Straw by Mental Destruction (Review)

Stirring in its honest majesty, terrifying in its cold, stark savagery.
Straw, Mental Destruction

In the field of industrial music, it’s probably a safe bet to say that Mental Destruction (Swedish brothers David and Samuel Durling) is unique in their sheer brutal intensity. The first Mental Destruction album I heard was 1992’s The Intensity of Darkness. While I was impressed with its ferocity, it seemed a little too “raw” or “unpolished.” Straw, their latest effort, is a beautiful piece of work. The elements are much more cohesive, the sound much deeper.

On this album, the duo explores a more diverse sound. The harsh percussive elements are just as dominant, as are the terrifying, distorted screams and wails(care of Samuel Durling). But on Straw, the use of synths and keyboards is much more dominant. The “haunted factory on the edge of hell” sound is still there, but it’s tempered with more skilled songwriting.

On “The Streams of Time,” the rhythm falls away to gothic organs that add a different, but just as sinister tone to the music. On “UnBleeding,” percussion and pulsating electronics brew, but underneath a simple piano line helps punctuate the melody. “Thorn” has almost heavy metal-ish beats amidst tortured screams, when suddenly, an organ rings out evoking haunted churches and graveyards.

At times, Mental Destruction reaches out into dark-ambient territory, but the harsh metallic and machine sounds always serve to anchor the sound from drifting too far from the apocalyptic vision. And of course, there are the vocals. Mental Destruction sets new standards for vocal intensity. They roar, rip, tear, and pummel the listener with distorted, brittle screams, wails, and cries. At times, the vocals are the harshest element of the music, but they never seem too overdone or overused.

Musically, Straw is stunning. But there is just as marked an improvement in their lyrical skills. The first album struck me as somewhat simplistic, if bombastic. Straw contains lyrics of a more personal nature. The images are stronger, more impressionable. On “UnBleeding,” Durling roars out, “And though I feel you, I’m not sure of right direction/And though I see you, I can’t promise true perfection…/The sweet taste of surrender leaves a bitter scar inside.”

“Thorn” is a beautiful request for the mercy of God, while at the same time, realizing that the God who gave us His Son will not forsake us.

With a name like Mental Destruction, a band had either be good or really bombastic. I can assure you that the latter is not the case. This is an intense work of pure industrial beauty. Stirring in its honest majesty, terrifying in its cold, stark savagery, Straw represents a band finally coming into its own.

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