Metal is the Heinz Ketchup of musical genres. I’m not saying it’s only worthwhile alongside grilled cheese or as an ingredient in meatloaf, but rather that we have an ever-expanding version of Heinz’s “57 Varieties” tagline when it comes to subgenres. We don’t know what “progressive” truly entails anymore, what is or isn’t really black metal always seems to be up for debate, and through the salt and the flames I’m still confused as to how “brutal death metal with hardcore breakdowns” somehow isn’t deathcore. Eyes already glazed over? Well, I’ve got some good news: Italy’s Mefitic spend their debut LP Woes of Mortal Devotion emphatically pigeonholing themselves into a specific and recognizable sound and making life easier for everyone.
Mefitic pursue the time-honoured tradition of pillaging Incantation’s back catalogue and using their ill-gotten gains to craft something inferior whilst interjecting a smidgen of black metal into the proceedings a la Wrathprayer as opposed to the greatly more black metal oriented Incantation-isms of Profanatica. This is the murky and cavernous sort of death metal that shifts tempos on the regular and is anchored down by gurgling vocals reminiscent of Craig Pillard, with Enthroned styled black metal used primarily as window dressing. These are all things I, and I’m assuming many of you, enjoy, but we’ve come this far with decidedly unexcited language. This is no accident, as try as I may, I simply can’t bring myself to care about what Mefitic are doing here.
Woes of Mortal Devotion has a moderate number of parts I find myself enjoying, which may seem to contradict what I said literally one sentence ago (don’t worry, it doesn’t). The filthy “Grievous Subsidence” reminded me of both Disma and Funebrarum, acting as a serviceable opener that, while inchoate, seemed to promise murk, depravity, and riffs. Mefitic employs some unsettling dissonance in “Eroding the Oblates of the Lord” that recall Portal and their sister band Impetuous Ritual’s attempts to keep our gaze fixed on the abyss long enough for it to gaze into us, but interjects some straightforward riffing to keep things varied instead of just wantonly diving off the dissonant deep end. The song briefly features a pummeling riff that sounds like Celtic Frost, and contrasted with the dissonant sections it becomes fairly effective.
Being able to write decent parts of songs isn’t an issue for Metific, but being able to write good songs on a whole is. The biggest issue is that each song just happens, jumping from one riff to the next and meandering about at varying tempos until eventually one song ends and the next one is in the chamber and ready to do the exact same thing. Combine this with inconsistent riffcraft throughout and the band’s staunch refusal to deviate from their path by one musical inch and you wind up with songs like “Pain” that throw together a bunch of riffs that sound like Incantation with the occasional blackened touch, but go in one ear and out the other. “The Tomb of Amaleq” has no real momentum and zero sense of direction, making the slow parts drag and the fast parts feel tacked on as a forced contrast. Like the majority of this record, “Noxious Epiclesis” plays filthy and narrow-minded riffs (which is not at all inherently bad) that really don’t do anything for me as I’ve heard it done better countless times. Scattershot songwriting, overuse of nondescript monotonous tremolo picking, and a dearth of killer riffs make Woes of Mortal Devotion an exercise in staleness and redundancy, and a feeling of “I’d rather hear something else” pervaded each listen.
What Woes of Mortal Devotion represents is a surface-level success in writing murky death metal; a case of style vastly overshadowing substance. The production is unexciting and cliché but suits the music well enough, caking everything in sludge but still allowing for most aspects to be heard with some degree of clarity. It may give some fleeting joy to die-hard devotees who need a constant new stream of this stuff as it ticks all of the right stylistic boxes in a workmanlike fashion. A hodgepodge of gears tossed into a cardboard box instead of a well-designed machine, Woes of Mortal Devotion held some interest here and there but much more often than not, it left me disappointed and bored.