Review: Most Precious Blood, Merciless (Trustkill, 2005)

Another new record, another senselessly censored album cover. What can you do, eh? Anyway, I'm a longtime fan of Most Precious Blood's brand of intense metallic hardcore and I remain one today. I'm certainly not as immediately floored by this record as I was by "Our Lady of Annihilation", but I wouldn't say I'm disappointed by this material. This time around the songs are a bit longer and chunkier than much of their past work, and they're also continuing to delve into a bit more variety to keep things interesting and explore new opportunities musically. The core is still vicious metallic hardcore with plenty of relatively standard power chords and straight screaming/yelling vocals, though they've littered some pretty efficient samples throughout the album as intros/outros along with a few dashes of synths/programming. I'm not totally sold on all of that stuff, as some of the electronics that creep into "Mad as the March Hare" serve no real purpose and sound overly typical in character anyway; but I have to say, the brooding synth melodies and sample arrangements in the 38-second interlude "Curse of the Immortal" are awesome and would actually make for a really interesting full-length track with further exploration. From a writing standpoint many of the songs aren't all that instantly memorable, but some of the variety does pay off. "Narcoleptic Sleepwalker", for example, drops some total black metal tremolo picking riffs (I'm not kidding) along with raging basslines and lots of dissonant textures for a rather frantic track that kind of jumps around all over the place. And closer "Temporary Solution to a Permanent Problem" opens with pounding electronic percussion and ambient sounds against samples of a religious figure begging for money as chilling guitars start to pulse forward to signal a rather intense build into a dissonantly melodic set of midpaced chords. Several other comparable samples are interspersed throughout the massive 6+ minute composition, making for by far one of the darkest tracks to date from Most Precious Blood. Elsewhere, "Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves" is a shorter, faster attack of thrashy metallic hardcore; "Driving Angry" is among the more memorable tracks with its pulsing basslines and more diverse vocal performance that layers some nice singing against raging screams; "Type A Personality" cranks out some token midpaced breakdown brutality; etc. "Diet for a New America" is the only song that I don't particularly care for as some of the guitar riffs can get a little irritating at times and the overall feel just seems a little forced and stale compared to what I'm used to hearing from this band, so thankfully this is the only song that I don't feel is quite where it should be. The recording is pretty damn good. As with their last record the percussion gets a little too rigid in certain areas, but 99% of the time the mix helps balance that out. The guitar tone is a little warmer in terms of its density here, which gives the basslines a little more room to peak around the corner and make themselves known. The vocals sound pretty much perfect, and for the most part I think everything sounds pro as hell. I might like to hear the guitars and bass given a little more of a push to get right up in your face, but they're not overdoing anything in terms of heaviness, and that pays off for the clarity of the mix and whatnot, so... I'm not complaining! The layout is printed with a matte finish and boasts a gruesome (but not that gruesome) image of a corpse on a bed (with the alternate "censored" edition covering the body in a bloody sheet) and also includes plenty of live band shots and a few additional photos tying into the theme of the cover. A lot of the reviews that I've read for this record massively overemphasize tiny nuances of the lyrical content as well, making it seem as though every song is a fucking Peta advertisement or something, so apparently a lot of people out there are functionally illiterate. Do not buy into that nonsense at all, because there's only like one song that is very clearly dealing with animal rights issues, and all of these lyrics are quite artistically presented in terms of leaving things generally open rather than beating you with a bunch of statistics or any of that shit. And the vast majority of the album seems to be dealing with personal turmoil and hardships anyway: "I've learned my lesson. Life is barren and bereft. Deaccession until there's nothing left. Putting you away or putting you to rest. Denial or death, which one is best?" And, as always, there are over 30 minutes of hilarious extras tacked on at the end of the disc - from random storytelling on tour, to loads of amusing prank calls (victimizing plenty of other Trustkill bands and such). I pretty much never listen to this kind of shit on any CD, but I listen to every fucking second of it coming from Most Precious Blood. I'm telling you, some of this shit is just classic. Pure comedy. The meat and potatoes isn't the band's best record when it all comes down to it, and perhaps you could look at this as somewhat of a transitional phase since they're trying out quite a few new things here, but it still has its moments.

Running time - 41:25 (plus the extras), Tracks: 13
[Notable tracks: Driving Angry, Type A Personality, Narcoleptic Sleepwalker, Temporary Solution to a Permanent Problem]
Trustkill Records -