[5.5/10] The deluge of quality USBM releases that have been so prevalent this year had to lose steam eventually, and unfortunately for the grimy looking fellows that make up Mutilation Rites, their equally grimy and crust-influenced take on black metal is where that quality comes up short. Though relatively brief at six tracks and 36 minutes Empyrean is at times, nevertheless a chore to listen to, its ongoing and dirty grinds often failing to resonate in a way that warrants repeat listens.
The sound a very crust-like kind of filthy, it creates a disorienting and muddy fog that sits atop everything else on the album. Opener “A Season of Grey Rain” and “Fogwarning” both fall prey to the same problems, a relentless but familiar blasting, tremolo runs, and faceless shrieking. The latter at least finds some redemption in a doomy-midsection that screams for attention and the former features some unquestionably varied drumming. Indeed the moments spread across the album in which the band breaks from its continuous and fuzzy black metal assault into doom-like refrains are the album highlights, with “Ancient Bloodoath,” despite being bloated at almost 8 minutes, bouncing back and forth between interesting and excruciating.
Given the songs are at their best when espousing at least some variation, it’s no surprise that album closer “Broken Axis” is the album’s high point. Opening up in a jagged fashion and transitioning to a blasting midsection and finishing off with the entire second half of the song grinding out in a sludgy collapse, it also comes too little too late. At almost seven minutes, it still harbors the same problem every other song here does in that it’s simply too long for what it features.
The stale and repetitious nature of every song turns what should be a brief half hour listening experience into a nigh-grueling succession of exasperated sighs. That this release comes from Prosthetic perhaps says more than it should given the kind of thing they usually traffic in and the music here on display. Best avoided.