Artist: Mercy Blow
Album: Coup de Grâce – EP
When I hear the term “mercy blow,” I think of something graceful and almost serene—a cessation of life not to kill, but to rescue. Instead of channeling malintent and malevolence towards another human or animal, it’s compassionate, or at least as compassionate as murder can be; it stems from the desire to end unnecessary pain in a way more pure than opiates or other medication—and in a way more permanent.
I suppose I should say I used to think of a mercy blow that way—until Delaware slam-infused beatdown hardcore outfit redefined it for me. No longer an act of perverse kindness, Mercy Blow defines the action that serves as their namesake with vigorous, visceral loathing and aggression; where Secondhand Suffering started along that line of thought, the band’s sophomore effort and sort-of-self-titled album Coup de Grâce expounds upon it exponentially. Coarse, crushing, and violent beyond description, Coup de Grâce is a grisly display of powerful, poignant and pissed off misanthropy. From “Necrosis” through the last seconds of “Coup de Grâce,” the listener is subject to a sheer bombardment of bone-busting breakdowns and skin-splitting slams linked together by lacerating riffs and crushing, bleak moments of bitterness—far from merciful but extraordinarily fatal.
Bookended by ear splitting feedback and ferocious breakdowns, Coup de Grâce (which translates literally into “Mercy Blow” or “Finishing Blow”) sounds like what going insane must feel like. Percussionist Michael Thomas is tremendous, a Goliath behind the kit—rarely technical but constantly abrasive and powerful. From the opening onslaught of “Necrosis,” through the slamming climax of “Fodder” and the entirety of the closing title track, Thomas’ drumming is a dreary and dark foundation for the no-holds-barred fury that builds atop it. Thomas sees himself working with bassist Izzi Sneider to create a low and lurid baseline for almost the entirety of the EP, with the best examples appearing during the quicker portions of “Coup de Grâce” and “Ill at Ease.” During these portions, Thomas’ feet are fleet while his hands oscillate between sluggish, sinister blast beats and anthemic ride-bell heavy patterns. Meanwhile, Sneider’s low, slinking bass writhes like a serpent around Thomas’ roaring kick drum, adding punch to every sickening smack. The result are soul-smothering slams and breakdowns like those heard on “Fodder” and…well, all of Coup de Grâce, home to a low end that induces prolapse without even thinking twice. All the while, guitarist Ryan Giordano lathes every loathing-laden second with gritty, raw riffs and incendiary fretwork. Like Thomas, Giordano is never really technical, but that is quickly overlooked due to the incredible intensity he brings to each track. Even during the blistering but brief “Necrosis,” Giordano’s fingers provide concentrated cruelty by the boatload, unloading ferocity throughout the entirety of Mercy Blow’s short-but-scathing EP.
Coup de Grâce, in all its instrumental intensity, wouldn’t be even close to complete without a bitter and beefy vocal element to match—and that’s exactly what they get. Frontman Eric Chrisco may as well be Satan himself for all the aggression and spite he unloads with his low, thick bellows. Songs like “Fodder” see his near-guttural tone take on a particularly hefty and coarse coat of grit, while his work alongside the legendary Don Campan on “Ill at Ease” sees a bit more dynamism and range from Chrisco. All the while—whether it’s an energetic mid-range yell or a low and scathing growl—Chrisco is aggressive, never once touching the brakes. Even on “Necrosis,” he lets loose with a mosh call bold and invigorating enough to wake the dead and inspire them to turn entire cemeteries into spinkicking, fist-swinging, crowd-killing mosh pits. Chrisco matches the visceral and devastating musical nature of Coup de Grâce perfectly—something of a feat in itself—bringing even pacifists to acts of unspeakable violence.
Clocking in at just under fourteen minutes of pure fury, Coup de Grâce is a short-but-sweet example of Mercy Blow’s monstrous reputation. A band that have built a worldwide name for themselves In a short time with an even shorter discography, the band have proven you don’t need several full length albums to explode into the forefront of the heavy music scene. While it’s true that Mercy Blow’s style or sonic aesthetic doesn’t serve itself to long, drawn out releases, the only glaring flaw to be found in Coup de Grâce is its brevity—if you really want to call it a flaw. More than anything, listeners will find themselves softly let down by the relative lack of length present on the group’s sophomore effort—surely hoping for more than a release barely breaking into double-digit minutes. However, the release compensates exquisitely for its short run time with how off-the-wall, batshit crazy it manages to be. Spastic and violent by definition, Coup de Grâce is a point-blank shot to the face that leaves the listener—and the band’s peers—mangled beyond recognition.
For Fans Of: Culture Killer, Varials, Gunishment, Hate Diplomacy, Misgiver
By: Connor Welsh