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The underground sensation Lord Mantis was regarded as one of the more important new acts in the sludge community. The blackened touch they brought to their performances stuck out like a sore thumb in all the right ways until the band split in 2017. Fast forward about two years and differences have been mended, a new line-up forged, and the fire re-lit to reform and remind everyone who they are with a long overdue new album that sadly does not include founding member and former drummer Bill Bumgardner. It’s evident there is honor to his contributions, but what Universal Death Church lacks in his presence it more than makes up for with the inclusion of the turbulent history that brought the beast down to its knees once before. All of this takes little time to pick up on within just the first few minutes of your first spin, but those first impressions can be a bit deceiving. I know this due to multiple impressions in one sitting…

As soon as I hit that play button, I knew something was different. “Santa Muerte” was just a non-stop rapid-fire abrasive assault of pure hatred. The highly altered raspy vocals shouting at the listener (I believe calling us all maggots as the lyrics were not provided and the words hard to understand) with the most visceral near-industrialized intensity one could hope far without completely crossing genres. No, it’s not a new direction, but it took a bit to calm down even though “God’s Animal” slows things down to more of a traditional mid-tempo sludge approach with a venomous vocal approach that makes the otherwise groovy track far more hostile than it has any right to be. My heart was still pumping from that initial two-and-a-half minute start even after my fiancee realized I was enjoying myself and successfully made me stop listening five times in as many minutes to talk about my cat being bored all night while I was working among other topics.

Yes, technically this is actually fourth impressions as that’s how many times I had to restart due to my attention being forced elsewhere [note: this is why reviews are non-existent here anymore as well for those who keep asking], but it did allow me the opportunity to soak in the first two tracks more before realizing the steam was actually meant to die down from the start upon hitting the lengthy “Qliphotic Alpha” which drags the listener along against their will as the myriad of heavily distorted screams slash away at the flesh bit by bit, burying you in the blistering sands of the cold, dark, deserted aural hellscapes this group can so easily craft. Before you know it, you’re left alone, battered and bruised before having your own eulogy thrown in your face about half-way through. Lord Mantis does leave you to rebuild yourself afterwards though through the slow, ritualistic “Consciousness.exe” that I couldn’t finish due to having a cat shoved in my face with paws furiously flailing for freedom ripping my earbuds out more than once.

While I’d love to sit here and write a proper in-depth review of this one right away given the excitement of mine to have a new Lord Mantis at my fingertips, it just isn’t possible given it took nearly ninety minutes to listen to the equivalent of seventeen minutes of music in peace. However, the desire to hype this upcoming effort was there, so this article exists in all its pure excitement and frustrated glory. So far I have high expectations for Universal Death Church as a whole based solely on the first three tracks (and much of the fourth I could hear before ultimately ripping the earbuds out and calling it quits). There’s much about what I heard that puts you right back into Death Mask territory, but there’s a new primal ferocity that places Lord Mantis‘s fourth full-length on a completely different plain of existence that may leave some fans divided despite it all feeling right at home.

Press release provided by Profound Lore Records via Earsplit PR.

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