Reviews (Mind Cemeteries)

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Mind Cemeteries Review

artist: Coma Cluster Void date: 08/30/2016 category: compact discs
Released: Aug 26, 2016
Genre: Technical Death Metal, Avant-Garde Metal
Label: Self-released
Number Of Tracks: 11
This international 10-string death metal band raises the bar for extreme metal (and string count) in a HUGE way on their amazing debut album.
 Sound:  9
 Lyrics:  9
 Overall Impression:  9
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 That phrase has seemingly become a trigger of sorts among many in the metal community. And it's almost understandable, these days, considering how bands the world over have become committed to adding more and more strings to their guitars in order to reach some sort of string singularity, or "stringularity" if you will, and when Coma Cluster Void first alerted the interwebs to their presence a couple of years back, the fact that guitarist Strieder uses a 10-string Agile almost made the band a meme of "This Is Spinal Tap" proportions, despite the fact that the band had many very promising demos out.

So is it possible that the music in this album delivers more than just "more strings"? Well, first, let's consider Strieder's and bassist Sylvia Hinz's background in "orchestral" music (I've never been entirely sure whether to call it "contemporary classical music" or something else, but the term is about as apt as I can imagine for their non-metal output) with avant-garde "dissonant art music" group XelmYa. In that group, Strieder's compositions are performed by Hinz on double bass recorder and Alexa Renger on violin, and their compositions are super eerie and dissonant. There's a layer of chaos and fear in all of the music Strieder composes for the group (though they also perform other composers' works as well), but also an eerie sort of calm.

This is where you're probably expecting me to tell you that "Mind Cemeteries" is just like that. Well, shades of Strieder's composing style do show in Coma Cluster Void. The intervals are often dissonant, angular, and jagged. It's incredibly rare that anything resembling a typical melody or rhythmic pattern comes out of the chaos. Even when something comes through that could be a "pretty" melody in any other context, like the "lead guitar" part in the outro of "Path of Lies," in Coma Cluster Void's music, it sounds evil and chaotic. There are very few bits of breathing room on this album. The tracks "Prologue: I Am," "Interlude: I See Through Your Pain" and "Epilogue: As I Walk Amongst the Sick" being the closest things to an exception to the rule, and performed by the aforementioned group, XelmYa, which also includes Strieder himself on violoncello and Genevieve DiSalvo doing spoken word parts. The intro of "The Hollow Gaze" also starts quietly with Sylvia's bass leading the way. There are very brief moments of clean vocal melodies in "Petrified Tears," though they're far from the kind of clean singing you'd hear in most contemporary metal albums these days. For the most part, the vocal parts are gruff and guttural shouts and screams. There are no "guitar solos" on the record, no "djent" chugs, just Strieder's 10-string dissonance weaving through every song. And that brings us back to the bit about "extended range guitars."

Though many will no doubt know this band as "that 10-string band," Coma Cluster Void's sound isn't quite as big of an exercise in "how low can you go?" as many might think. While there are plenty of huge, low notes throughout the album, the real treat of the 10-string attack on this record has to do with the dissonant intervals Strieder is tuned to (lots of tritones and minor seconds in his tuning scheme, which I can't remember off the top of my head), and the overall range of his guitar is still less than an 8-string. Sylvia Hinz's bass is also a very important part of the band's sound, playing almost as a second guitar part (or sometimes the guitar acting as a second bass!), weaving together with Strieder's guitar parts, and the two of them together form an absolutely MASSIVE sound. Interesting to note is that she plays bass left-handed strung the usual right-handed way, which is likely responsible for her use of some of the more interesting intervals and parts she performs on each track, as there's not a single conventional-sounding guitar or bass part on the entire album.

Rounding out the band, the vocals are handled throughout by Mike DiSalvo (formerly of Cryptopsy) and Austin Taylor of the band Dimensionless, while drums are handled by Christopher Burrows of the band Thoren. They are also an integral part of this lineup and perform their parts every bit as admirably as the compositional core of the band. Burrows has offered a glimpse into the recording process in a few videos on Facebook, revealing that there's no randomness to his parts, which are all intricately composed and beautifully notated. While I can't be entirely positive of it, it doesn't sound like there's a single bar of straightforward 4/4 time anywhere on the record, and even though the rhythms can often be quite chaotic, Burrows reins it all in like a champ and makes sense out of all the sonic onslaught. DiSalvo and Taylor split up both the vocal and lyric writing between them fairly evenly, and provide a sound unlike a lot of metal acts out there these days, definitely one of the heaviest vocal sounds on record in recent memory.

The best examples of groups I can think of that might be able to compare to this would be something like a mix of Meshuggah (especially "Chaosphere"-era material), Gorguts, Behold... The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, or Ulcerate. In the vocals, there are also elements of DiSalvo's former band, Cryptopsy. Production-wise, this is a very loud record, though there's still plenty of room for dynamics. Most of that comes down to the fact that while the bass and guitars are both distorted, neither are to the point where the saturation is so high that any sense of note is lost, allowing the dissonant sounds between instruments to come through. Listening to the album as a whole (especially after listening to a lot of much more melodic music!) can be a bit daunting if you're not used to how chaotic and dissonant the music is, but this is taken to the extreme on this album, and will please anyone looking for just that kind of sound. // 9


Lyrics: Mike DiSalvo and Austin Taylor paint as dissonant a picture with words as Strieder, Hinz and Burrows have with the music. Pain, anger, sadness, death... these are the topics covered by the album's lyrics, and that's nothing new in the genre at all. But the band presents them in such a way that they never seem overdone or overly maudlin or melodramatic. With the delivery from Mike and Austin being as aggressive and gruff as possible, it can really lend a lot of weight to verses like "And it happens quick/The end befalls the hypnotized ones/The pull is omnipresent/Strength had long been diminished/Humility blends with lucidity/Encourages the cattle to devour" from "Everything Is Meant to Kill Us," or "Judgement is disappearing/And the sun is dissipating/Yet the fallen have arisen/I have finally awakened/To the stench of all the long lost memories/Clogging up the mind cemeteries/Feeding off the parasite/Well, one thing's for sure/I am never coming back for more" from "Mind Cemeteries." The esoteric sort of style of lyric is used in every song, and while I won't claim to be very good with words or able to truly grasp the depth in meaning for lines like this, the vocal delivery is so powerful on this record that you can't help but feel like these words are as heavy as they can get. There is also a third vocalist in the form of Genevieve DiSalvo, performing some spoken word sections during the interludes on the album, though calling those parts "spoken" is a bit of a misnomer as she tends to shout her parts as well. But overall, all of the vocal parts go a long way to creating the heavy atmosphere on this record. // 9

Overall Impression: It's clear that Coma Cluster Void have truly made something special with this record. While the internet is undoubtedly going to know them as "that 10-string guitar band" and that will likely be the legacy they leave, if you listen to them for more than that, you will be rewarded with some of the most brutal, visceral, and strangely enough, emotional metal released in a long time. Don't let the band's contemporary classical music pedigree alarm you, either. This is not an album full of blatant shows of technique and flash. Everything serves the song. Every guitar and drum and vocal part weaves together to create an atmosphere. Even in the sections performed by XelmYa, with a violin, violoncello, and a double bass recorder, it's all about atmosphere and vibe.

And that atmosphere is truly heavy. This album is as heavy as a sack of black holes. It makes Meshuggah sound like The goddamn Beach Boys. And none of it comes down to how low they tune, how many strings their guitarist has, or how little clean singing there is. All of it has to do with the chaotic, energetic, dissonant atmosphere of this record. It's tense, dense, and uneasy. Even when the band lets off with the volume for a few brief moments, this record will scare the shit out of you. This is an album that you might not want to listen to alone at night, lest feelings of existential dread overcome you, unless you're into that kind of thing. This is definitely one of the most extreme albums I've heard in a long time, and if you're looking for something really intense to listen to, this will be perfect. It's a bit of a niche record, and it definitely won't appeal to everyone, but they really hit one out of the ballpark for fans of extreme, avant-garde death metal along the lines of Gorguts. // 9

- Travis Lausch (c) 2016