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Icon Of Evil – Syfilis Mentalis Review

Polish Death Metallers ‘Icon of Evil’ have carved a monumental slice of barbarism with their first full length record ‘Syfilis Mentalis’. The textures of early 90’s Death Metal’s most putrid elements are at the core of what these accomplished brutalitarians deliver. The pace is varied, the influences diverse and the execution always superb. This 5 piece mean business, and business is good.

A murder of crows squawk and the harsh wails of war sirens set a stark mood in seconds. This intensity never strays, and before you know it you’re beset by the deep ominous tones of thick guitars and mounting drum flurries. A somber bell tolls, and a thunderous riff follows so savage it pulsates and threatens your vulnerable eardrums. This 2 minute intro has already left me reeling under its aural assault when the horrific growl opening ‘Wood of the Cross’, makes me realize I may be in for the beating of my life.

The vocals throughout bellow the kind of Earth shattering growls Frank Mullen conjured in Suffocation’s early days. 20 seconds in and a riff which screams Bolt Thrower emerges. They come relentlessly, each more merciless than the last. This furiously fast pace transitions into a monumental, almost lethargic closing riff. Already this record feels gripped with promise.

‘We Come In Peace’ initially kicks off in a surprisingly upbeat fashion. Like a battalion of trumpeters calling a war cry before the forward march. As the vicious growls appear, agonizing screams begin to pierce the soundscape. The half way mark labours a riff so grim you could curdle milk with it. Proceedings end with a glorious segment which evokes ‘Behemoth’s’ most majestic arrangements.

‘Clog Your Mouths!’ muffled drum beat is abruptly washed away under an onslaught of destructive riffs and the deft, powerful assault of the drums. The influence of ‘Hail of Bullets’ seems especially significant here, and the triumphant tremolo riffing unfolds new layers of atmosphere. The latter half even contains vocals which resemble the tormented screeches of Burzum’s ‘Vikernes’.

‘I Was Born…I Will Die’ introduces a riff which immediately becomes a firm favourite, and continues to morph into an ever more monstrous form from start to finish. Possibly the most multi-faceted song on the record vocally, it seems to cover every extreme sonic base imaginable. Over its short 3 minute span the dense array of savagery it packs is astounding.

The albums self-titled track ‘Syfilis Mentalis’ opens with an even greater venom. As potent as anything you might hear from ‘Anaal Nathrakh’. The elements of Grindcore are starting to soak into every pore, adding even more filth into the mix. The tremolo riffs displayed here are especially destructive. Full of peaks and valleys, and so very sinister.

But the barbaric Grindisms become more violent as ‘I Will Survive’ violates any shred of colour which remained. The spite is germinating at an overwhelming rate, and it feels like ‘Icon of Evil’ have used the best til last approach. It’s a winning formula. As much homage seems to be paid to the likes of ‘Terrorizer’ and ‘Napalm Death’ as to ‘Bolt Thrower’.

To bring even more variety into the concoction, the near 8 minute monster ‘Crisis = profit’ slows things down, invoking the sludge drenched Death Metal styling’s of Asphyx and Incantation. You can even hear traces of more modern Death Metal titans like Dyscarnate here. The fact there are standout tracks at this point of the album is indicative of just how carefully ‘Icon of Evil’ have crafted this record.

When the almost nostalgically brilliant Bolt Thrower like riff of ‘P.M.C.’ rumbles into the opening, you can just feel how intent they are to make an impression. At no point does it feel like a second rate re-run. This is every bit as vital as Bolt Throwers most esteemed moments. The pace feels different, with a massive accentuation on crawling; doom laden monolith riffs giving way to occasional bursts of staccato rhythms.

As it begins to fade, the Slayer like riffery of ‘Same Old Same Old’ picks up the tempo. The heightening growl of the intro sends things spiraling into a berserk rage. Thrash laced wizardry is everywhere here, and it creates tremendous results. Some fascinating vocals layers are also present, with what seems to be spoken, growled and screamed vocals all intertwining at once.

As the closing epic arrives, it’s quick to assure you it’s every inch of what it deserves to be. Marduk-esque screams interplay with bottomless growls. Crushing riffs slither between them, whilst crawling drum patterns spiral around malevolent bass lines. It evokes desolate, bleak and hopeless landscapes. Not a trace of light penetrates the 8 minute showpiece. By the time the closing sample of George Bush’s declaration of war ends ‘Syfilis Mentalis’ feels like a true master class in how to do it right.

Between the displays of elite riffs, destructive drum rhythms, austere bass tones and savage vocal delivery, it seems ‘Icon of Evil’ have honed their breed of slime fuelled Death Metal to perfection. The influences are always vivid and authentic. It never falls into the trap of becoming derivative. It’s consistently fresh and convincing throughout. This is a rare trait for a band so boldly influenced by others. Few can make the same claim, and the Metal world should take notice immediately. What are you waiting for? Buy it!

Review by Sam Smart.

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