Just a year after putting out a killer black/thrash demo, France’s Mortal Scepter has signed with Unspeakable Axe Records to release their first EP, entitled “As Time Sharpens The Sentence”. This EP is an excellent embodiment of what makes this dark style of thrash great, as it delivers both riffs and atmosphere with incredible consistency. Take the title song for example, where Mortal Scepter makes use of the trademark black/thrash ride cymbal abuse as they unleash crawling riffs that make significant use of the fretboard. Shortly after this, the first verse begins, and the riff underneath is so potent that you almost forget that the vocalist is singing. This is quite possibly the most enticing section of the entire record simply because the riff is so active, and perfectly compliments the insanity of the band’s vocal approach.
As you might imagine, the band’s singer, offers a more brutal take with his snarls. Paying great homage to early black metal, his singing is raspy and cavernous, and with the right amount of effort from the listener, can occasionally be understood. He also incorporates his take on those Schmier-esque high-pitched screams on more than a few occasions. Even though his voice is very serviceable, it truly is the music that makes “As Time Sharpens The Sentence” so great. A song like “Execution Symphony” shows the band firing on all cylinders; the double bass that opens the track is immensely powerful, and is the driving force of this track, which spends most of its time firing off uptempo riffs. Much to the delight of 4 and 5-stringers everywhere, this song also has a superb bass presence; Mortal Scepter’s bass player is unleashing all sorts of interesting lines that stand out even amongst the madness of the guitars. This track as a whole exemplifies the EP: fantastic performances all around with maniacal riffs and an insanely tight rhythm section. Though the band makes use of many black/thrash tropes, they don’t rely on any one in particular, and instead look to great songwriting to keep you coming back to this release.
And then there’s the Destruction cover. It is my opinion that “Sentence of Death” is the best black/thrash release in history, and “Total Desaster” is also deserving of the title of best black/thrash song ever. The reality is, nobody is going to do this song justice. That’s not a shot at Mortal Scepter; the simple fact is that it is impossible to recapture the energy that Destruction had on that original recording. But Mortal Scepter does a pretty decent job. This style of music has certainly evolved since 1984, and the band manages to make “Total Desaster” sound more like one of their songs than you might otherwise expect.
“As Time Sharpens The Sentence” is an impressive offering of black/thrash that shows Mortal Scepter can stand up against any band in the subgenre. They’ve nailed the production on this EP, and the songwriting is also strong (though I wouldn’t mind seeing the band taking a stab at shorter, more concise songs). Overall, this release is yet another must-own from Unspeakable Axe Records!
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“As Time Sharpens The Sentence”
4.3/5 or 86%.