Wednesday, 6 December 2017

REVIEW: Merciless Savage - "Visions" [EP]

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 17/11/2017
Label: Independent

Merciless Savage has all the attributes required to become a black metal juggernaut

“Visions” CD//DD track listing

1. Visions
2. Poison Legacy
3. III
4. A Horn to Wake the Sleeping
5. Flight of Thought and Memory

The Review:

For all the ceaseless bitching about modern recording techniques, analog vs. digital, and the “integrity” of hearing tracks laid down on tape, there’s an undeniable history of artifice and studio-only musicianship in black metal.  From the French Black Legions (Les L├ęgions Noires) to Bathory to Thorns, there is a unique kind of integrity to the metal auteur, holed up with a few instruments and whatever equipment can be borrowed or bought on the cheap, creating uncompromising, often groundbreaking music that, without the benefit of modern tech, would be shuffled away and lost in obscurity.  Raz, the mastermind behind the Welsh black metal project Merciless Savage, is the rare one man band who has ventured out of the studio to support groups like 1349 and Nachtmystium.  I assume he often takes the stage as singer & guitarist, as the most compelling facets of “Visions” are his distinct, remarkably discernable vocals and his complex but catchy guitar work.  

On “Visions”, the third release as Merciless Savage, Raz’s voice alters between two primary modes: a guttural rasp that is front and center in the mix or a haunting chant, often harmonized, echoing in the background like a distant sepulchral hymn.  The title track is propelled by a rasped, menacing refrain: “Abandon the senses, Abandon the real, Abandon the present, To worship new gods / Gods without substance, gods without altars, gods of false knowledge deception and lies”.  Paired with spot-on tremolo picking, it’s a fist-pumping, blackened anthem.  Poison Legacy” shifts to the chant like vocals and a dissonant guitar riff that is remarkably catchy. 

III”, the most distinctly progressive track on the EP, shifts between industrial verse riffing and consistent timing changeups.  After the consistent driving rhythms of the first two tracks, the experimentation is surprising and occasionally challenging.  Regardless, the finale is a breathtaking, soaring triumph. “A Horn to Wake the Sleeping” is characterized by fuzzy, cold production that had me thinking of the legendary Thorns demos. The synthetic quality of the drum programming here is most palpable, but it’s still a compelling listen.  Flight of Thought and Memory” is a perfect finale for the EP, highlighting both the raspy vocals and chanted melodic lines, as well as Raz’s distinct dissonant riffing countered by melodic guitar leads.

Unlike many other one-man studio projects, Merciless Savage begs for collaboration and live performance.  Raz’s compelling guitar work could use equally challenging bass lines and beefier bass tones.  The exacting rhythmic shifts would demand a virtuoso on the kit, but black metal seems to produce those drum wizards at an alarming rate.  Whoever assists Raz in future endeavors, the songwriting chops are undeniable.  With the right crew, Merciless Savage could be a black metal juggernaut.

“Visions” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook