Mutant Breakfast's 2022 Selects (Part 3)

At long last we present you with the third and final installment of our Mutant Breakfast 2022 Selects series.  In case you missed it, Parts 1 and 2 assembled a raggle-taggle arsenal of the most renegade extreme metal of the past year.  Below are our most beloved, earmarked, and cranked-up records—the very best the underground had to offer. 

№ 3: Negative Plane - The Pact (Invictus)

Just like the cathedral it portrays, The Pact towers over the BM landscape, the immensely detailed culmination of a decade’s blood, sweat, and Satanic treaties. It is also just as imperiously timeless, as Negative Plane fuse Venom’s cheeky vigour and Genesis’ compellingly sophisticated prog-rock songwriting to create a wilfully archaic work even more entertaining than the sum of its parts. “A Work to Stand a Thousand Years” opens the record with a monumental bang, fitting more quality riffs in one song than most bands deliver in their entire careers. What sets Negative Plane aside from similarly grand and narratively-driven groups like Opeth is that a great deal of time has been devoted into making each of their albums flow as a cohesive whole. The Pact is a paragon of architecture; nothing feels superfluous or disjointed, as music, lyrics, and dynamics all unify into one stately edifice.

Every sound serves the imagery, as drummer Bestial Devotion’s kit sounds superb throughout, with judiciously employed bells and a dry bass drum that sounds like a devil knocking on an ancient door. “Poison and the Crucifix” opens with a riff as caustic and riotous as Satan’s laughter, as if he were chuckling at the misdeeds about to be committed. Like Predatory Light’s cantankerous father, the guitars are byzantine, elegant and sprightly across the record. Thammuzbass matches them for agility – and the drums for vigour – with great aplomb as he drives the compositions like a workhorse, while contributing the wonderfully characterful flourishes of a true artisan.

As the BM compositions focus on the wild-child entertainment of the first wave, the lyricism takes instead from the slow-burning horror of M.R. Jamesclassics. This erudite influence is not just exemplified in the record's antiquarian setting; hubristic or foolishly curious protagonists often meet grisly ends for their troubles, at the hands of a truly ancient evil. NamelessVoid’s vocals, also indebted to the old-school, perfectly balance harshness and accessible delivery of lyrics that can either be read in the vinyl copy’s gorgeous “libretto” (a true rock opera this is!), or parsed after a couple of attentive listens. This clarity allows the genuinely gripping material to shine; I was sitting on the edge of my seat when I first engaged with the tale of “Three Turns to the West”. It’s rare to see a narrative concept album as committed as this one in the modern day, and rarer still for it not to be a sloppy, pretentious mess a la The Astonishing (and the vast majority of prog metal “opuses”). I demand that you pull up the lyrics on Metallum, get comfy, and read along with the album – it enriches the experience even further.

Of course, such an enticing collection of tales must have a fittingly magnificent conclusion. “And So It Came To Pass” takes everything wonderful about the record, and distils it into a 16-minute epic to rival the greatest compositions in rock history. The echoing and contained sounds of the cathedral transcend up into the heavens, beautifully archaic riffs ascending over a dark, hooded choir. And so, too, have Negative Plane risen above their contemporaries into BM’s (un)holy pantheon.

-Mutant Trojan

№ 2: Kexelür - Llave a las profundidades... (Self-released)

Much of modern experimental BM is predicated on its incorporation of unlikely, and sometimes non-metallic, influences. This cross-pollination can counterbalance the style's dogmatic tendencies, and splashes much-needed color on its grayscale palette. Kexelür's debut Los llaves profundidades... is a recent example of that sort of animated BM genre-fuckery, and one that turned all three heads at the Mutant Breakfast HQ with its technicolor zip. The trio's shadowy abracadabra pays homage to the booming Santiago underground whence it came, connecting previously disparate dots between the Chilean capital's emerging neo-psych and BM scenes. Swiping motorik grooves and lysergic atmosphere from fellow compatriots like Föllakzoid and The Holydrug Couple, while continuing the country's tradition of erudite metal extremism, the band redirects chakra-balancing pulses into a rugged, occult-tinged BM core. These consciousness-expanding elements add depth and flavor, but the band smudge them with black soot and pummel them into kvlt submission. The guitar's crunchy fuzz is far less caustic than most lo-fi fare, but it's shrouded in a musty reverb. The kraut-y bounce enlivening each bass line is spiked with minor-key dissonance. Synth ephemera that might sound pastoral in its native musical context take on a haunted, spectral feel. 

Despite the stylistic similarities, Kexelür's brand of "trippy" grimly diverges from the mellowed narcosis that radiates from labels like Sacred Bones, with menacing vibrations better suited to a séance than a summer festival. In that regard, their voodoo hews to the otherworldly, quasi-goth feel of Demdike Stare, or Boards of Canada's eerie hypnagogia, and the same devils lurk deep in the production details. This not a strictly ambient affair, however, and the band veer through a zigzagging maze of guitar-driven arcana on these three (sizable) tracks with monk-like focus. "Navegando en las ruinas de lo inerrable" stomps and gallops, then sidewinds into a laser-guided, Robert Fripp-esque guitar freak out. "Hegemonia post-biologica" cruises with a skuzzy, desert-grunge strut that almost sounds like a blackened version of Bardo Pond. "Olostog," the epic closing track, slows things down to foment a brutal churn before blurring into a shimmer of twinkly arpeggios. The songwriting is spry, occasionally virtuosic, and cribs from proto-prog and jazz (in addition to psych) for improvisational inspiration. Throughout its runtime, Los llaves profundidades... successfully exceeds the sum of its parts while sustaining a uniquely hybridized aesthetic. If you've ever wondered what it might feel like to eat a ten-strip of LSD and play with a Ouija board, give this bad boy a whirl.                           

-Mutant Crisper

№ 1: Faceless Burial - At the Foothills of Deliration (Dark Descent / Me Saco Un Ojo)

Anyone who's debated the relative merits of a three- or four-star release should know by now that numerical rating systems are reductive by design. Metalheads lose out when they interface like broken computers, assigning quinary values to the infinitely subjective and contextual feeling of pressing play on a new record. The short-term gains in convenience calcify into uneven and tricky terrain, where first impressions become craggier and more dangerous than they already are, and where qualitative distinctions get sanded into treacherously slippery surfaces. I say all this, because I cannot remember a release whose discussion was more disserved by the blogger-review rating system than At the Foothills of Deliration. The third release from Faceless Burial wasn't so much underrated by scenesters (though I've seen some silly whimpering), as it was poorly scrutinized according to what earned its predecessor Speciation near-universal accolades—of course, in four-star reviews from certain frequented outlets. There was more room for a downward plummet than an upward climb, such that even those who read the discerning treatments of Deliration's meaningful development were left with a sense that it was at best a lateral step, upon finding that it received the same or worse scores from many (if not all) of the big bloggers.

Speciation was an unimpeachable bop—glowering and dancing akin to a more agile and less oozy version of this year's Mutant Breakfast favorite by Toughness. Though laden with proggy diversions, no doubt, it couldn't possibly have forecasted the sudden metamorphosis into gross, messy melodicism on Deliration. Wondrously, and unlike the concessions Haunter made this year on their more adult-sounding Discarnate Ails, Faceless Burial's transformation doesn't come at the expense of any of their traditionally gritty bona fides. To the contrary, they lay down the best impression of peak Death I've ever heard (including by Horrendous, who revel more in their predecessors' groove, than they do their melody). Standout tracks like "Dehiscent" and "Redivivus Through Vaticination" have both the ramshackle urgency of "Defensive Personalities" (off Spiritual Healing) and the cool harmonic wizardry of "Suicide Machine" (Human). Riffs explode from the ground like fleshy edifices—mazy ziggurats, like the one on the absolute banger cover—shimmying gleefully into self-demolition. Unpredictable and even spastic, the structures rise and fall with such insistence as nonetheless to suggest a sort of higher ordination to every outburst.

This glistening, celestial dimension of Deliration raises the other woefully overlooked context in its reception, what with its obvious (and ambivalent) relationship to the waning flux of blackened death metal somehow identifying as 'cosmic.'  Long before Blood Incantation would disappoint everyone with their derivative electronic EP for the Century Media money pumps, Starspawn exhilarated listeners in no small part because of its grimy technicality, surpassing that even of the touchstone Timeghoul influence. The singularly crunchy iridescence to Deliration reminds me of my experience listening to that foundational album—only cast in a more ornate baroque, with thrilling etudes and a greater awareness of other out-there referents in death metal's illustrious history. Whether you like Speciation more or think Deliration a three- or even two-star release, Faceless Burial have offered a missing link between bands once thought to occupy entirely different constellations. Death metal is better off for it. 

-Mutant Geccho