Album Review: Lord Mantis – Spawning the Nephilim

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It seems fitting that Lord Mantis guitarist / vocalist Andrew Markuszeski created the layout for the folded booklet insert for Spawning the Nephilim (Seventh Rule). The lyrics for the seven-track disc are set in a spiral, which – okay this might sound kinda cheesy – seem to fit the overall theme of the album,  the debut from Chicago’s Lord Mantis.

The Chicago-based quartet could be described as a “supergroup”, as Markuszeski joined forces with Bill Bumgardner (drummer for Indian), bassist/vocalist Charlie Fell (who drums in Avici with Markuszeski) and guitarist/vocalist Greg Gomer. With a potent mix of Indian’s doom / sludge feel and Avici’s blackened metal, from start to end Spawning the Nephilim is a spiral of chaotic violence.

However, whether ‘chaotic violence’ translates into an enjoyable listening experience is entirely subjective. Do you like to feel like you are slowly descending through the gates of hell?  The opener, “Push Tug Wipe”, is exactly that. Applying a traditional sludge foundation of down-tuned heavy riffs and thudding, distorted bass, the introduction moves from a bomb-dropping explosion into doom-laden riffage, causing the music (and listener) to swirl and pull. According to Fell and Gomer, the track is about “black holes, inter-dimensional travel and mind control,” which is exactly how it sounds, as Fell’s gravelly, slightly frenetic vocals is reminiscent of one who is traveling through space – unwillingly, that is.

“Unnatural Dwarfism” is introduced with a rapid-fire rhythm section, staccato bass and drums working perfectly in unison and then on a dime, slows right down to a rhythmic, droning, heavy-hitting cymbals. The lyrics are sparse, drawing the listener to the atmospheric qualities rather than overcrowding what the band wants to achieve.

There is a symbiotic feel to Spawning the Nephilim but you have to look for it, as the unison of blackened metal and sludge /doom doesn’t always blend together evenly – but somehow, I don’t think it was supposed to. While Fell handles the majority of vocals, his vocal style seems more suitable to more aggro-punk than pummeling, mid-tempo tracks. For instance, when Fell enters halfway through “Lord Mantis” screeching, “Your source of pain demons coming home feeding on fear” it doesn’t quite fit. The track starts off with an old-school punk riffs and then on the turn of a dime, transforms into a doomy grind with siren-like, ala Soundgarden, guitar effects, and then speeds up again - a section that seems totally pointless.  It’s really up to the listener to determine whether they like the blending of these two worlds.

On the title track, “Spawning the Nephilim” which is about “ancient gods procreating with early man’s daughters, eventually producing a race of giants that rape and pillage the earth until god floods the earth for all their sins” is probably Lord Mantis at their finest. According to the band, the majority of the tracks featured on the album were written with a three-piece in mind, and I’m wondering what it would of sounded like without the extra layer of guitar. I’m guessing that Markuszeski provides vocals on this one, at it feels like he is purposefully adds a subliminal message laid under the guitar and drums.

Markuszeski, who dodged a PR nightmare earlier this year when his former band, black metallers Nachtmystium were forced to withdraw from the Atlanta’s Scion Rock Fest after allegations of having neo-Nazi sympathies (they were previously signed to a Nationalist-Socialist record label) has a much deeper, more traditional black metal sound, which seems to sporadically appear on only the second half of the album.

“Abducted By Aliens” is probably the most experimental track on the album, signifying a passion for noise yet still providing some substance. “Hit by a Bus” dips into a more familiar rumbling, rhythmic doom groove, almost the opposite from the first portion of the album. “Zealot” is apparently an older, previously unreleased track, but fittingly completes the package as it is the heaviest, most punishing track with both Fell and Markuszeski (?) dueling together on the minimalist vocals.

The thread that ties the seven tracks together is a frenetic urgency (think Today is the Day),  an experimental vibe and a desire to articulate the feeling of sheer terror and human despair. Some have called Lord Mantis  “noise rock”, but they’re more than that, as the noise serves as a soundtrack to an inner turmoil that we all have, only it’s frighteningly articulated though the band’s music.

These dudes have created something unique – it might take a bit of patience (and a hit of the bong) to appreciate it, but trust me, it’s worth more than one listen.

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