Quebecois death mongers MORTOR return for a second mucky jaunt following 2010's "Metal Ride". While their sinewy theme of war atrocities certainly fits an album filled with perpetual grind and proto-thrash, MORTOR are still a click or two away from delivering something truly monstrous.
If they'd arrived in the eighties, MORTOR likely could've been signed by New Renaissance Records, which then specialized in third tier death metal acts that are immortal only to a select crowd that remembers them such as AT WAR, HOLOCROSS, EXECUTIONER and WERHMACHT.
At this point, MORTOR is still third bracket class despite a propensity to produce cool moments of headbanging bliss on "Shoot 'Em Up". The rest, unfortunately, is redundant and choppy. While drummer Jay Cross can lay down some wicked licks, grooves and triplicates, whenever he's called upon to grind in primary, the songs themselves stay in primary instead of extending overtop him. In fact, timing issues ranging from held-back beat patterns to off-the-mark guitar solos keep MORTOR in check before they have the opportunity to truly explode. Much of their stick-it-and-bludgeon-it motif is repeated ad infinitum to the point of monotony until "Clusterfuck" has its silly way and MORTOR then begins to shape and mold different ideas incrementally.
They open up their songwriting schemes on "Trigger Happy", "Locked and Loaded" and "Infidels" by mingling slower chugs and better-executed solo sections, even if there could still stand for some tightening of the gears. The hilariously titled "Days of Our Knives" finally veers away from MORTOR's repetitive blitzkriegs with more doom and NWOBHM power punching.
Even though the basic grind line of "Whiskey Surgery" is no different in structure than most of "Shoot 'Em Up", it does present one of the sharpest threads of what MORTOR has to offer. Gnarly solos from Antonin Perras-Foisy on "Whiskey Surgery" and later on "The Bonesaw" steps up MORTOR's game, even if that game needs more stepping up overall. At least the album's bass-heavy pumper "Let's Deflagrate" gives hope that MORTOR has something more to invest in themselves than mere chunk 'n puke treatments. Not a perfect song, at least "Let's Deflagrate" gives listeners respite from "Shoot 'Em Up"'s round-and-round goring effect.
While nobody should argue MORTOR's lack of commitment to brutality and mayhem, it does go without saying they're barely above coming off as a one-trick-death-pony through two albums. Well-competent when they're set about their task, MORTOR's challenge in the future will be to think outside the box as they do in the second tiers of "Shoot 'Em Up". They may want to be another SIX FEET UNDER in spirit, but that thinking only gets you so far.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.