am listening and enjoying this album, but totally missed out on the fact that Mercyless reformed and released an album before this in 2013 (no AMG review though :()

    • Let’s say they change label for some reasons… We’ll reissue “Unholy Black Splendour” in 2017 or 2018 anyway :)

  • Gaëtan Baratin

    I wanted a Fronch Metal tag. I am disappointed.

  • Elton Chagas

    Bloodbath songwriting mixed with Vomitory riffage mixed with Entombed vocals mixed with Autopsy blast beats.

    I would gave this like 5.5 out of 5.0.

    • It is impossible for anything to be more than 100%

  • Requiem

    Reminiscent of Putrid Offal’s Mature Necropsy with Sigh-style melodic riffing, malevolent harsh vocals with amazing range, and an utterly badass chorus..? I think I’m in love with the embedded track, as I’ve hit the replay button about 10 times almost by subconscious reflex!