Published Nov 20, 2019Miracles do happen, apparently. Notorious blackened doom outfit Lord Mantis was thought to be finished forever, following the tragic passing of drummer and founding member Bill Bumgardner in 2016. But the artistic urge has, against all expectations, brought the disparate remnants of Lord Mantis back together, and with a renewed vigour that justifies such a momentous reform.
Universal Death Church is as much a resurrection of the Lord Mantis sound as it is a step into a new era. With Charlie Fell's unmistakeable vocal presence restored after an unfortunate split from the band in past years, it almost feels like Lord Mantis never left, but for the obvious void left by Bumgardner's sudden passing, here filled admirably by Contrarian's Bryce Butler.
In songs like "God's Animal" and "Damocles Falls" in particular, Butler does a stellar job of not only emulating Bumgardner's defining style, but also injecting his own vitae into each song. Butler manages to lay down drum patterns that are simultaneously tribal and strangely complex in their composition. However, it is only a testament to Bill's musical individuality that something is still missing with him gone.
Founding member and guitarist Andrew Markuszewski has returned with a fury as well, laying down some truly chilling riffs as well as manifesting his other dark folk project, Sonoran Rebel Black Magick, in the hauntingly beautiful "Low Entropy Narcosis."
It is a joyous occasion when a band makes a return with as much vitality as Lord Mantis. Universal Death Church is a statement of defiance in the face of death itself, and establishes a strong foothold among the Lord Mantis discography. But it remains to be seen if the profane heights of Death Mask will ever be contested. (Profound Lore)