Friday 19 July 2019

Mefitis - Despair (2019)

Country: China
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 19 Jul 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

I have to admit that this EP leapt out for a number of reasons. For one, it features progressive black metal from Beijing, China, which had to be heard. For another, the demonic growling vibrato is provided by the same young lady who did the cover art, Rexco by name. And for three, Rexco aside, the band don't remotely look Chinese. Drummer Darian Kocmur also plays in Teleport, who are certainly appropriately named given that they're based in Slovenia, making his commute pretty tedious otherwise. And that leaves Allen Darling, surely the least Chinese name I can imagine, even with the prefix of Lucky, as it often has. He used to be the entire band.

This is Mefitis's debut EP, but Darling released a demo under that name back in 2017, called Nascence, and handled everything on it himself: the vocals, the guitars, the bass and the drum programming, quite probably the delivery of lunch during recording for good measure. I took a quick listen to that in preparation for this and quickly realised that the addition of other band members helped a great deal. Mefitis are deeper and more interesting when he doesn't have to do everything himself.

And they are both deep and interesting. This is a short EP, blistering along for the most part for twenty minutes, at which point it's done, but it does much of note along the way. Never mind the point a minute into opener Cetus when they shift between a few tempos seamlessly, what's going on behind the repeat of that thirty seconds later? There's a twanging that's only just in hearing, but is impossible to ignore, that sounds like Jew's harp. It comes back later, as do tempo changes, the instrumental section as far in again a real highlight and a very complex one too.

The beginning of Ecdysis, which means the shedding of an outer cuticle layer by animals who go in for that sort of thing, is gloriously intricate too. I was thrown back to bands like Mekong Delta who brought avant garde jazz into an extreme metal mindset back in the late eighties.

Desecrate is even more interesting. It starts out minimally, with Rexco like a demon creature recently escaped from a cage and ready to devour anyone or anything she encounters in the next five minutes. She has a wild and evilly dangerous voice and, while I have no idea what language she's singing, let alone what words, it's often easy to get caught up in what she's doing and forget there's music being played behind her. That music is far slower here, even when it gallops, and there are so many cymbals in play that surely some of them have to be bells.

That leaves Lotophagi, or Lotus Eaters, presumably meaning the tribe of lost addicts that Odysseus encountered when returning home from Troy, given that Cetus was a sea monster in Greek mythology. Of course, Mefitis was Roman not Greek, or rather pre-Roman as she was the goddess of poisonous vapours (foul-smelling gases of the earth) to the Samnites, who dominated central Italy in the years before the rise of Rome.

This one layers voices, demonic and clean, surely male and female too, and gets all melodic behind them. At the two and a half minute mark, everything goes quiet, a rumbling bass and a delicate guitar providing the eye in the storm that inevitably returns with a vengeance.

How this trio stay so tight when there are so many time changes, I have no idea. I presume it's a heck of a lot of practice. Having Darling on guitars and bass means that they can't have played live in the studio, of course. I wonder how many takes they took to knock out Lotophagi. The layering of the multiple voices helped it too, because, while I enjoyed Rexco's voice, it's really difficult to vary a delivery like that and that approach was getting old, even by that point.

I got a real kick out of this, but twenty minutes is probably a good length, as I'm not sure how I'd react to twenty more of similar material. I have a good deal of praise for the variety they snuck into the first twenty but I don't believe that a further twenty would help coherence. As it stands, I'm liking the ways they're finding to subvert their black metal, but I'm ready for it to get old as soon as that supply of subversion runs out.

I'd like to hear a full length album now just to see if they can keep this style interesting for forty minutes plus.

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