Review Summary: Faster, heavier, darker: all the right symptoms of a successful sophomore album.
While maybe naming their second full length album IV
could be considered jumping the gun a little bit, it can be said that Phillie hardcore band, Mother of Mercy, carry themselves in the same way as a band into their fourth full length would. Ever since their debut album III
, they have shown the confidence, maturity and determination in their brand of catchy, darkened hardcore that is on the same level at veterans of the genre. Granted, Mother of Mercy, like most hardcore bands out there, is comprised of members of past bands (ex-member of Let Down, in this case), they have a certain niche that they fill in their perspective genre that they have done an admirable job in striking for. While not necessarily an entirely unique take on the genre, Mother of Mercy blend the simplistic, catchy chords of 90’s hardcore, and blends it with the bleak, darkened metallic attitude of legendary bands Obituary and Samhain. III
did an acceptable number for Mother of Mercy and following into the New Year their sophomore album, IV: Symptoms of Existence
continues on the trend that their debut started.
From first glance, the average passerby might confuse Symptoms of Existence
as some offshoot, blackened crossover thrash band. The album art is definitely one of the more melodramatic of the genres and in some cases the initial impression may be somewhat justified. IV
is a very abrasive and all-encapsulating album that is a much heavier, darker affair than Mother of Mercy’s debut. Essentially building upon all the positives that made III
such a gripping listen, Mother of Mercy continue to delve deeper in the darker territories of hardcore; not so much black metal, as the common trend tends to be these days, but by greeting the listener with a near wall of sound like atmosphere. This might make individual instrumentation difficult to single out, as it tends to all bleed into the equivalent of one cacophonous sonic battering ram. Following the heavy opening riff of the eponymous track ‘Symptoms of Existence’, the listener is greeted by a banshee-like vocalist that should sound out of the place with the relatively straight forward hardcore chords, but they surprisingly complement each other extremely well. This also brings Mother of Mercy’s probably most key member of the band out the most, vocalist Bob Wilson. His screams are more akin to much a wailing than your typical Terror-tough guy. It serves as a double-edged sword, as his vocal talent can be seen as a welcome advantage for its surprisingly abrasive nature, yet can also be a disadvantage for the very same reason. It is mostly up to personal choice, as it could make or break ones opinion on Mother of Mercy.
There is another possible problem that could coalesce into either of positive or a negative, depending on individual opinion. While the wall-of-sound like production is very apparent on Symptoms of Existence, it cannot be denied that at the very heart of it, it is mostly an extremely simplistic and honest hardcore/punk album. Guitarists Vince and Joe do standup jobs in their respective departments, but they keep their formula very basic, not going outside the realms of easy song structures to form simplistic, yet very catchy tracks. Nearly every song on Symptoms of Existence
follows this formula, but becomes very apparent on tracks like ‘Live Through Darkness’, ‘Control’, ‘Swinging the Chain’, and ‘Soul Burns Slow’, where the instrumentation is akin to acts such as This is Hell or Comeback Kid. This is where individual opinion comes into play. While some listeners might appreciate the fact that Mother of Mercy are willing to experiment with their sound a bit, yet keep their heart and soul firmly in friendly territory, some might be turned off by the overall simplicity that is constantly felt on IV
But Mother of Mercy has done a job well done on their sophomore album, IV: Symptoms of Existence
. Faster, darker, and heavier, IV
continues on the same path that Mother of Mercy started out on their debut III
and further refines it. While some aspects of IV
can either make or break ones opinion on Mother of Mercy, they have done all the right things to craft an acceptable and successful sophomore album.