Mortify – Fragments at the Edge of Sorrow Review

South America has an enviable metal pedigree. Like the early 90s Floridian filth we know and love, or the Gothenburg school that scratches that brutal yet melodic itch, the South American scene has delivered its own unique set of sounds, approaches and atmospheres to the heavy metal maelstrom. Perhaps that was why I was so eager to pick up Fragments at the Edge of Sorrow, the sophomore release from Mortify, a Chilean group who specialize in a murky, bass-forward death doom concoction verging on the technical. My top albums last year were all within the tech death realm, but lo all these months later, I still feel something is missing; I need that downright disgusting atmosphere that only the grimiest of DM can deliver, coupled with noodling solos and techy variations. With stakes this so high, does Mortify deliver an album that strikes that delicate balance between putrescence and proficiency?

There’s a lot going on Fragments at the Edge of Sorrow, and some of it is good. There’s a hefty Morbid Angel influence, minus a lot of the groove. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; Mortify is certainly more varied in terms of instrumentation, but in their execution, they also lose some of the essential cohesion that can make a decent album a better one. There’s also a fair amount of Pestilence on display here, both in terms of technicality and atmospherics. You may also notice a dose of Asphyx-tinged doom, alongside some elements of Incantation and Obituary. That’s a mighty pedigree, to be sure. Unfortunately, Mortify aren’t able to reach the lofty heights of their forebears. I certainly didn’t go into this review expecting I’d uncovered the next Altars of Madness, but at the very least, I was hoping for a record that kept me engaged; something that was moderately memorable and worthy of several spins. That isn’t quite the case on Fragments at the Edge of Sorrow, no matter how badly I wanted it to be. 

The instrumentation on Fragments at the Edge of Sorrow is impressive, full stop. It’s heavy, simultaneously technical and accessible, and perhaps most important from a practical standpoint, helps to pick up some of the vocalist’s significant slack. But even this arrangement, as strong as it is, withers on the vine by the fourth or fifth track. From the chugging, technical heft on opener “Beneath the Emptiness” to the hardcore punk vibes on “Frayed Lunacy (Dying Sight)” to the dark n’ doomy “Astral Sphere from a Bleeding Soul,” Mortify are nothing if not varied musically, and that keeps things interesting longer than you’d expect. The problem, however, is twofold: the reverbed-beyond-all-recognition vocals and the repetitious songwriting. While the musicians can shred, riff, percuss and slap like nobody’s business, the vocals sound like they’re being growled over a track the frontman just hasn’t heard yet; there’s an unpleasant dissonance between song and singer that starts off as merely jarring but quickly becomes an unrelenting bore. To make matters worse, while the virtuosity is enjoyable, it doesn’t make it easier to discern one track from another; save for the four relatively distinct instrumentals, all the tracks tend to run together and meld into a single, unbroken morass, with nary a hook, refrain, or theme for the listener to latch onto.

The saving grace of Mortify’s sophomore outing is, without a doubt, the band’s musical chops. This is especially true of the bass, which is prominent throughout; a thick tone that rears its beefy head most notably on tracks “Beneath the Emptiness,” “Ethereal Illusions of Psyche,” and on the intro to “Contaminated Echos.” It should come as no surprise, then, that my favorite track on the album is the instrumental “Mindloss,” a big, bold and varied number that succeeds both because of how engaging it is, and the fact that the vocals are thankfully nowhere to be found. While the other instrumentals are much more sparse and melancholic, they offer a welcome respite from the impressive but ultimately monotonous proceedings. 

While the cover might suggest otherwise, Fragments at the Edge of Sorrow didn’t provide that vile dose of rancid DM I was hoping would so delicately compliment the technicality of it all. Truth be told, it didn’t provide much, thanks to fun but very forgettable tunes and tacked-on, irritatingly echoey vocals. Let’s hope the next time these Chilean death dealers grace my headphones, they’ve invested in some upgraded vocals to match their promising players.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Chaos Records
Websites: chaos-records.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/mortifydeathmetal
Releases Worldwide: March 25th, 2022

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