Well, I guess the Pope is a zombie now. Admit it, you all saw that coming. A religious leader, let alone one that wields as much influence as the head of the Catholic Church? Come on. Whatever, that’s a tangent for another time. For now, let’s talk about the second full-length album by Mental Cruelty, named Inferis. The German quintet brings us this sophomore effort a mere ten months since their diabolical debut, Purgatorium. Actual human pregnancies have lasted longer than the gestation period provided for this thing, which begs the question: Is Inferis premature? Is that turnaround too quick for anybody to expect another Pergatorium?
For those who haven’t sampled Mental Cruelty‘s particular brand of brutal deathcore displayed on their debut, you can expect an exquisite riff factory that didn’t sound like very many others. Vulvodynia, maybe? Or perhaps Ingested, but either is a stretch. Part of that identity was solidified by Mental Cruelty‘s scalpel-sharp splicing of riffs and down-tempo slams. Factor in Lucca Schmerler’s intimidating vocal arsenal and a vaguely ecclesiastical perspective on the Apocalypse for lyrical content and that sums up the majority of what this band offered. And it worked.
However, on Inferis this cruel clergy infused a choir and some other symphonic baubles, presumably for the purposes of bestowing a divine majesty unto this effort which did not exist on Purgatorium. I happen to welcome that addition, being the extra cheeseball that I am. But somewhere along the way, some of the personality in the vocals was exorcized as well. Instead of Lucca’s ultra-guttural, widely varied utterances of yore1, we get a more standardized growl with only remnants of the gullet remaining. A healthy growl it may be, and we do still get some six-foot-deep rumbles and the strange gurgly brees that I loved from Purgatorium, but none bring my blood to boil as before.
Thankfully, The Riff is still strong with these boys. As before, riffs ripple with chugs and trem-picked melodies (“Priest of Damnation”) and Mental Cruelty unload plenty of slams to bring hammers down all over the goddamn place (“Planet of Misery,” “Tormentum,” “Human Evisceration”). The best examples of this tried-and-true strategy have to be “Mundus Vult Decipi” and “Cosmic Indifference,” a leviathan double-whammy right smack in the middle of the record. Marvin Kessler and Dennis Paßmann pour riff after riff after riff upon the now probably suspecting, but still ass-kicked listener while the symphonics pull back and let Viktor Dick’s bass-work apply major buffs to the already pummeling affair. “Cosmic Indifference” takes a different tack, allowing a small ghost of melody to possess the song, which eerily strengthens it more completely than you’d presume. As an added bonus, “Monocerotis,” the largely instrumental closing track, happens to be a techy surprise which shows off Kevin Popescu’s solid battery of the kit (as if he wasn’t already demolishing that same kit all the live-long day anyway).
Here’s the rub. Inferis is a solid deathcore record, but the fact that I can pick and choose sterling moments and songs from the lineup only illuminates its greatest flaw in that it is nowhere near as good as Pergatorium. The more time I spend with Inferis, the more I miss the unrestrained evisceration that was “Father of Abomination,” the massive fist to the throat that was “The Venerable One.” That debut blasted many of deathcore’s go-to albums to smithereens. Inferis feels closer to another charred shard of shrapnel in the rubble left by its predecessor.
Oh, well! Those who like this stuff will probably buy and spin the shit out of Inferis. That is an acceptable life choice because there’s plenty to enjoy here. For those who demand more pizzazz in their deathcore, I suggest cautious optimism for the third outing and a renewed hard-on for the first. Regardless, keep a close eye on Mental Cruelty because when they are on their A-game, they play some seriously sweet brutal deathcore.