MORTILLERY — Shapeshifter (review)

MORTILLERY — Shapeshifter album cover Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Canadian thrash metal act Mortillery will always be a band that I'm going to think of with a touch of nostalgia. Unexpectedly with their previous album Origin of Extinction (2013) they were the band who finally opened me up to the thrash metal genre. Their classic sounding thrash metal came with both a really aggressive modern twist as well a noticeable traditional metal side, and it proved an addictive album for me. I've listened to a fair bit more thrash since then and of course as often happens with such gateway albums I've come to realise that the previous album wasn't quite the groundbreaking release it seemed at the time (though still is on a personal level), though of course it's still a fun and praiseworthy thrash metal album. The group's follow-up Shapeshifter (2016) has been on my most anticipated list since it was announced, and with this one I think it's clear that Mortillery are really developing into a true force to be reckoned with.

Mortillery sound like they're on fire with this album. Largely gone is their classic metal edge. Instead they're pummelling their listeners with full-on blistering thrash/speed metal and honestly sound completely pissed off while they're doing it. Especially vocalist Cara McCutchen is screaming down that microphone with a furious vocal style that seems to just drip venom. It's familiar from the previous album but leaves much less room for her more melodic vocals this time. If someone who sounded that angry was coming my way I'd seriously think about turning around and legging it in the other direction! And that's exactly what makes Cara and the band's performance, which certainly keeps up with the vocals, so compelling on Shapeshifter. I sometimes struggle with counting thrash metal as an extreme metal genre, after all thrash also has the likes of Metallica and Megadeth who both have produced undeniable classics of the genre, but sound rather tame by extreme metal standards. Nothing here is going to leave any doubts about thrash being an extreme metal genre. Their sound still leaves plenty of room for melodic lead guitar playing though.

It may be undeniable though that in terms of riffs Origin of Extinction actually had more variety on offer compared to Shapeshifter's full speed ahead approach, but they're very different albums within the thrash metal spectrum. What it may lack in diversity it more than makes up for in raw passion, energy and aggression. Lyrically Mortillery seem to have matured as well; at the very least there's no track like the previous album's F.O.A.D. where it seemed that every other word was fuck. The songs here deal with topics common to metal and thrash in particular such as war (Radiation Sickness) but also folklore (Wendigo).

I have to say that Shapeshifter is the best Mortillery album to date. Their last album was fun but this one really slays. 2016 has been a good year for thrash so far with veterans Artillery providing an equally excellent album from the more melodic, power metal influenced side of thrash, which Shapeshifter proves a great counterweight too. In my review for Artillery's album I said it was the thrash album for others to beat for the year and for their brand of thrash it still is. For this kind of thrash metal though Shapeshifter is now the one for others to beat.
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