MASK OF SATAN: Underneath The Mire
Release year: 2021
Label: Iron, Blood And Death Corporation
I’ll be honest with ya: the foremost reason I picked this album for listening was the cover. And, Hell, why not: it sports some great cover artwork. Nice composition, good colors that are bright but not too cartoonish and, to boot, in a very classic death metal vein. An album with a cover like this is something I might pick up in a record store and buy without hearing a second of the music.
So Finnish Mask Of Satan have that going for them on their second album. Luckily, the cover artwork isn’t the only thing to chalk up in the pro column, balancing out some of the things that go in the con column.
The name of the game is death metal, Lovecraftian and satanic thematically; musically, somewhere in the ambiguous swamps of the “old school” – of course, with so many “schools” of old death metal, what does it really even mean to be “old school”?
Well, in Mask Of Satan’s case, it means pretty straightforward, riff-driven metal of death with slight elements from both thrash and more traditional metal. Neither of these are very overbearing, though: Underneath The Mire isn’t any kind of hybrid. Their primarily mid-tempo plod, which veers into lurching or blasting basically never, is death metal through and through… but some riffs, some solos, some of the song structures nod in the aforementioned directions. And, to give credit where credit is due, many of the best riffs on the album are those with a more traditional metal bent; the combination of the heavier and harder death metal sound with traditional riffs just works.
Sadly though, despite competent guitarwork and compositions, Underneath The Mire comes across as somewhat faceless, a bit of dime-a-dozen, in its execution. One significant factor in this are the vocals; a gruff and hoarse rasped growl, they are very monotonous in their unchanging style. In a way, they remind me of Vader, but where the Poles make it work, Mask Of Satan’s static vocal delivery turns out to be a slight detriment.
And that’s a shame, because the vocals are one of the first elements most listeners will fix their attention on. It’s too easy to dismiss Underneath The Mire as somewhat tepid and/or uninteresting because of this. Putting in a bit of effort, digging beneath the initial impression, one discovers that as a whole, the album has more of the good than the bad. One can also speculate that with a bit more ripping, dirtier sound, the positive aspects might come into stronger focus – the sound is clear, sharp and all around decent, but ultimately a bit characterless.
The end result is an album that leaves something to be desired, but is still not a throwaway. Despite not having any “hit songs” on it, Underneath The Mire is worth a couple of good listens, and shows a band that may still have some way to go before they’re ready to contend for a place in the professional series, but have the potential for it.
In other words, worth checking out, but probably not something you’ll fall head over heels for.