Review: Mental Cruelty – Zwielicht
You’ve got to be mentally cruel to be kind.
Suddenly a section of the metal-sphere feels like it’s back in its 2000s Myspace era. Simultaneously, times have changed and as the original breakouts acts of the movement like Bring Me The Horizon, Suicide Silence, Carnifex, Chelsea Grin, Job for a Cowboy, and White Chapel, have grown, evolved and adapted in the near two decades since, a crop of relative “new comers” have sprang up over the last few years (not counting the years of grinding away in obscurity trying to get noticed). Amongst several other notable acts like Slaughter to Prevail, Shadow of Intent, and perhaps most notably Lorna Shore, is Germany`s Mental Cruelty.
Adapting a symphonic style that’s been very in vogue lately in the deathcore sect, Mental Cruelty grew beyond their brutal deathcore roots and released their fourth full-length album, Zwielicht. The album seemingly has been a bit divisive, and phrases like “rip off” and “derivative” have been lobbed around like a severed head during the French Revolution. There is some basis for the derivative claims, but calling the record a full-on ripoff seems a little out of line. While it’s not what will likely be remembered as a standout among the new wave of deathcore, it is a solid entry in the band’s discography and certainly has its merits.
One of the standouts of the whole affair is newcomer to the group vocalist Lukas Nicolai. He displays a frankly frightening and commanding grasp on his expansive vocal range and helps keep the record’s pace exhilarating and fresh from track to track. With the instrumentation of the album being all over the place and encompassing everything but the kitchen sink, the rest of the band are able to keep things mostly coherent and deliver excellent showings. Guitar work from Nahuel Lozano and Marvin Kessler succeeds in both having neoclassical passages, face melting shred segments, and folly interludes. Due to the maximalist production style, Viktor Dick’s bass is a bit hard to hear at points, but his performances are very technically precise when detectable. Danny Strasser’s drums are another standout. In a modern landscape, where extreme metal drumming has become highly edited and over produced, Strasser stands out with a style that adapts the blistering blast beats that colored kits of black metal drummers and gives it a furious overhaul.
The album’s opening track “Midvinter” sets a great atmosphere with an epic feeling, its grandiose choral instrumental straps the listener in and braces them for when track two explodes to life. “Obsessis A Daemonio,” compared to the opener, is an overpowering melodic face-melter garnished with guttural vocal savagery. The exuberant symphonic movement near the last two minutes leads to a nice vocal clean bit and chugging guitar part that transitions brilliantly in track three. “Forgotten Kings” is an assault on all senses. With solid vocal work from Nicolai and featuring a great breakdown, this is one of the standouts of the first half of the record. The last minute of the track is downright awesome. Kessler and Lozano play off each other really well.
“Pest” is much the same. The breakdown isn’t as well executed as prior ones but still hits. The pained vocal growls are a nice touch. Stasser drum fills are absolutely captivating. This piece leads perfectly into “Nordlys.” This, however, is almost to the album’s detriment, as at this point the tracks begin to feel very similar. The aggressive bits work nicely, with the drumming in particular being razor sharp- almost a little too robotic, but it works. The “Dracula’s castle-esque” keyboard adds a nice touch here. While the track is a tad generic overall, the clean bit where the instruments drop for a break is refreshing and needed. “Mortal Shells” is deathcore meets groove metal. It’s jam-packed with visceral performances and a devastating breakdown. The animalistic singing into an excellently executed guitar interlude is very impressive. The pig squeal Nicoali uses here is definitely similar to Will Ramos of Lorna Shore. One of the standouts overall and brings the first half of the album to a thunderous close.
“Zwielicht” acts as a really effective transitional track. The sparse instrumentals and harmonized vocals work super well and give the record a sense of ambient folk majesty. In an instant, “Symphony of A Dying Star” is an explosive return to form. The orchestral keys and drums really are effective. The guitar work here is absolutely tremendous. If earlier tracks were deathcore meeting groove metal, folk metal, and black metal, this is deathcore mixing with power metal that is also colored by the beatdown hardcore-style breakdown. Perhaps the standout of the entire album. “The Arrogance Of Agony” has an abundance of aggressive vocals mixing well with the riotous drums. This also features the best bass work on the album. The instrumentation sticks out super well. The folk metal segue into guttural putrid screeching works wonders. It’s simultaneously explosive and triumphant. “A Tale Of Salt And Light” acts as the final boss of the record. Standing at over seven plus minutes sprinkled by really sick guitar passages and choral arrangements. Around the four minute mark, the album presents one of its last and gnarliest breakdowns. The group uses the longer track length to its full effect, with its fantastic neoclassical guitar solo and perhaps Nicolai`s most ferocious vocal delivery on the whole record.
While the ending of the record isn’t a completely satisfying finale, it fits in all honesty. This record is a little hard to stitch together a coherent stream of thought on. It can be said the band plays it safe and doesn’t take enough risks and piggybacks on the current trend of symphonic tinged deathcore. The record itself is somewhat messy in bits and not the best pacing wise; however, it’s enjoyable, grandiose and well composed. The drumming, guitarwork, and vocals are all superb. The bass is as well, but sometimes it’s a little overpowered by the rest of the mix. Mental Cruelty delivers an admirable outing on Zwielicht, and while not every moment is a slam dunk, it’s still a solid statement from one of deathcore’s young shining stars.
Top Tracks: “Symphony of a Dying Star”, “Mortal Shells”, & “The Agony of Arrogance”
Zwielicht gets 3 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Mental Cruelty’s Zwielicht is out now via Century Media Records.