ALBUM REVIEW: Mastiff – Plague

Release Date: February 1st 2019
Label: APF Records
Website: None available


Taking elements of sludge, grindcore, and hardcore, Hull five-piece Mastiff have released their second album, ‘Plague’. Recorded live and with no vocal separation, the record contains a thick and discordant sound that compliments the antagonistic content within.

Opening to sinister textures and chilling screams, ‘Hellcircle’ erupts into a wall of sound led by Phil Johnson‘s and James Lee‘s thick chords. Within seconds the group’s strengths are displayed, from Jim Hodge‘s guttural and percussive growls to Michael Shepherd‘s unrelenting blast beats, both working in tandem to pummel their influences home.

Raw and uncompromising, the album touches on multiple areas of extreme metal, from erratic grindcore on ‘Brainbleed’, a track that showcases Hodge‘s range with high pitched screams, to doom and sludge with ‘Bubonic’, which boasts an enticing black metal tinge to its main riff.

The choice to record live has strengthened the record, as 2016’s debut ‘Wrank’ lacked the bite of the group’s live shows. ‘Plague’ delivers a caustic growl and a thunderous kick to Mastiff‘s display of disgust towards society’s obsession with social media.

Holding down a solid backdrop is bassist Daniel Dolby, twisting and turning the low end notes to fight against the thick slabs of violence displayed throughout the record. Lead single ‘Vermin’ displays Dolby‘s use of swinging groove to propel the mid-tempo number beyond the standard sludge expectancy.

With the group primarily staying within the territory of grindcore and sludge, a strong reliance on dynamics is used to keep momentum on the record, with hark backs from ‘Hellcircle’ used to punctuate ‘Weep’ and an effective use of feedback shown on ‘Vermin’.

Bringing things to a close and comprising of nearly a third of the album’s entire runtime is ‘Black Death’, a track that’s glacial in its punishing reprieve. Astonishingly done in one take, regardless of its unhurried composition, the creation of the track is impressive. A crushing behemoth of towering drums and low growls, held together by tentative yet punishing chords, the album’s final statement takes away the novelty of speed found within the genre and focuses on bubbling tension to devastate for the final time.

Whilst ‘Plague’ doesn’t break new ground for the genre, it does provide a snarling experience. By aiming ambitiously, Mastiff have pushed themselves to new heights, and with a solid record behind them, Mastiff now have the tools to join their influences shoulder-to-shoulder.