You know that classic moment in "The Wicker Man", when Edward Woodward suddenly realizes that he's toast? That flicker of horrified realization: that's what MASTIFF sound like. For reasons that will become clear when you hear this horrifying slab of disgust, the British quintet sound very much like the right band for the right moment. Bilious with contempt for the state of things and utterly, remorselessly black-hearted from start to finish, "Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth" is a sustained scream in the face of uncontrollable madness.
It's also a deeply fucking weird record. "The Hiss" should go down in extreme metal history as one of the most disturbing opening tracks of all time. A slow-motion nightmare, crippled with distortion and disintegrating in real time, it slithers and spirals like some hideous, coiled discharge belched from Cthulhu's spiny rectum, offering nothing but dismay and psychosis as reward. With that atmosphere of crazed dread established, MASTIFF truly let rip on "Fail": a rush of tumbling skulls and sledgehammer force, it showcases an enhanced upgrade for the muscular slurry that made this band such an irresistible underground concern via previous albums "Plague" (2019) and "Wrank" (2016, both released via APF RECORDS). Whether through a bigger production or simply a surfeit of hateful energy, "Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth" is a heavyweight statement, and the unapologetic lack of anything remotely commercial or accessible makes that statement all the more potent.
One might even suggest that eONE have been exceptionally brave in signing a band whose music may cause more sensitive listeners to run shrieking from the room. But since the era demands it, MASTIFF have proudly upped the ugliness, banished all light and delivered songs like "Midnight Creeper" and "Futile", monochrome, murderous torrents of sickening, crusty riffing, dense with extraneous, amorphous noise and the omnipresent threat of violence. Admittedly, a song title like "Beige Sabbath" does confirm that the Brits are not entirely incapable of having a giggle, but the song itself is no joke: two minutes of bloody-eyed belligerence and hell-for-leather grind, delivered with so much venom that you can almost hear vocalist Jim Hodge's eyeballs bursting. Heaviest of all, the suffocated slither of doomy closer "Lung Rust" eradicates any final pleas for clemency, MASTIFF's scabbiest riffs conspiring to make the descent into Hell as excruciating as possible.
If you need cheering up, this may not be the best place to start. Unless, of course, the sound of the world consuming itself from the inside out and spitting in the face of humanity is your idea of a good time. And it might as well be. Being crushed has never felt better.