Album: The Mind’s Mask – EP
A crack spreads across the surface of our planet—frail crust and molten magma give way. Aether leaks, liquid fire drowns every continent. Innocent men, women and children are consumed; the world’s end is imminent. There is no chorus of angels, no demonic chanting or ghastly call. The only thing heard above the screams of the doomed is The Mind’s Mask—Australian down-tempo deathcore act Earthender’s debut EP. Combining brooding, beefy heaviness with over-the-top, crushing heaviness and depressive atmosphere, The Mind’s Mask is a release that is heavy enough to shatter the planet’s crust and hits hard enough to pierce to the planet’s core.
Earthender’s take on dissonant, destructive down-tempo deathcore is different from the likes of their peers. Admittedly, since the popularization of down-tempo and low, slow deathcore, the scene has become overpopulated with bands playing in drop-what-the-Hell and in what feels like single-digit beats per minute. What should make The Mind’s Mask any different? The answer is buried within their diverse array of influences that make their instrumentation so incredibly immersive. The Mind’s Mask is more than just low open-note chugs and gut-wrenchingly deep percussion. Rather, it is the product of a wide breadth of musical influences—ranging from sludge and doom metal to straightforward metalcore and deathcore—that create a raw, relentlessly entertaining musical atmosphere. Rather than toggle lazy blast beats with obese, waddling breakdowns, drummer Rick Partridge paints immense soundscapes combining brilliant, fill-heavy—but lumbering—drum patterns with splashy cymbal work and bright, flashy tones to create an immense structure within which the remainder of Earthender’s instrumentation can roam. Partridge’s perfunctory pummeling is especially brilliant on “Sinistrality,” which begins with colorful cymbals but morphs into a dark, chaotic monster that shreds the listener’s ears. Beside Partridge is bassist Nathan Price—who attacks the listener with raunchy, low grooves that keep even the most ambient and drifting percussive elements anchored. However, the greatest source of Earthender’s awe-inspiring instrumental diversity comes from guitarists Alex Bertuna and Billy Morris. Bertuna and Morris take turns hammering the listener into a state of blunt-force trauma with beefy, intense chugs or shredding their mind with ethereal, arching harmonies and hyper-dissonant doom-influenced riffs. “The Swarm,” as well as “Earthender” are the EP’s two greatest examples—as the tracks include both the heaviest, most grotesque breakdowns the album has offer, alongside moments of blissful, serene calm the likes of which the listener can hardly fathom.
While Earthender’s instrumental dynamic is unique and certainly a force to be reckoned with, it is incomplete without the addition of an equally diverse and impressive vocal factor. As it happens, vocalist Lochie Keogh is not just “good enough,” but rather, excels, providing a better-than-ideal counterpart to The Mind’s Mask’s incredible musical scenery. Keogh is as diversely talented as the band’s guitarists, yet gutturally gifted enough to match even the grimiest of bass grooves and most explosive percussive elements. Without warning, Keogh lets loose with a shrill shriek or a bombastic low growl that sends shivers down the listener’s spine, splitting bone and shearing flesh without remorse. “The Constrict,” as well as the epic “Earthender” are two of his greatest moments—as the instrumentation that serves as his backdrop is not only matched by his pitch and tone, but by his lyrical content. “The Constrict” has catchy, poetic lyrics that match the track’s bouncy, energetic candor, while “Earthender” is—for lack of a better term—completely depressing, draining the listener of hope as if it were a vacuum for positivity.
If you aren’t convinced of Earthender’s talent by the beautiful instrumentation, prolapse-inducing heaviness or visceral vocals, then perhaps you’ll be convinced by the product of their amalgamation. Simply put, The Mind’s Mask is a steeple built of perfect components that still manage to annihilate a simple sum of their parts. The Mind’s Mask is not an album that is designed to be listened to “here and there,” or can be defined by one exemplary track or moment—rather, it is a completely immersive experience that takes the listener on an emotional and physical journey through a series of psychological experiences and states. By the end of their journey through the human condition, the listener feels as if they’ve been pushed to the brink of their sanity, standing on the edge of the earth, staring into the eye of the oncoming apocalypse. Earthender’s debut EP is a completely immersive experience—nothing more, nothing less—and that’s an incredibly impressive feat for a young band’s first release.
Drifting through space—annihilated—the listener has fallen victim to Earthender’s incredible fury. Equal parts doom, sludge and sheering, brutalizing deathcore, The Mind’s Mask is an EP that is as physically torturous as it is mentally anguishing. Simply put, Earthender’s debut EP is an experience any fan of heavy music will want to add to their must-listen list for 2014.
For Fans Of: Kingmaker, Traitors, Drifted, Black Tongue
By: Connor Welsh