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Mental Cruelty - Zwielicht review

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Band: Mental Cruelty
Album: Zwielicht
Style: Deathcore
Release date: June 2023

01. Midtvinter
02. Obsessis A Daemonio
03. Forgotten Kings
04. Pest
05. Nordlys
06. Mortal Shells
07. Zwielicht
08. Symphony Of A Dying Star
09. The Arrogance Of Agony
10. A Tale Of Salt And Light

For a band that have ostensibly been a deathcore band for the duration of their career thus far, Mental Cruelty have found a few ways to reinvent themselves quite early on in said career. From slamming tech-death beginnings on Purgatorium, they’ve both simplified (Inferis) and become more extravagant (A Hill To Die Upon). With Zwielicht, they’re now reaching the next level.

Symphonic deathcore is very much a fad right now; the extent to which deathcore is being rendered symphonic can vary significantly, however, from the elaborate arrangements on the latest Shadow Of Intent right through to bands that add a few choirs and string sounds as if applying a glossy finish. Many of these groups have also been referred to as ‘blackened’, with varying degrees of justification. Inferis was an album that was ‘symphonic’ in the loosest sense of the word, with a few choir moments popping up amidst a backdrop of brutality; A Hill To Die Upon was a bit more adventurous with the symphonic arrangements, and also brought in some blackened hints. Zwielicht, rather than being another reinvention, instead sustains the trajectory established by its predecessor.

There’s quite a few major names in the symphonic deathcore scene by this stage; out of all of them, Lorna Shore are probably the best known, but they also genuinely feel like the most relevant comparison here, because Mental Cruelty have a similar affinity for relentless blast beats from the drums, and also consistently throw in a brutal breakdown in most songs. Honestly, if this album had been recorded with Will Ramos on vocals and shown to me without telling me who was behind it, I could easily have been persuaded into believing it was the follow-up to Pain Remains; however, a lot of that comes from Zwielicht representing a development and maturation of the satisfying yet repetitive formula employed on Pain Remains.

As I alluded to earlier, a lot of ‘blackened’ deathcore bands feel very tenuous in their connection to black metal; with “Obsessis A Daemonio”, Mental Cruelty show a more overt influence, with frozen tremolo riffs in the verses. The tremolos resurface in a more interesting manner later on, with some euphoric post-rock shimmers arising just before the breakdown, at which point the record veers swiftly towards Lorna Shore territory. One thing that I do appreciate on Zwielicht is that the chorals and orchestrals do get a bit more use outside of the song choruses and introductions, and they do liven up parts of this song; one other thing that helps “Obsessis A Daemonio” to make a strong first impression is the use of empassioned clean vocals in a passage later on, the style of which reminds me a bit of Fleshgod Apocalypse’s own use of clean singing.

Now, the album isn’t always in innovation mode; the likes of “Pest” and lengthy closer “A Tale Of Salt And Light” are very much in the mould of Lorna Shore tracks, from the ballistic double bass assaults through to the savage breakdowns and euphoric musical peaks. However, there’s quite a few intriguing moments on Zwielicht that stand out. Probably the most striking is “Symphony Of A Dying Star”; the hyperactive folk melodicism of this song, along with the flamboyant synths, are striking in how much they depart from everything else on the record, and how instead they resemble a super-aggressive version of Ensiferum.

Such overt folksiness is not really encountered on any other songs, but there are tracks that stand out in other ways. “Nordlys”, with its acoustic introduction, suggests at a folk metal approach that doesn’t subsequently materialize, while “Forgotten Kings” does have some guitar melodic leads that are reminiscent of what the group are doing on “Symphony Of A Dying Star”; however, this latter track in general feels like it’s approach the threshold between ‘blackened deathcore’ and ‘meloblack with deathcore elements’. “The Arrogance Of Agony” is perhaps the song with the weakest ties to deathcore, with an absence of breakdowns and a healthy splash of voluminous tremolo.

If there’s one thing that’s holding back Zwielicht from reaching the level of an album such as Shadow Of Intent’s Elegy, it’s that, for all the bombast, it lacks a similar degree of memorability; with the exception of “Symphony Of A Dying Star”, when the album is over, I have a lack of concrete memories of it. What remains, however, is that sense of having been overwhelmed by the explosive theatricality of what Mental Cruelty have delivered here, and in expanding upon an impressive but rigid template outlined by Lorna Shore, these guys are striving to ensure the symphonic deathcore bandwagon keeps advancing.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 28.06.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 4   Visited by: 127 users
28.06.2023 - 21:38
Always glad to hear more symphonic deathcore done right
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
05.07.2023 - 15:41
Just the other day was thinking that i have my fill of melo deathcore for a while... but now i am not so sure anymore... maybe i should check this one
27.10.2023 - 02:09
One of the best albums of 2023 I dare say. "Symphony Of A Dying Star" is absolutely amazing.
Rovdjur Iskall
"We've painted all doors bible black,
vi hade gett oss utan strid...
15.11.2023 - 13:29
Fallen Ghost
Craft Beer Geek
Amazing album! As every deathcore album, this sadly suffers from the ever-ongoing breakdowns, but apart from that, this is a brilliant record! Mental Cruelty might take over the throne from Lorna Shore for me when it comes to my favorite deathcore band!

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