MANDATORY, Exiled in Pain (2008, Obliteration)
This skull was walloped so hard that he flew right out of somebody’s face and somehow ejected his eye at an even greater velocity. This is pretty funny on its own, but you can see lots of other eyes in the background, suggesting that wherever this guy has been exiled, this sort of thing happens all the time. I imagine some infinite dimension of high velocity skulls (and their attendant eyes), all of them shrieking some variation on, “This is the worst!” But unless the skull launching happens from a single, central point, some of these skulls are going to start colliding, and then they’re going to learn the real meaning of pain!
Exiled in Pain collects all of Mandatory’s demos, which date from the early 00s but sound like relics of early 90s. Entombed are the primary influence, but the many slower sections sound like remedial Bolt Thrower riffs, and occasionally the band throws in some nods to primeval Florida death metal like Massacre. The production is more or less uniformly boxy and cheap, but that was probably by design, as Mandatory are clearly a nostalgia act. They’re not bad, but there were SO many Entombed knockoffs kicking around when that band was still great (which was a really long time ago), and pretty much all of of them are better on average than Mandatory, but if you’ve collected it all and you still need more Scandinavian death metal (even if it’s made by a German band) then Mandatory might be… something something… trying so hard not to make a joke about the band’s name… must… be… strong…
— Friar Johnsen
…an option. God damn it.
ILLDISPOSED, The Prestige (2008, AFM)
Here we have a rounded, almost simian skull plummeting through the black abyss, leaving some kind of osseous vapor trail. It’s actually an eye-catching image, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The photoshop work on the boney miasma is not very convincing, but the lighting and simplicity of the base skull image are quite nice. Ironically, the Council agrees that the digitial foofery dramatically diminishes the prestige of this cover, which, had it been just the skull, would have been through-the-roof!
Grooving mid-tempo death metal a la Gorefest, although obviously not as good, because no one does this like Gorefest. Illdisposed, from Denmark, add a bit of the requisite Scandinavian melodicism to the riffery, but the formula is basically song-oriented death metal reminiscent of the times when “song oriented death metal” wasn’t an oxymoron. I had never heard Illdisposed before this, and I have to say I’m fairly impressed overall. This is a pretty late release for them, their eighth, and they’ve been around since 1993, which made me wonder if their earlier stuff was better, and in fact, that seems to be the case. If anything, their more recent output is perhaps a bit too polished. The extra brutality of the earliest albums, while never overweaning, is definitely missed now. But while they seem to have maintained a remarkable quality in their songwriting over two decades, the vocals have always been kind of bad, a sort of mushy gurgle of a growl, the work of a guy trying way too hard to sound evil. You’ll get that with death metal, even some good stuff, but it’s still always a bit disappointing. I can live with the singing, though, because the music is good, and I think there’s a good chance I’ll even buy some of this stuff.
— Friar Johnsen