Corrupt Moral Altar- Mechanical Tides

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, July 19, 2014

One of the best parts of being a music reviewer is finding bands you hadn’t come across before that end up releasing some of your favorite albums of the year. This is exactly the case with Corrupt Moral Altar, whose debut full length Mechanical Tides hits hard with a combination of grind, hardcore, and sludge with plenty of additional influences being added in at key moments. It’s the type of release that has you hooked after only a few songs and is always capable of offering something new, which is not often the case in the genres these guys pull from. Throw in guest appearances from Jeff Walker (Carcass) and Mitch Harris (Napalm Death), and you have an album that should get this band on people’s radar.

At the core of Corrupt Moral Altar’s sound is a familiar blend of intense grind and sludge grooves, but they constantly throw curveballs at the listener to ensure that their material doesn’t feel like another generic addition to either genre. The instrumentals are constantly changing, but it doesn’t seem like the members are spreading themselves too thin as each moment is fully realized and transitions perfectly into the next. While one track might start off with heavy hitting grind before making the jump over to blues tinged sludge that has some catchier grooves. This move from fast blasting to slow burning grooves happens throughout Mechanical Tides, but the band also throws in some sections that remind me of the abrasive hardcore of groups like Nails. They even mellow out significantly on “Admit Defeat,” which caught me by surprise the first time through and reminds me of early 2000s post hardcore with a slightly more metallic edge. But what really made this album stand out for me was Corrupt Moral Altar’s ability to sound different from one track to the next. Little nuances like a burst of electronics or sudden shift over to melody pop up when you least expect them, and it never feels like the group is falling into overly predictable patterns.

Even without the guest appearances from Walker and Harris, this album has a significant amount of variation to its vocals. Lead singer Chris Reece is able to hit a wide range, as he can move from a high pitched shriek/scream down to growls and gruffer clean vocals without losing any intensity in the process. Guitarist John Cooke provides some backing ranges, though I must admit I did sometimes find it hard to tell which pitches were his and when it was all Reece. It’s the type of dynamic performance that not every band can pull off, and the shift between the high and lows gives Corrupt Moral Altar a very different feel from some of their peers. The aforementioned guest appearances definitely help to spice things up further, particularly on “Admit Defeat” where I believe Mitch Harris’ contributions are the softer clean vocals (please correct me if I’m wrong). Towards the end of Mechanical Tides a few additional styles pop up, as “River Blind” has a quick burst of extremely gruff screams that reminded me of Human Furnace from Ringworm. It isn’t uncommon for music groups with a wide range of instrumentation to stick with one single vocal range for the entirety of an album, which is one of the major reasons that this one continued to impress me from one listen to the next.

Corrupt Moral Altar was a band I hadn’t come across before Season of Mist sent Mechanical Tides my way, but what a hell of a first impression. These guys are able to deliver the razor sharp attack of grind with the sheer heaviness of grind and hardcore while branching out to include some additional elements that keep the songs feeling different. It’s one of my highlights of 2014 and is the type of album that has had me coming back for more all week. Expect to see this band’s name around a lot more in the coming weeks, as I suspect there will be plenty of others who feel the same way about this debut full length.

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