The underground noise machine is alive and well on Mental Wounds Not Healing, kicking and screaming its way into the hearts and minds of the willingly nihilistic. Serving as the biproduct of a collaboration between Portland experimental metal outfit The Body and New York’s furious industrial duo Uniform, Mental Wounds Not Healing is an auditory journey into the murky crevices of the soul. While generally inhabiting a similar space sonically, the four musicians that make up The Body and Uniform have separately crafted music that eschews some traditional structuring and style while embracing the brutality and fluidity of their base influences. What makes this collaboration such a unique experience is in how the two bands interweave their sounds almost effortlessly.
Though containing only 7 tracks, Mental Wounds Not Healing is a bit of a slow burn for the listener. With the exception of a few moments that glow like bioluminescent horrors in the swirling black, nothing on the record comes easy. The intro track, “Dead River,” sets the tone and pace from the get go with a dense shroud of dread over choruses of horrific screams, all set to a drum cadence that evokes images of medieval cleanup crews hauling off the dead during an outbreak of the plague.
“The Curse of Eternal Life” swoops in relentlessly with a chaotic beat beneath raucous, droning tones and vocals that berate the listener. A few sparing moments of inflection ease this sonic onslaught that is done as soon as it gives a fleeting glimpse of familiarity. The album’s single “Come and See” follows ploddingly after, focusing more on atmosphere and intensity than sheer force. The supergroup sounds fully realized on this track, building dissonant pieces into a melodic, doom-laden spectacle. The tune grows on you as it progresses, never really speeding up but developing its rhythm to add an urgency to the track’s second half.
For this listener the record really hit its stride with “The Boy With Death in His Eyes.” This composition adds an element of complexity to the industrial mix. A marching-to-war beat rests menacingly beneath thick riffs and commanding vocals. Percussive sampling and some tremulous guitar work really sets off the chorus sections. The song descends all too quickly into its follow-up, the heady “In My Skin.” This was another track that stood out as exemplary of the collaboration. More laid back than most of the record, the players have crafted something that is relaxing and introspective. While still populated by macabre sampling and a gloom-laden sensibility, “In My Skin” presents itself as a track than can appeal to the more apprehensive listener, lulling them into a comfortable state of mind that may embolden them to revisit some of the record’s more abrasive moments.
The penultimate track, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” is an impressive soundscape that draws all of what worked for “In My Skin” into an unsettling, psychedelic mind fuck. While a good deal of the record is inadvertently more reminiscent of Uniform’s standalone material, albeit with far less fury, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” is a piece that would feel right at home on one of The Body’s full lengths. The record closes with “Empty Comforts,” a track that almost glows. The rhythm pulses with danceability, bouncing around beneath unexpected moments of harmony. While the harsh vocals detract slightly from its beauty, “Empty Comforts” is unrepentantly triumphant, closing the album out with an almost hopeful presence.
Mental Wounds Not Healing comes across initially as a reviling force, bludgeoning the listener with its harshness and bold attempt at alienation. Further examination reveals songs that are crafted to evoke states of mind that may fly far beyond the dubious intent that sits on the surface. The record is a swift, if not grueling listen that demands discomfort from the listener, if only to revel in moments of transcendent intimacy.