On their sophomore full-length Chilean thrash metal quartet Mental Devastation exude more than basal retro Bay Area style notes, no longer traversing but commanding their own long-developed vision of what many still consider a pronounced peak in archetypal speed metal off-shot form. In taking a grand, long leap into the more technical and melodic realms of the late 80’s, and side-stepping the flat aggression of the early 2000’s with virtuosic and violent grooves in hand, we see yet another late year masterpiece from the sophisticated pits of the Valparaíso underground. Enjoyment will be automatic yet any lasting profundity will require a keen-eared mind. ‘The Delusional Mystery of the Self Part I‘ is an experience first assumed into good graces for its style and then digested slow for the sake of its theme.
If you are already familiar with Mental Devastation but haven’t kept track of their sound beyond the heavily Vio-lence inspired action of their debut (‘Red Skies‘, 2016), the big change seems to come via a restructured line-up and a pronounced sidestep of the straight forward “pedestrian” thrash metal ideal to make room for increasingly technical focus. With members of Critical Defiance joining on second guitar and drums beyond that first album it’d seem the band stepped away from a sound similar to Dekapited or Violator and now operates within a certain other sphere of thrash fandom, ranging from very direct comparisons to the shred and wail of Forbidden circa ‘Twisted Into Form‘ to a bass-forward progressive and/or technical thrash metal sound a la ‘Souls of Black‘-era Sadus sparking up at times. This should suggest Mental Devastation and Demoniac have much in common, not only in terms of existential and psychological themes but in movement from retro-standard thrash metal to thinking man’s prog-thrash action with clear hindsight for the classics.
The modern day set of skulls at work here often reach for the sort of playfully aggressive rhythms you’d expect from the bands which are credited as reactive to tech-thrash unto progressive death metal impetus in the early 90’s. This means most all violent riffcraft on ‘The Delusional Mystery of the Self Part I‘ lands within the performative abandon of demo-era Cynic or the similar timeline from Atheist, especially including ‘Piece of Time’. This level of crossover is not unprecedented but Mental Devastation‘s example is decidedly fine, a strong achievement with brilliant sound design. Opener “Ascension” seems entirely tailored to catch the right ear up front with its frantic opening riff but this isn’t window dressing as the album begins to weave its own complex melodicism into this level of action, hitting a notable mark with their first single, “Labyrinths“. The linchpin for grabbing my own attention with this style lies in the bass performances, some or all of which appear to be achieved via an fretless instrument but it is bassist/vocalist Alejandro Lagos‘ diction which gives Mental Devastation their decidedly late 80’s thrash metal vibe, never crossing over into the harsh or even hardcore vocal spectrum throughout. The album isn’t pure aggression or too overt in reference but their sound is nonetheless going to come across as categorical to both casual and attuned listeners.
Most of Side A acts as a grand introduction to the tech-thrash dramatism available to ‘The Delusional Mystery of the Self Part I‘ but it is the epic station of “The Abyss” which first suggests some personal mastery beyond semblance of classic thrash milestones. The break into melodious uproar beyond the ~2:00 minute mark should give pause to the casually attentive ear, suggesting they’ve more ground to cover in terms of melodic ideas. I did not find this album to be divided into two distinct halves, though we could cut it just beyond “The Abyss” and see the jolt right into “Vulcanic Eruption” as a kick back into gear in some respects. This mid-point on the album seems to emphasize a trapped and scrambled mind, mired in regret and resolving to ride out a wave of existential anxiety. In terms of the album’s thematic progression this frenzy of frustration and fragile self-assured persistence begins to peak within the last third of the running order but Mental Devastation haven’t completely run with this in terms of interrelation of mood between songs, including some of the more straightforward material on the album before the most dense, technical material arrives by way of “Reflections Over The Veils Of Death”, a wall-to-wall ~ten minute epic. This song is a marathon which shirks the chance to generate some atmosphere within its extended length for the sake of giving the listener a sort of quasi-summation of events and a final statement. I suppose the classical/flamenco guitar interlude that precedes it offers pause enough but I couldn’t help feel like the greater blur of the closer might’ve been presented with some more profound breaks in the action.
Ripping headfirst through some of the most energetic material on the record while examining all lessons learned, and voicing developed, throughout within the aforementioned final piece acts as the hinge for my argument that these folks have put in serious work towards something exceptional, a nowadays thrash metal album that matters. This does not mean that ‘The Delusional Mystery of the Self Part I‘ is so flawlessly achieved, the bass performances seemed to drop off beyond “Vulcanic Eruption” and the energy of the album is generally front-loaded; A couple of songs appear to step out of sequence with the continuous mood of the record, such as the somewhat out of place “Time’s Echoes” but none of these are serious crimes or major imperfections. The genius of this second Mental Devastation album for my own taste is simply its replayability as a rare breed of thrash metal approached in earnest. It is a fine example of tech-thrash meeting high standards of authenticity and sound design while introducing some unique melodic ideas. Sure, I could use a few more weeks with it and thus far the experience ultimately thrives in mind because I am such a fan of the bands that’ve undoubtedly influenced their approach but this isn’t a record I’d take lightly any time of year. A high recommendation, and even more enthusiastic if you are prone to demand the idealism of late 80’s thrash metal only be invoked with serious intent.
|TITLE:||The Delusional Mystery of the Self Part I|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 31st, 2021|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp|
Technical Thrash Metal
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