Album Review: Mastiff - Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth
Reviewed by Jack Craddock
Ask folk what the city of Hull is renowned for, most folk will mention the river, maybe Hull Minster, or that episode of Top Gear where the bloke raced James May, trudging through chest high sludge. Those truly in the know however, will tell of a different sort of sludge-laden avenue of the Humber’s banks. Anyone who likes it heavy and with their fingers on the pulse know that none do it as dirty as Mastiff do. Since 2014, Mastiff have been churning out some of the most grimace inducing, sludge tinged, metal boned hardcore that really has to be heard to believed. It seems, too, that they are being heard: they featured on CD Projekt Red’s video game Cyberpunk 2077, and more recently moved from British homegrown label APF Records to international label eOne Heavy, joining a roster which includes Black Label Society, Judas Priest, Ace Frehley, and more.
Now, Mastiff present to us their brand new album, Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth. The title of the new album, released 10/9/21, speaks to annihilation, ruin, and suffering. It is entirely fitting for the total aural battering ram that Mastiff have crafted. Opening track ‘The Hiss’ builds a foreboding atmosphere with noise, layers of guitars, a bass tone crisp enough it could be sold in packets, and reverb drenched vocals screaming endless suffering. The whole track distorts into terrifying territory then immediately cuts to ‘Fail’ without so much as a whiff of warning. ‘Fail’ runs just over a minute, with pounding punk drums charging below black metal hardcore tremolo picked guitars. Jim Hodge’s vocals, no longer soaked in reverb, convey such deep felt malice and anger that it’s impossible to not be just a little scared of this group.
‘Repulse’ maintains a similar pace to ‘Fail’, and first time listeners will be left without any doubt of Mastiff’s signature destructive blend. Already there is a sense of progression from 2019’s Plague. While you still wouldn’t call these songs slick, the songs have a flow and cohesion that elevates them above the admittedly brilliant preceding album. ‘Midnight Creeper’, this album’s highlight and most recently released single, is a tour de force for Hodges’ vocals, as well as the albums’ production. The drums truly pummel the ear, and when all hell breaks loose at the 1:13 mark, the gloriously hectic wall of sonic terror that the band raise feels on the verge of noise, but is somehow wrestled together. It’s like listening to a car career off of a cliff from the inside, but in the best possible way.
From strength to strength, following track ‘Beige Sabbath’ takes aim with pin point accuracy at the ocean of Black Sabbath clones on the current metal circuit. To openly and blatantly take a stand in this way is a brave move, but Mastiff pack originality by the bucket load, in a lethal package that such Sabbath wannabe’s would be foolish to compete with. ‘Futile’ follows, with a beatdown riff to end all spin kick fights, as well as a 90s sounding lead guitar through the verses. Mastiff display an increased aptitude for blending the styles of music that they love into a single delivery truly unique to them. ‘Endless’ turns up the black metal, with evil harmonies bleeding through bellow Hodge’s layered vocals, and it would be criminal at this point to not admire the sound of the bass on this track. Punchy and all pervading, Dan Dolby’s tone never struggles against the drums or guitars for space in the truly chaotic mix.
‘Scalped’ lumbers through your speakers like a tanker running aground, before once more dialling into the blast beat supported fury that, somehow, got Mastiff signed to a major label. Truly a testament to the vitriol that the band are capable of producing. The punk rumble of this tune is undeniably energetic, before devolving into the most primal hardcore imaginable. The electronic noise which follows allows just enough time for the misanthropy to sink in, before closing track ‘Lung Rust’ comes around to finish off whatever is left of your sanity and happiness. The track takes its time in establishing the final death rattles of the album, with a sludge riff of gargantuan proportions, black metal leads, and layered, shrieking vocals in the chorus. I cannot wait to scream “my bones turn to dust” when I see these guys live. The outro is around four minutes of laboured agony, as we come full circle with the albums opening, the distortion blurring all into nothingness.
Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth is a real triumph for Mastiff. This will be an album that, whenever any of your metal leaning friends, regardless of their personal tastes, asks “here show me something properly filthy,” you can blow them away with. This is well conceived vision, treated carefully and executed to perfection.