Italian crust lords Hierophant have been warping the contours of hardcore for the better part of a decade now, mixing black metal tones with doomy sludge chords and hoarse vocals. The band's sound has been gradually drifting towards a chaotic interpretation of death-punk and grind, so it's only appropriate that their latest LP, Mass Grave, was recorded by Taylor Young of Nails fame. The album channels the sort of nihilistic fury that made Abandon All Life so irresistible, favouring blast beats and murky, down-tuned guitar lines that bleed together into an inexorable hellfire.
Thematically, Mass Grave doesn't try to romanticize the apocalypse, but instead tries to bring it to life it in all its terrifying details. Lorenzo Gulminelli's vocals are prominent in the mix, and have a deep guttural quality that leads the frantic instrumentation through its paces. He plays the unintelligible ringmaster for the grinding assault of the record's opening suite as "Execution of Mankind" swerves seamlessly into "Forever Crucified," which culminates in a breakdown of triplets in 6/8 time that is all too brief. The slower songs feel more filled out too, with the title track leaning on a steady double-kick in between tight rhythmic changes while "In Decay" works around a pulsing, thrash-like guitar riff.
The record ends with a seven-minute dark ambient coda on "Eternal Void" that skips and disintegrates like a Tim Hecker piece, driving home the bleak finitude of Mass Grave's narrative and securing its position as the year's most proficient treatise on human extinction. (Season of Mist)