In an era where extreme music has become more normalised and accessible, the term ‘disgustingly heavy’ has been thrown around soon loosely and often it has began to loose all original meaning. When a critic or fan ties the term to a band it’s now impossible to judge if the respective art actually challenges the listener or is just a line of untactful breakdowns loosely stringed together. However, one band who truly deserving of such a coveted accolade is Hull’s Mastiff. On the back of two ear ache inducing EP’s, the band has resurfaced from the festering underbelly of the industry with Plague, a record that authentically stands as sonic torture.
‘Hellcircle’ instantly swallows you into the repugnant gut of Plague, with it’s rotting stillness slowly manifesting into a sludge coated grind that sets the atmospheric tone of this record masterfully. This isn’t a record of subtly and nor is it a record that relents. It wants you to feel the repulsion Mastiff feels towards our current state of affairs and like any worthwhile outbreak, Plague’s ideology is haplessly infectious. No matter what mindset you enter this record, once you’ve encountered the toxic noise tinted sludge of ‘Bubonic’ and the thrashing power violence of ‘Brainbleed’, you’re instantly transported into a world of infectious hatred and intense disgust. It’s at this point you realise you’re only a third of the way through the record and it’s mission statement is already achieved.
Plague is a record that aims to challenge and distress and it does so masterfully. It understands the art of composed juxtaposition and it pulls and forces it’s way through sonic anguish, dragging you down it's twisted path along with it. It’s a record that paralyses you with it’s moments of perilous stillness before devouring you with outbreaks of predatory power violence and doom orientated hardcore, with the outbreak ravened soundscape of ‘Vermin’ mirroring the apocalyptic imagery of the record perfectly. The record serves an all out assault on the senses and one that has no prejudices towards it’s victim; it does not care for your history or ideology, it only wants you to feel the pain and hatred it feels.
The suitably titled ‘Torture’ feels more akin to a slow and continuous bludgeoning that makes way for a maelstrom of a lashing than a pleasant form of escapism. It’s on tracks such as this and the ferocious and feral grind of ‘Weep’ that Mastiff’s intent truly becomes terrifyingly evident and forefront. The feral and ferocious barking of Jim Hodge feels intimate and personal to the point where you honestly feel cornered and concerned for your wellbeing. With every spiteful and predatory growl you can almost feel his spit, mucus and venom dripping down your face.
However, it’s the nine minute closer ‘Black Death’ that truly captures the force and fury of Mastiff. A track that was recorded in one take without the use of tracking, the dragging drone and pauses of bitter resignation truly gives you an accurate of idea of what raw power Mastiff harnesses live. As the toxic reverb and carnivorous ambience fades into the nether, you’re left stunned and honestly speechless, yet it’s inevitably only a matter of time before you take the plunge into the harrowing world of this record once more.
Plague is a record for the modern day and a product of a nation and culture that’s sleepwalking to it’s inevitable slaughter. A successful experiment of authentic venom and hatred, it’s a fitting soundtrack of the coming collapse and one that’s abound to be adored by those seeking only the most intense exercises in sonic extremity.
Plague is released February 1st via APF Records