Artist: Mercy Blow
Album: Secondhand Suffering – EP
Despite what you might think, there is very little that is truly merciful about the debut EP by the Delaware/Pennsylvania quartet Mercy Blow. What there is plenty of is violence—that much is certain—but it isn’t the sort of violence that you use to put down an injured animal. It isn’t the sort fatality that manifests in the form of a do-not-resuscitate order. There is not an ounce of kindness to be found in Secondhand Suffering. There is simply brash, brutal, ignorant aggression. From start to finish, Mercy Blow combine beatdown hardcore and slamming death metal in a way that sounds as if someone put Devourment and Varials in a blender and spiked it with bath salts. Secondhand Suffering is a shotgun blast to the chest and a double tap to the head when it comes to straightforward, malicious heavy music—laden with neck-snapping breakdowns and organ-rotting slams laced with riff-driven, fast and pissed hardcore. Mercy Blow offer a ruthless no-bullshit approach to their sound that will have fans of chugs, riffs, slams and two-steps hooked from the first jarring breakdown.
Every second of Secondhand Suffering is designed to bring a very first-hand approach to fury and flawless brutality. Instrumentally, Mercy Blow blend malicious, metallic fretwork with beatdown hardcore’s more simplistic, solid percussive approach. The result is a frill-free, short-but-sweet release featuring four tracks of dense, devastating aggression. Drummer LaDon Vance is the core of Mercy Blow’s dynamic. Where “Of Null” is a quicker song that uses its short run-time to the last second to keep the listener’s heart pounding and adrenaline pumping. “Of Null” sees Vance’s ride bell taking center stage, hammering its way into a raunchy, ruthless slam—much as “No Man’s Fool” is a predominantly quick and catchy track that ends with a series of debilitating breakdowns highlighting Vance’s deep kick drum and splashy, loud cymbals. “Purge” opens with a gloomier, more dissonant dirge, where bassist Izzi Sneider keeps perfect time with Vance’s thick kick drum and cracking snare. Sneider’s bass can be heard throughout almost the entirety of Secondhand Suffering, roaring alongside the loud, energetic drumming to maintain a constant, crushing low end that is almost unbearably heavy during moments like the climactic chugs of both “Purge” and “No Man’s Fool”—let alone the ending sequence to the album’s title track. Where Sneider and Vance work together to create a solid foundation, it’s almost counter-intuitive to call the drums and bass a “low end,” because Secondhand Suffering is almost entirely low end. Guitarist Ryan Giordano’s highest riffs are still grisly and grimy by any other band’s standards, every chug sounding as though it’s coated in fifteen pounds of mud and muck. When combined with the slow, sludgy percussion and the slinking, sinister bass that comprises the backbone of Mercy Blow’s sound, Giordano’s guitar work is nothing short of unstoppable, bordering on the type of absurd heaviness that reduces venues to rubble before a set can even finish.
Just as Mercy Blow’s musicianship is nothing but misery-filled, maddeningly heavy and manic oppression, the band’s frontman is the purest embodiment of fury. Zachary Wilson dominates Secondhand Suffering with a raw, harsh and low scream that sounds like someone distilled an untainted concentrate of human bitterness and mixed it with blood, sweat and hard liquor. Wilson’s vocals—especially on the anthemic “Secondhand Suffering”—leave no interpretation up to the listener; they are pure, visceral hatred, directed at everything and anyone within arms reach. Wilson’s lyrics—especially on “Secondhand Suffering”—border on poetic and introspective (although he likely won’t take home a Pulitzer Prize for his work). This succeeds in giving Mercy Blow a depth that many contemporary beatdown acts simply lack altogether. Another unexpected plus is the guest appearance in “No Man’s Fool,” enabling a collaboration between Mercy Blow and Gunishment that manifests as a fun, corny and supremely energetic slam that will have listeners grinning as they’re swinging on the first person they see.
Secondhand Suffering is a fun EP—which means, no, it won’t blow your mind with bizarre genre hybrids, and no, it won’t feature masturbatory mega-solos that ebb and flow into a figurative progressive pissing contest. Secondhand Suffering is agony—it’s the kind of album that evolves from a lifetime of bad experiences, and it’s the kind of album that does nothing but instill pure bloodlust into the mind of Mercy Blow’s listeners. From the absurd aggression prevalent in “Of Null,” to the catchy candor and crushing climax of “No Man’s Fool,” there is not a moment of rest or reprieve on Mercy Blow’s debut EP. True enough—skeptics and critics will likely be critical of the EP’s recording quality, and more than vocal about the errant “lack of originality/songwriting,” but let’s be realistic: Mercy Blow set out to create something fun, catchy and—above all else—ruthless. With that in mind, they succeeded with little to no flaw, creating something accessible for any fan of heavy music, with the only glaring flaw being the relatively short runtime.
The use of “mercy” and “secondhand” are both misnomers when it comes to Mercy Blow’s Secondhand Suffering. The band’s debut EP is 4 tracks of hellfire so savage and tangible, the listener can feel it on their face from the first second they hit play. Mercy Blow have no kindness to spare for anyone, and Secondhand Suffering is firsthand proof.
For Fans Of: Varials, Left Behind, Gunishment, Drowning, Devourment, Whoretopsy
By: Connor Welsh