As a young Bair cub, I visited New London’s El ‘N Gee Club to support friends in the group Catalyst on more occasions than I can remember. Though disbanded, they’re still the grooviest metal project I’ve ever seen live, and among the most intense to this day. El ‘N Gee played gracious host to an entire scene, ranging from the catchiest metal-influenced hardcore to the most uncompromising technical death metal. The lens of youth reveals a brighter picture at times, but I’d say those gigs were among my favorite to attend. And Mortifica would fit on any of those bills with ease.
Everything from guttural, growling vocals to complicated, meticulous guitar-playing, blast beats, an indecipherable logo… Mortifica stand proudly as a brutal metal band. In the words of guitarist, vocalist, and contributing songwriter Matt Snyder, “We try to stay in this style of music as much as possible when writing material, and I think it pays off because when we play live… people who know us show up and are pumped, but then there’s the group of people who don’t know what we’re going to sound like. I love that look, when people look like they’ve just been punched in the face. Personally, I’m an old-school metal guy at the end of the day.”
The sentiment translates; Mortifica embodies the old-school death metal mentality. With so many genres and sub-genres to choose from, so many suffixes and prefixes to add, it can be difficult to nail down precisely what somebody’s going for. Snyder has a clear definition of what the band is out to accomplish: “We all share a vision of playing death metal in Connecticut, which is pretty rare to find three guys that want to do this. CT has a killer local metal scene, but in our experiences… a lot of people we’ve jammed with are huge metalheads, but they are heavily influenced by the hardcore, melodic metal, and grind scenes. These influences are great, and we love and embrace all types of heavy music. But for the vision of Mortifica, it just doesn’t really vibe.”
Their recent release Homicideation makes an honest man out of him. Aggressive vocals recall Nile and Cannibal Corpse in their ferocity, capably handled by both Snyder and bassist Jamie Carone. Despite being growled the words emerge from the murk clearly, easily sifted to glean the lyrical content. In “Lunatic of God’s Creation” the duo’s combined efforts are imposing. In “Infect the Masses,” one would dare say the extreme vox become nearly melodic, at times following the guitar line. Both men achieve what many people sound silly in the attempt of, a balance between aggression and precision. In fact, Snyder says, “I think it’s more of a challenge this way, to not sound monotone [yet] sing guttural. Also, to actually try to enunciate, not cup the mic and all of that.”
The compositions employ a straight-forward technical attack that is initially jarring, but fits comfortably in the insidious arrangements. Blistering speed gives way to crushing, commanding intervals that have circle pit written all over them. The bass is pronounced, and effective in both punctuating moments and complementing the overall sound. There are times that a melodious guitar line puts you at ease, only to alarm you with a discordant, ominous segue. One such instance occurs during a guitar solo in the title track, the sense of impending doom is palpable. And yet the subtlety of the groove and some of the aforementioned melodies make this as accessible as death metal should be; maybe I’ve just been around this kind of music for a few decades, but I don’t see why Mortifica should be written off by someone who isn’t necessarily into this genre. Then again, I don’t often look like I’ve been punched in the face at a show.
As one of those who are primarily influenced by melodic metal, I still have nothing but good things to say about Mortifica, and both acknowledge and affirm their place among Connecticut’s current crop of promising and enjoyable metal acts. And, as it turns out, they play El ‘N Gee in October, where I hope to regain a measure of my youth by exposing myself to technical death metal where I was during the earliest part of this century.
Upcoming performances include Café Nine on September 5th alongside Dread the Woods and the incomparable Eyes of the Dead, and as a part of Winter is Coming Fest with Vital Remains in October. Check Alt Ctrl’s show listings to find your next opportunity to see Mortifica, and all of CT’s other noteworthy talent.