There is no question metal has changed a lot on the past 10 years. Hell, in the last five. A lot of different things fit under this massive umbrella, and that tends to bother some of the rank-and-file, who want this to be one thing all the time, period. But it just isn’t that way, and as metal’s rolling sphere picks up new influences, Katamari style, the way extreme music sounds has changed forever.
You can hear that very thing in a band such as Deafheaven, who divided the metal crowd violently last year with their heavily acclaimed “Sunbather” album that most people either deliriously embraced or shoved away like a plague. You can hear other deviations away from the primary source in bands including Khanate, Sunn 0))), Bosse-de-Nage, and even a classic such as Godflesh. Things have been expanding, and hopefully they keep going in that direction. And while a black metal enthusiast may cry that a band isn’t keeping it KVLT or TR00 anymore, what does that really mean? And does it actually make sense to keep treading the same path over and over again? Well, a band like San Francisco black metal experimental unit Mamaleek refuse to stay in one place, and they will challenge your very idea of where metal’s barriers lie with their new record “He Never Spoke a Mumblin’ Word.”
Right off the bat, the album title sounds like it was lifted from a spiritual hymn or something of that nature, and plowing through these challenging four songs might make you wonder if this group isn’t going through some sort of deeper revelation or rusty catharsis. This pairing of two brothers, who remain anonymous, combines electronic forces to create their style of black metal, so right there you know you’re dealing with a band operating on a totally different creative plane. These tracks, as they claim, helped lift psychological and spiritual burdens from their bodies and psyches and let them express the darkness, madness, chaos, what have you that listeners will hear on this record. It’s no paint-by-numbers affair. It’s a smear-outside-of-the-lines, veer-off-the-page, splash-onto-the-table, go-wherever-they-want document, and it definitely won’t go down easy. But nothing on their other three records have either, and this one feels like a demon itching to burst out of their bodies and spread fire and torment elsewhere. It’s gripping and moving, and it will hurt to absorb.
The title track is first up, and it opens in a bed of noise that simmers and floats into harsh shouts that sound as much like bloodletting as they do storytelling. The melodies are incredibly thick and strong, enough to pick you up and sweep you away on their red waves, and a sorrowful tide forces you back to shore with a gaping wound on your soul. There are more desperate cries, cascading keys, goth-dashed colors, and a ghostly ending. “Poor Mourner’s Got a Home” is arresting from the start, with a song playing that sounds like a Middle Eastern folk number rumbling below the fuzz and smoke. It keeps looping around, forming a mesmerizing atmosphere that gives way to sonic destruction. Noise rises up and bubbles over, while sinister melodies cut their way through the piece and meet up with monstrous vocals that denote the dangerous surroundings. Later on in this 10-minute cut, there is some washed out singing, dizzying beats that make your head swim, warped loathing, and tortured wails that stab an exclamation point.
“Almost Done Toiling Here” drowns in static from the beginning, with wild howls erupting from the mire that eventually turn into deranged shrieks. There is a forceful cry of, “Wake up!” that should jar you out of any comfort you possibly could be in during this record, and then the song floats into a section that is damn-near pop-like. Well, sort of. That won’t be obvious on the surface, as those hooks and brighter lights are buried under a million wool blankets, but if you pay close attention, it’s there. Finally, the song reaches a fluid, merciful conclusion that seems to shine a lone beam of light. Closer “My Ship Is on the Ocean” is a metaphorical assault that sounds like it was mined from deep within the band members’ hearts and splattered everywhere. The vocals are pained and desperate, and there is a section of female vocals that add a sense of beauty to such disillusion. The final moments feel like a fever dream, causing you to wonder if what you’re hearing is reality or a lost soul transmitting sounds into your head.
Mamaleek don’t gently walk metal’s carefully drawn boundaries with any amount of care. They work to destroy it, leaving bits of brick and mortar everywhere as they set up their own kingdom and agenda. “He Never Spoke a Mumblin’ Word” is a revelatory experience and one of the band’s strongest efforts to date. It won’t speak to everyone’s minds, but those who connect will do so with impact and a level of understanding that might feel a little uncomfortable.
For more on the band, go here: http://mamaleek.bandcamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://store.theflenser.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://theflenser.com/