Written by Ellis Heasley
Mastiff – Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth
Hardcore/Powerviolence/Sludge from Kingston upon Hull, UK
Releases September 10, 2021 via eOne Heavy
There isn’t a superlative in the world that quite captures just how bleak Mastiff are. Hailing from the miserable town of Kingston upon Hull, the five-piece seem hell-bent on dragging all of us kicking and screaming into the most crushing of voids. Their third full-length album, Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth, is a horrible, horrible record – the kind that will just straight-up ruin your day. It’s like if Converge and Napalm Death were having a knife fight and then Neurosis hit both of them with a bus. All of that’s a compliment by the way, because as nasty as this record is, there’s also no question it’s one of the best hardcore albums of the year.
Admittedly, calling this a hardcore record is a bit of an oversimplification. It fits the bill in the broad sense of the word, not least in its hair-raising fury, but if you played this to a hardcore kid of the 1980s you’d probably make their eyes pop out of their head. A lot of it fits more accurately under the powerviolence and grindcore tags, with tracks like “Fail” and “Midnight Creeper” tearing through sub-two-minute runtimes with breakneck blast beats and tortured vocals from frontman Jim Hodge. Elsewhere, opener “The Hiss” shows a slower side to the band, its suffocating sludge underpinned by Michael Shepherd’s weighty drums and bassist Dan Dolby’s monstrous low-end rumble.
Sludge remains dominant throughout the record as a whole too, especially in the tar-thick guitars of James Andrew Lee and Phil Johnson. It results in an oppressive, asphyxiating mire – one through which the band struggle and strain to produce nine tracks of unwavering quality and impressive variation. Third track “Repulse” is definitely one of the best, a scorching mix of Converge-esque chaotic hardcore and the kind of meathead fight riffs that could level entire cities. Lead single “Endless” stands out too, an especially blackened cut with rapid tremolo-picking and double kicks that even goes pretty Slayer in its punishing second half. These are just two examples, and realistically you could spotlight any number of tracks on a record which is best viewed as a cohesive and devastating whole.
Perhaps one of the most surprising features of Leave Me…, and certainly one that elevates it to the very highest tier of records like it, is that this album has hooks. No, obviously not big melodic sing-alongs, but there are multiple moments on this record where Hodge barks a repeated agonised refrain that listeners should find easy to pick up and scream along to. Prime examples arise in particular in the three track run of “Beige Sabbath” (“Same old shit/Nothing’s changed”); “Futile” (“Futile, live with the misery/Futile, live with the agony”); and the aforementioned “Endless” (“Endless suffering/Endless pain”). Granted, none of this is feel-good stuff, but there is something resembling catharsis to be found in the way Mastiff rail against just about everything. You could even argue that moments like these lend the record a degree of accessibility (a term used as generously as possible here), in that they prevent the album’s constant violence from washing over its listeners as music like this often can.
Overall, Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth is a masterful exercise in misery. It’s a record that comfortably places Mastiff alongside the likes of Cult Leader and Full Of Hell in offering some of the finest and most horrific hardcore you’ll ever hear. Even with absolutely no let-up, its 32-minute runtime passes by in a flash, and somehow will leave you wanting to do it all over again as soon as closer “Lung Rust” has finished drowning in noise.