Written by: Maddie
Dissonant death metal, a tradition that while anchoring its roots as far back as the mighty Gorguts and their seminal Obscura, has really been summoned as a force within the broader death metal scene within recent years. Disso-death may be my favorite interpretation of the extreme metal branch, a style that can be felt from recent aberrations bestowed upon us by acts such as Convulsing, and Ad Nauseum. It is a sound while circling around death metal conventions, lures you into a suffocating and hostile atmosphere through oblique songcraft and harrowing production. It presents a certain technicality, but not a virtuosity meant to entice a listener onto a singular instrumentalists’ shred capabilities, but instead utilized to smother the listener into a bewildering decay.
On their debut effort Harrowing, US-based Mithridatum offer up a formidable entry into the dissonant death metal catalogue. Featuring members of The Faceless and Abhorrent, the band’s proclivities towards technicality can easily be understood. The three-piece, through five compositions of cavernous rot, allow this album to envelop and fester, patiently allowing their tracks to develop with care.
Vocalist Geoff Ficcos’ performances drip with acid, usually leaning into a gruesome snarl. His delivery comes off with razor-sharp focus with an inward intent. But Ficco also has the capability to break out into these breathy, vampiric howls as heard on “The Passageway," or more piercing shrieks as showcased on “Silhouette."
The band does an excellent job of producing this labyrinth of unorthodox instrumentation. Just take the immediately discordant whirlwind of atonal guitars and blistering drum flurries on the opening cut “Sojourn." Quiet passages are treated as equally vital as they are just as, if not more, oppressive as the relentlessly propulsive sections on the record. On the opening track, the band utilizes the more sparse and atmospheric moments to foster this sense of inescapable dread and impending doom. The band tends to gradually builds their tracks with intensity, doing so with complex instrumental layering and abstract change-ups, only to hammer down even harder as they do on “Lower Power." But even with the album’s obscuring nature, clear destinations are always in place, such as “Sojourn’s” climactic melodic arpeggios.
“Silhouette” liberally experiments with time shifts, continuously slowing down just to bring things back up in tempo, almost with total abandon. Mithridatum demonstrates their talent for instilling suspense and anxiety into their compositions with these terrifying chromatic riffs that offer zero resolve. Simultaneously, Marlon Friday and Lyle Coopers’ searing leads seem to bubble out of the most vile corners of the abyss.
According to the band, “The name Mithridatum refers to the practice of achieving immunity against poisoning through self-administered, sub-lethal doses.” This is a well-apt description of what exactly the trio is able to achieve with the venomous atmospheres that overtake “Mournful Glow." This track ventures into black metal territory with some mystifying trebly guitar runs.
The interplay between the instrumentalists is outstanding, working together to conjure up the abrasive swaths of unforgiving noise and terror. Cooper’s drum work has a unique way of accepting the role of the primary rhythmic foundation, while also adding his own abstractions and caustic phrasings underneath. The bass work is often violent and destructive, injecting a muddy layer of unbridled aggression.
With that said, Mithridatum isn’t allergic to some more straight-forward, death metal riffage. “Lower Power” hits you with Harrowing’s most tangible and monstrous moments. Later on in the track we find some of these more open and spacious sections that are palpably harsh and relentless, but also surprisingly reflective and meditative, something of which the band seems to deeply understand the importance and effectiveness.
Harrowing is an exhilarating record that will appeal to those who appreciate the more cavernous, hollow, and lifeless corners of death metal. Fans of records releases last year such as that of Heaving Earth, Triumvir Foul, and Aeviterne will easily be drawn to the caustic miasma that Mithridatum unleashes. This is a complex and uneasy listen, that may take multiple sit-throughs to fully comprehend and digest, but it is one that offers much rich detail to be in awe of behind the seemingly impenetrable wall.
Mithridatum - Harrowing will be released Feb. 3rd via Willowtip Records. Find it here!
About the Author: Maddie talks all things metal over atBeaver Mosh.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.