Album Review :
Mouth of the South - Struggle Well

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Band: Mouth of the South
Album: Struggle Well
Label: Facedown Records
Release: 8.5.14
Reviewer: BrodyB
Tracklisting:

  1. Blind Guides
  2. Running Scared
  3. Dry Bones
  4. Good Intentions
  5. Simply Grace
  6. Idle Hands
  7. Hollow Veins
  8. Endless Cycle
  9. Porcelain Faith
  10. Nameless: Faceless

Around this time last year I started hearing a buzz about a band from Arlington, Texas who were making waves in the underground heavy scene. That band is Mouth of the South, newest Facedown Records signees, were creating a name for themselves due to their sheer musical brutality and unfalteringly honest lyrics. The boys in MOTS we not redefining the wheel, but were giving it a swift and unapologetic punch in the mouth.

“Struggle Well”, the group’s debut on Facedown and sophomore full length, sticks to much the same formula. Expect a heaping dose of down tuned guitars and pummeling drum beats, accompanied by Josiah Lyle’s furious howling and brutally honest lyrics. This time, however, the band has thrown a couple of curveballs in the form of spoken word sections and more mature song writing to spice things up a bit.

Imagine Godzilla lumbering through Tokyo, moving slowly and steadily but causing utmost destruction and you have a pretty good idea of what the opener offers. Blind Guides begins things rather slowly, focusing more on being devastatingly heavy than aggressive. Amidst the bowel shaking chugging and horror movie dischords, there are hints of distinct melodic leads accompanied by Lyle trying his hand at unique sing-screams. The track truly shines during it’s concluding breakdown as heavy atmosphere adds depth to the chugging while Lyle proclaims, “Blind guides, throw off your scales and open up your eyes/ Blind guides, come back home / The door is open wide”.

Dry Bones is the first track to break the mold of traditional metalcore music, choosing to take a break from the metallic mayhem for an extended spoken word verse. What makes this track different than say, the spoken sections from For Today’s “Breaker”, is the fact that the spoken parts happen sandwiched in between heavy sections while the band builds to a massive climax. This dynamic allows the song to feel huge, and creates memorable sections as the track seamlessly transitions from heavy beatdowns to melodic poetry and back again.

Good Intentions does a great job of infusing melodic singing and leads without compromising the brutality the band excels in expelling. This dynamic of interweaving heaviness and gorgeous melodies really helps capture the depth of the lyrical content. The song deals with the beauty of God’s love amidst our struggle to love Him in return more than ourselves. During the bridge, a particularly polarizing section when heavy chords and tremolo picking collide, Lyle exclaims,”God these hands have pulled the apple from the tree and I’ve been striving for atonement but it’s just out of reach / This whole time I thought I was living in your name / Hands to the plow I was digging my own grave / I’ve been trying, I’ve been trying to somehow earn your grace / I’ve been lying, I’ve been lying; wearing masks to hide my face / I’ve been thinking to myself, does this cycle ever end? / I’ve been falling short and burning out; your patience must be thin / Have I worn out your patience yet?”.

Coming off the heels of the emotional ending to Good Intentions comes the black sheep of the album, Simply Grace. The middle track on the record is all spoken word while the band create atmosphere similar to something Explosions in the Sky would create. Bells and handclaps accompany the guitars drenched in reverb rather than shouts and screams. Lyrically the song comes from the perspective of the Trinity of Christ calling out to broken man for restoration. The song has very worshipful vibes and is best enjoyed with closed eyes and a powerful sound system.

Idle Hands bursts out the gates like a bull at a rodeo, twisting and turning; kicking and thrashing. This jump from the melodic worship atmosphere of the prior song to this one comes across all the more violent and jarring. The song goes through several tempo changes, ending with a blues influenced slide guitar outro which slips its’ way into my personal favorite track, Hollow Veins.

The variety in vocal delivery really makes Hollow Veins stand out. Lyle delivers his standard low end growls, but also spices things up with eerie higher pitched vocals than previously shown on the record as he voices the demons in his life. The track also features a clean sung chorus sans any whiny vocals. Hollow Veins will truly leave it’s mark on the listen upon the conclusion due to the destructive breakdown that finds Lyle howling, “Go to hell dark passenger” repeatedly.

Porcelain Faith is another track which finds MOTS able to finely tune a balance of blisteringly heavy and beautifully melodic. Starting out slowly, relying on pounding drums and melodic guitars to carry things forward, the track soon progresses to furiously paced blast beats before going into a groove centric breakdown. Lyle and the clean vocalist split vocal duties during the bridge as the line, “I want you to know you’re not alone” is softly crooned while Lyle shouts, “I will never give up, I will never stop. I will fight for you even with nothing left. So never give up, and never give in. When you fall down I will pick you up again

Overall: Mouth of the South create an impressive debut record on Facedown. While it does not break the mold of what to expect from the modern metalcore genre, “Struggle Well” takes a few steps in the right direction providing interesting spoken word sections, creative songwriting, and a gritty vibe. “Struggle Well” is a record every fan of heavy music needs to check out.

RIYL: Those Who Fear | Fit For a King | Colossus

 

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