I would be a goddamned liar if I said I were a longtime fan of Canadian thrashers, Mortillery—and those who commented on last year’s Unleash the Archers review can contest to this. However, after diving deep into the band’s back catalog, I can wholeheartedly admit that, in a single week’s time, I am a diehard fan of this band. And for the first time in awhile, I will not be sent to the AMG basement for my poor taste in metal or forced outside to scrape the dead armadillo carcasses hanging from the grilles of the staff’s Prius’. Nope, not this fucking time (sorry Diabolus). Instead, I’ll be holding a bowl of salted meat and sixty-four ounce cans of beer for Mr. Druhm. It turns out that hairy gorilla loves this band more than anyone and has bestowed upon me the responsibility of reviewing their 2016 release, Shapeshifter. And for longtime fans of the band, you’ll get just what you expect: heavy-metal/thrash songwriting and throat-shredding vocals from Cara McCutchen.
As McCutchen has proven before, she can be just as angelic as her Canadian counterpart, Brittney Slayes, and downright vicious when the situation calls for it (which it does about 99% of the time). The classic “F.O.A.D.” (the unofficial entrance music of “Dr. Grier the Greeeat”) is proof of the spit-in-your-face attitude of Mortillery‘s frontwoman; an essential ingredient to the band’s success. Fusing the guitar solos and classic-metal melodics of Iron Maiden with the absurdly catchy pluckings of speed-demons like Exciter, McCutchen’s ravaging vocals top the cake—at times combining the aggressiveness of Holy Moses with the captivating cleans of Nuclear Assault. Mortillery reaches deep into its hat of influences and pulls out a handful of the greats, melding their heavy-metal ire into another awesome Mortillery record.
Bookends “Radiation Sickness” and “Shapeshifter” are perhaps the two most straightforward heavy-metal songs on the album. Opener “Radiation Sickness” is full of Iron Maiden energy and McCutchen’s vocals jump up and down from high-pitched Dickinson wails to downright angry snarls. Structured around one of the more memorable licks on the album, this fun little ditty is just as much about the guitars as it is about the vocals. The closer, on the other hand, is a gloomy number full of emotion, slick guitar melodies, and McCutchen’s variation in beautiful Slayes-esque backing harmonies and blood-spurting screams. Seriously, I could listen to McCutchen scream all fucking day (not what I meant, pervs). Though “Shapeshifter” is the dark, black sheep of the album, it is a fitting conclusion to the disc. It is full of emotion and allows every member in the band their turn in creating this epic album send-off.
More harsh screams and impressive wailings from McCutchen come to us via tracks like the hippity-hoppity “Age of Stone,” the “F.O.A.D.”-esque “Bullet,” and the monstrous “Black Friday.” The first is a mixed bag of thrashy riffs, hints of melody, and an overall pissed-off vocal performance that’ll leave your knuckles white. “Bullet” has some crushing guitar work and McCutchen’s chorus reminds me of Crystal Viper‘s Marta Gabriel (well, up until McCutchen burns everything down with her fire-breathing screams). “Black Friday” takes to the pavement and rides a riff as old-school as methamphetamine. It’s a driving force that’ll get you jacked up and accomplish even the simplest task at ramming speed. For those looking for some vocal diversity beyond the title track, look no further than “At the Gates” and “Torture;” two tracks that mix it up with overlaid schizophrenic cleans and fist-pounding snarls. Neither are have umph without the other tracks, but they compliment the album perfectly.
Unfortunately, there are a couple lows on the album, Like “Wendigo” (hinting at a massive climax that never appears) and the typical modern thrash compression issues. However, the mix is solid and the nine-track, forty-minute runtime means repeat listens are easily achievable. In the end, there isn’t much to complain about and Shapeshifter stands as another great Mortillery release. I can’t say I like it better than Murder Death Kill and Origin of Extinction, but that’s not a bad thing. It stands on its own in the Mortillery discography and will please me for years to come. Regardless what this band does in the future (maybe further exploration into the emotions of the title track?), as long as McCutchen remains behind the mic, I’ll keep coming back for my Mortillery fix [More-tillery for you, eh? – Steel Druhm].