REVIEW: Mental Cruelty – Purgatorium [2018]

Artist: Mental Cruelty 

Album: Purgatorium 


Imagine a world spawned not of love, beauty or kindness—a world that has never known boundless or selfless affection of any kind. This same world, however, is not one of inherent hate; instead, it is built by a sensation infinitely more lethal and catastrophic. It is a world where the greatest evils of mankind and all the sinister artifacts of our imagination go unchecked, destroying without remorse or relent as they see fit. We let each other kill, maim, abuse and defile because we just don’t care. 

This world isn’t one of intense hate, nor is it one of intense love. It is a world of pure indifference—the most caustic and potentially devastating mindset for any person or group of people. This world captures the violent, sacrilegious insanity that defines the 2018 release by slamming deathcore outfit Mental Cruelty. Purgatorium—eight tracks of pure evisceration with some of the greatest vocal appearances and dynamics the genre has seen—is nothing short of mind-warping. Incessantly heavy without skimping on atmosphere and catchy, unwieldly patterns (oh, and absolute heaps of slams), Purgatorium is punishment anthropomorphized into an album. A tastefully succinct display of sheer immolation, Mental Cruelty might not be a name you’re familiar with now—but by the end of January, you won’t be able to stop seeing it. 

Instrumentally, Mental Cruelty do an excellent job of combining dark, loathsome deathcore and death metal with over-the-top slamming components and strong influence from the brutal death metal camp. From the opening two “Purgatorium” chapters, to the blistering and unending salvos of hammering insanity of “The Venerable One,” Mental Cruelty work as one to form an unstoppable slamming juggernaut with enough of a traditional deathcore element to broaden their appeal to individuals otherwise averse to the genre. The band’s percussion is the very foundation to their furious dynamic—as, once more, we turn our attention to “The Venerable One,” which uses lacerating, machine-gun blast beats and blistering kick drums to contrast a bright ride bell and sharp snare. Laden with fills to break up the segments of skin-peeling blasts, Mental Cruelty’s percussion goes from rip-roaring (“Vicarius Filii Dei”) to knife-dragging, snail-like and skull-splitting (the closing seconds of “The Venerable One”). The kick drum is never left by the thick, grisly bass employed by Mental Cruelty—adding a gritty layer of filth to every second Purgatorium puts forth. Where the bass never really steals the show, it can be heard higher in the mix and dominating spare seconds of the opening chapter of “Purgatorium,” or in rare moments of “The Incantation of Human Annihilation.” The bass serves, primarily as support for Mental Cruelty’s fretwork—which deserves special mention. Many slamming-anything bands are content to play regurgitated versions of the same low-strung, chugged out riff—which is fine in moderate doses, but gets old over the course of an album. With much thanks to Mental Cruelty, we’ve found a slamming act that strays from that dreary path. With sharp riffs that pop up hither and to (from the introduction, to “The Venerable One,” throughout “Vicarius Filii Dei” and more) to keep things fresh. Add in the eerie leads that pop up during cavernous, soul-smothering breakdowns and the solos in songs like the second chapter of Purgatorium, and you’re in for a wild ride, instrumentally, that gives Mental Cruelty more substance than your average slam band.  

But it doesn’t end there. Mental Cruelty continue their onslaught with an oppressive vocal dynamic that’s unstoppable on it’s own—but when coupled with some otherworldly guest spots, becomes terrorizing. Nearly every song sees the band working diligently to combine their crushing instrumentation with demonic, visceral vocal prowess. “Vicarius Filii Dei” is one such example, as is the lengthy and lurid “Father of Abomination,” where low, grisly growls fight tooth and claw against belched gutturals and ear-splitting shrieks. Purgatorium continues like this, and, in a round-about way, is another fashion wherein Mental Cruelty break free of the heavy music herd. Instead of the slam-standard-fare of constantly low and unintelligible vocals, Mental Cruelty use a variety of ranges and styles (even if the predominant style is still low and gnarly) to keep things interesting. From the very first song, this is true, and it doesn’t change even at the very end of “The Incantation of Human Annihilation.” Purgatorium uses every trick it can to keep the listener engaged without bombarding the listener with—for lack of a better term—too much vocal wankery. Mental Cruelty are balanced; not just for a slam band, but for a band in general. 

Purgatorium is pure punishment. Mental Cruelty live up to their name, inflicting oppression with an overwhelming barrage of bone-busting breakdowns, slams, surreal leads and stellar moments of marvelous transition. True—the high concentration of slamming elements will render Purgatorium inaccessible to some—but that’s the niche nature of the genre, and, even skeptics will likely find much to love within Purgatorium‘s modest thirty-ish minute run time. A broad-based record with elements from just about every style of heavy music tearing up the underground, Purgatorium is something bound to set a monstrous tone for 2018. 



For Fans Of: Ingested, Gamma Sector, Within Destruction 

By: Connor Welsh