The Dillinger Escape Plan may be dead, but the mathcore revival is here and in full swing. This year sees releases from former genre acolytes turned torchbearers The Number Twelve Looks Like You and Car Bomb, both offering a very different take on opposing ends of the genre’s reaches. You may have already heard our take on the new Number Twelve record Wild Gods, which is extravagant and experimental, with shifts in genre, snapping back and forth between screamo and jazz-fusion laced prog metal.
Car Bomb however offer something more reptilian and mind-bendingly oppressive. The band have always been on the cutting edge, but since their 2012 revival w^w^^w^w, they’ve held a special place within the metal community that’s only grown with each record, particularly reaching new heights on 2016’s Meta, which was our album of the year. Hopes are always high for Car Bomb, and here we are with Mordial.
In the retrospective, our editor Eden Kupermintz called Meta “a condensed state of thrill, of engaging heaviness which crashes over you, again and again.” An apt description as any, but I like to describe Car Bomb as listening to Meshuggah, Dillinger, and Deftones tumbling down the stairs through a whammy pedal. A highly specific set of influences converging violently and effortlessly all the same.
In case it wasn’t hinted at in the striking geometric artwork, Mordial picks up where Meta left off, Car Bomb in their prime. Topping Meta is an impossible task, and you can tell that this wasn’t something the band were much concerned with accomplishing, as there aren’t many surprises in terms of musical development since Meta; the main attraction is surely Greg Kubaki’s inventive riffs — backed by Jon Modell’s low-end mastery and Elliot Hoffman’s incredible percussion — which are so heavy and weird that they’re at risk of toppling in on themselves. The band have increasingly toyed with an imbued clean vocal presence, with Michael Dafferner’s not-quite soaring vocals invoking Chino Moreno’s atmospheric sense of voice, more often serving as set dressing than a vehicle for melody delivery. Mordial is more of that, and it’s good.
What takes Mordial that extra step, just like any Car Bomb record, are the bizarre and confounding textural and rhythmic choices that are made throughout. Standout moments littering the landscape, like the over-the-top space-laser guitars on “Dissect Yourself,” the tribal percussion and ping-ponging clean guitars of the title track, or the dizzying modulated tempos of “Naked Fuse”, make the record an engaging and unpredictable listening experience, even when things turn back towards the stuttering and lumbering math metal.
It also helps that Mordial is also perhaps the band’s most thrash-influenced record since Centralia. “Eyecide” ups the tempo to trem-picked power chords, and pulls from Contradictions Collapse-era Meshuggah moreso than their later-era works. “Xoxoy” also dips into this arena before things turn to shoegaze in its second half. However, “Blackened Battery,” one of the most fun songs on the album to not involve space lasers, as its name might imply, overtly snatches musical cues from Metallica’s “Blackened” and “Battery.” No joke, its not the least bit subtle, and it’s an incredible homage that perhaps opens the door for the band to explore thrash further as their sound continues to develop.
Chaotic and technical mathcore that shifts between thrash, death metal, and hardcore with whacky guitar acrobatics and an an experimental if not psychotic spirit; everything you’d want out of Car Bomb is here in spades on Mordial. This is an incremental step in the overarching and evolving narrative of Car Bomb, but it further cements their place as one of the most creative, eccentric, and valuable active bands in the modern extreme metal scene.
Car Bomb’s Mordial is out September 27th, 2019. Pre-orders are available at this location.