Mortification Scribe of the Pentateuch as reviewed in The Phantom TollboothMortification needs no introduction... but perhaps it's time for a reintroduction?

Scribe of the Pentateuch
Rowe Productions, 2012
10 tracks / 42 minutes

Mortification is a band that should need no introduction in the Christian metal scene. Having released a slew of classic albums on the Intense records label in the 90s, Mort went on to be one of the only Christian metal bands to be released by two of the world’s biggest mainstream metal labels (Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade). Of course, after several years in the independent scene, countless lineup changes, and a lot of harsh criticism for changing their style over the years, perhaps it is time for a reintroduction?

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of Mort’s classic death metal album Scrolls of the Megilloth. Upon its release it was hailed as the most extreme Christian metal album ever, and it’s still pretty high on the list. Never before had Christians attempted this genre, and frankly, never have any surpassed it since. In celebration of that fine CD, Mortification has released a spiritual sequel with the EP Scribe of the Pentateuch.

Over the years Mort have strayed from death metal, to the chagrin of many fans. They have been harshly criticized in the music press, and many people have mocked Steve Rowe’s different vocal styles. Mortification has changed over the years for a couple of reasons. One of which is bassist/vocalist/songwriter Steve Rowe’s desire to keep things fresh, and the other is his battle with cancer that has forever modified both his voice and his outlook on life. Some of Mortification’s lyrics could be classified as “cheesy,” but I think after surviving cancer and being told I would die imminently on two separate occasions, it would make me want to sing praises in my songs as well!

Scribes brings back the death metal even more than ever. Opening track “Extradiefor” is the heaviest song the band has released in years, and actually sounds like it could have been on the Scrolls album. The most striking thing about this EP is the attitude of experimentalism that pervades it. The title track mixes death growls, black metal shrieks, and for the first time on a Mort record, clean singing, to a surprisingly effective result. This song also serves as a direct sequel to the song “Scrolls of the Megilloth.”

The EP continues to mix it up with various vocal techniques and excellent guitar work from Lincoln Bowen. The drums are a little thin, however that is mostly a production issue. At the helm is longtime Mortification producer Mark McCormack, whose production work usually leaves a bit to be desired. Some past albums sounded more like demos than fully produced tracks. Scribes fares better but is still marred by the production quality.

On top of the six new songs, the band has included four bonus tracks labeled “the best of the 00s.” Presumably the band realizes this EP has the chance to reintroduce them to old fans and to new fans who haven’t heard their recent work. As a longtime fan who owns all of their albums, I would have rather seen the inclusion of some old rare tracks such as “Butchered Mutilation” and “Time Crusaders.” These tracks are difficult to come by and would help with the whole anniversary angle. However it’s really hard to complain about bonus tracks, they are a nice inclusion.

Despite the unfortunately thin production, this EP holds up as some of Mortification’s best music in years, and contains some of Steve’s best writing and vocal work ever. Not bad for a guy who was told he had only hours to live… twice. If you’ve never listened to Mortification before, give Scribes of the Pentateuch a listen. If you are an old fan who hasn’t listened in a while, give this your time. Let the naysayers be silenced, and let the metal play on!


Noah Salo

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