Brooklyn’s Mutilation Rites Brings Black Metal Dementia to Dayton
By Gary Spencer
While there is a lot of good heavy metal being produced locally, it seems lately that more and more nationally known touring acts are finally coming to play in the Gem City. While this is far from a bad thing, one thing Dayton is sorely lacking is the presence of the infamous black metal genre, a style of metal that perhaps is better known in the mainstream press as music made by Scandinavian arsonists, murderers and madmen more so than the musical style itself. And for the better part of 20 years, black metal from the United States has unfortunately been trapped in the shadow of its nefarious European counterparts, despite some very innovative offerings from American black metal purveyors such as Absu, Agalloch, Krallice, Liturgy and Nachtmystium. But in recent years, United States Black Metal (USBM) has finally earned respect from the metal community both on common soil and overseas.
One of the newest bands from the States turning heads in the black metal underground is Mutilation Rites. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the quartet draws their influence for their own brand of stripped down, go-for-the-throat black metal from old school Norwegian groups such as Darkthrone, Mayhem and Immortal. Eschewing keyboards, female vocals and symphonic arrangements and other such musical window dressing, Mutilation Rites prefers to keep things simple, blunt, loud and in your face. Upon listening to the band’s newest full length, Empyrean, due for release in late May on Prosthetic Records, the listener will catch all of the trademarks of the black metal genre such as grinding, tremolo-picked guitar chords and ass-kicking blast beats but also elements of crust, thrash and even twinges of punk and hardcore. All in all, it’s a solid 35 minutes of straightforward black metal beat downs and tortured shrieks serving as the conveyor of all things dark, depressive and ominous.
With an upcoming tour focused on the Midwest, including a stop in our hometown of Dayton, Ohio, I caught up with drummer Justin Ennis and vocalist/guitarist George Paul about all things related to Mutilation Rites.
What led you and your band mates into this interest and practice of the black metal genre? What does Mutilation Rites bring to the modern millennium of said genre?
We are by no means a “true” black metal band. It’s 2012 and we are from America, no one in this day and age is “true.” [Justin Ennis]
Would you say that you transcend the metal genre?
We make metal we want to listen to. Do we transcend the genre? I have no idea. If people think we do that’s fantastic, but it would be pretty self-absorbed to claim we did. This band has never been about making an image. It’s just us making music that we want and feels natural. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? [George Paul]
I’ve just listened to the new CD, Empyrean. What type of sound or style are you trying to achieve with the new album and/or what types of influences (musically or otherwise) was the band trying to achieve with the newest record?
I’m glad you like it. We write songs that we’d like to hear. As far as influences go musically and [otherwise], we are all across the board. Life experiences shape the way everyone views the world, [we] take it all in. [JE]
The black metal genre seems to be more high profile than ever. What do you think is good and/or bad about contemporary black metal in the U.S.A.?
Honestly I don’t listen to very much USBM. Absu, Dispirit, Inquisition are all obviously amazing, but there are a whole slew of modern black metal bands coming out that I don’t really pay attention to. Different strokes for different folks, you know? [GP]
A lot of NYC-based black metal bands (Liturgy, Krallice, etc.) get tagged as “hipster black metal.” Why and/or what do you think about this? Does Mutilation Rites get similar treatment due to your geographical background as well?
Of course we get lumped in with the “hipster” black metal thing being from Brooklyn. I don’t really care about whatever “hipster” black metal is. I hear these bands and it’s totally fine, it’s just not for me. We just try and write the kind of music that feels natural to us. If it comes across as “hipster” shit because we’re from Brooklyn, then whatever. People will be critical of music regardless. [GP]
I see that your upcoming tour is centered in the Midwest. What’s the impetus for bringing your brand of black metal to America’s heartland?
We love the Midwest. We go there constantly because we get amazing responses there. To us it seems like one of the most blooming and genuine metal scenes in the country right now. [GP]
Suppose you were talking to a stranger. How would you describe Mutilation Rites to said person, both musically/lyrically and conceptually?
Like I said, we make music we want to listen to. I can’t relate ourselves to anybody because I have no idea what we sound like to people. I’ve heard people relate us to Craft or Dawn. That’s totally amazing but to me it’s just music I made with friends. It’s extremely hard to judge your own music. [GP]
Please tell me about your upcoming full-length album with Prosthetic Records. How did you hook up with that label? What is the new record all about musically/lyrically?
Prosthetic had been keeping tabs on us since 2010. They like how busy we are. Honestly that’s the only way to get any sort of recognition from a label these days. You’re not going to be “discovered” at your rehearsal space. You have to get out there and tour your ass off. They approached us in February 2011 and we came to an agreement later that year. It’s by no means a departure; it’s the [next] step in our musical evolution. [JE]
Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Give us whiskey. [JE]
(Mutilation Rites is scheduled to perform at Blind Bobs at 430 E. Fifth Street in downtown Dayton. Mortals, Ex Luna Ut Terra and Chronic Demise open for the band. Admission is $6 at the door and the doors open at 9p.m.)
Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at Gary Spencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.