Car Bomb – Mordial [Things You Might Have Missed 2019]

New York’s Car Bomb have oddly escaped my radar, so I was stoked to finally become acquainted with the band on their blockbuster fourth LP, Mordial. Admittedly I’m less adventurous towards experimental, technical extreme metal than I used to be, but bands like the mighty The Dillinger Escape Plan, along with Burnt by the Sun, Uphill Battle and large portions of the early Willowtip roster are dear to my heart. Car Bomb’s complex, abrasive blend of mathcore and choppy, groove-centric extreme metal is full of color as surprisingly penetrating hooks lend a vaguely accessible streak to otherwise challenging and uncompromising music. The Odious released one of my favorite albums of 2019, and while Car Bomb’s attack is quite different in execution, both albums delivered some of the most unpredictable, diverse and colorfully written metal I had the pleasure to listen to in 2019.

Throwaway intro aside, Mordial is a meaty, densely-packed listen that careens with deft cohesion from one madcap song to another. Cohesion is a relative term in the world of Car Bomb, and plenty of metalheads will find the band’s style too out there and chaotic to enjoy. But within their experimental domain, I contest that Car Bomb can skillfully make sense of the spastic compositions they create, incorporating melodic passages, clean singing, and concrete slinging grooves to help balance out the jagged rhythms, unconventional guitar work and complex arrangements, full of mind-fuckery. Such challenging extreme metal can be a lot to take in and Car Bomb’s mode of destruction is no exception. However, for such music to really work beyond the mind-boggling technicality and barely harnessed chaos, a modicum of accessibility, at least in an unconventional sense, is required to suck you in and keep the listener coming back for repeat doses. Car Bomb succeed in this regard.

The 45 minutes comprising Mordial waste little space, with only the ambient textures of introductory track “Start” being genuinely disposable. This is a misleading prelude into the insanity to follow, which begins in earnest via the cutthroat aggression and unpredictable rhythmic assault of “Fade Out.” The song careens manically from hardcore-edged, poly-rhythmic beatdowns, propulsive grooves into solid clean vocal passages, offering moments of respite and melody while imbuing a druggy ’90s alt-rock vibe. The song, and many of its counterparts, embody Car Bomb’s deadly mix of the complex, extreme and oddly infectious nature of their songwriting, at once progressive, uncompromising, and thoroughly tweaked.

The grindy, tech-death battery, filtered through a hardcore, djent-infected lens, and embellished with surreal clean vocals, highlights the bonkers “XoXoy.” “HeLa” chugs and lurches with chunky, technical riffs and malfunctioning rhythms, while unleashing a delightfully infectious central vocal hook. Elsewhere, the not-so-subtle nod to classic Metallica on “Blackened Battery” features Car Bomb’s mangled, unhinged take on technical thrash. There are ample nuggets of tightly wound, adventurous, catchy material on offer, with little in the way of missteps, although the length of the album is a lot to swallow in one sitting. Meanwhile the strange laser-like guitar effects on the otherwise blistering “Dissect Yourself” are a touch distracting and the smashed mastering of an otherwise sharp and boisterous production job threatens ear fatigue. Otherwise, Car Bomb hit the mark more often than not, crafting a remarkably cohesive and consistent album.

The drawbacks are relatively minor in the big scheme of things. Car Bomb’s Mordial is an eccentric, deranged, and schizoid amalgam of extreme styles that hits the sweet spot, where genre-bending innovation, unorthodox extremity, and strange addiction converse.

Songs to Scramble your Brain: ”Fade Out,” “XoXoy,” “HeLa”

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