Mitochondrion - Parasignosis
Profound Lore Records
Atmospheric Death Metal
8 songs (55:41)
Release year: 2011
Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Goat

It’s perhaps not a surprise that few had heard of Canadian trio Mitochondrion before this release, as their debut album was self-released and limited to just 666 copies. If there’s any justice in the metal underground, however, that will change with this, their second full-length, and something of a stunning achievement. In the tradition of bands like Portal and Demilich, Mitochondrion play a dark, dense form of woozily psychedelic death metal that uses its subtle but very sincere technicality to bludgeon the listener repeatedly and confusingly, leaving them disoriented rather than enchanted. Heavy, rumbling, and rarely breaking its stride, this is impressive stuff, creating occult nightmares that will appeal to Lovecraft-worshipping black metalheads as much as voyagers of deathly realms looking for something new and frightening – yet it leaves you strangely unsatisfied, gasping for breath, having sucked the life from you rather than giving you a new lease of it. This does not tick the correct death metal boxes that would lead me to compare this favourably to the classic, big names.

Yet Parasignosis is still an experience that’s worth taking, a real atmospheric trip. Fascinatingly brutal without following the stereotypes of the subgenre, Mitochondrion keep the very deep growls but rejects the riff structures and drum patterns in favour of its own, more melodic and varied styles – opener Plague Evockation (Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Absolvimus Part I) having a deranged epic vibe that dips into a maelstrom of riffs, sounding like Morbid Angel gone psychotic. That Deathspell Omega-esque title will be raising eyebrows, and rightly so, as there are clear similarities. It flows seamlessly into the following track, a shorter piece that vibrates menacingly before giving way to the ten-minute finale of the trio, Tetravirulence (Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Absolvimus Part III) – heavy and frantic at first, pulsating with doomy venom afterwards. Perhaps not a comparison that the band would appreciate, but Akercocke’s atmospheric progressivisms were brought to mind in parts of the latter half of the track, screaming voices hovering in the background whilst guitar riffs slither over each other repulsively. At the very end, it takes on a near-industrial crushing repetition, guitar riffs and drums forming the pistols of an ancient machine relentlessly grinding; a motif continued into the next track Trials.

Mitochondrion use interlude pieces not to break up the action so much as to keep it going. The reinforced savagery of the title track is spat out after Rift/Apex’s intake of foul breath, moving towards theatrical tech-death flourishes without ever quite freeing itself from the fetid stink that it carries with it. You’re never able to headbang to anything you hear, despite certain riffs dancing briefly yet invitingly in Banishment (Undecaphosphoric) – this is music to have tipped over you whilst you lie motionless, rather than music you can engage with and wash yourself in.

By the time you’ve reached the militaristic Kathenotheism you’ll be feeling as wearied as if you’ve just taken a long journey, so it’s suitable that the band finish Parasignosis with three untitled hidden tracks, two of ten seconds and one of nearly ten minutes. Moving to ambience, their clangs, whirs and distorted whispers bring the album to a close very effectively. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy this in the perverse manner that fans of the out-there do, but also lying if I gave it a massive score and declared it unrefined genius. This is one of those excellent albums that falls just short of euphoria, a semi-masterpiece that will be forgotten as soon as Mitochondrion surpass themselves with the next album. Is there brilliance to be found here? Yes. However, as was noted in the opening paragraph, this is something of a stunning achievement, rather than a unmistakeably stunning achievement. As intense and grimy as it is, it lacks the cathartic satisfaction which a truly transcendental experience would give; perhaps it’s how the band wanted to leave the listener, but think of it as a flawed gemstone rather than the shining diamond it will be praised as in certain circles. Am I nitpicking, searching for reasons to criticise? Perhaps. In the interests of fairness, I must reiterate how impressed I was with this, overall. You don’t even need headphones and a dark room, unless you lack imagination. This is a band that doesn’t so much conjure forth the darkness lurking in your head so much as put it there to begin with.

Killing Songs :
Plague Evockation, Tetravirulence, Trials, Parasignosis, Banishment, Kathenotheism
Goat quoted 87 / 100
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