Full Album Stream: Mastiff – “Deprecipice”

Photo: Nick Sayers

UK lads Mastiff are no strangers to depression, anger and grief. Those emotions have been present on each release in the band’s very bleak catalog and come to a head on Deprecipice, the band’s fourth album. Though it’s Mastiff’s first release since the end of pandemic lockdowns, they aren’t depressed or angry about that; instead, Deprecipice sees the band work through grief—guitarist/vocalist James Lee Ross about the loss of his mother and vocalist Jim Hodge about the death of his newborn son in 2010.

As always, Mastiff’s sound is rooted in aggressive sludge metal and metallic hardcore. On Deprecipice, they draw more heavily from the second, cranking out a steady flow of thick, chugging riffs and raucous mosh parts. The opening one-two punch of “Bite Radius” and “Everything is Ending” set the mood: these are songs for when you’re at the end of your rope, when hopeless lyrics and vicious fight riffs make more sense than therapy or promises of better days.

Speaking of misery, Primitive Man frontman Ethan Lee McCartney guests on fourth track “Cut Throat,” adding a layer of squealing noise to the already heavy tune. The way it’s produced, “Cut Throat” has an industrial sound to it, a welcome palette cleanse. “Skin Stripper” keeps it fresh with its faster pace, while “Serrated” introduces guests Harry Nott and XIII, another welcome sonic addition. Track seven, “Worship,” features contributions from UK crust act Yersin, as well as a few riffs that wouldn’t have been out of place on Foundation’s last release.

Mastiff don’t run out of steam on the album’s last third. “Pitiful” is mosh city, while “The Shape” takes the form of a noisy interlude that leads into closer “Thorn Trauma.” With its demoralizing melody and raw lyrics about grief and trauma, it’s the bow that ties Deprecipice together—there’s no promise of hope but there’s enough anger, frustration, fear and spite to keep going anyway.

Decibel spoke with Ross about the album in addition to a full stream of Deprecipice, which is out tomorrow, March 22, via MNRK Heavy.

Mastiff was a little more death metal-inclined on your last record, Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth whereas this one fits more closely with your hardcore/sludge sound. Why the change in directions?
At least initially there wasn’t really a conscious decision to go in that direction. Whenever we start writing a new record, the first few songs just kinda come out and then set a tone for the rest of the album. By the time we were about halfway through though, it felt like everything had a more forceful, aggressive and direct feeling than LMTAOTE, so we leaned into it for everything that came after. That said, I do think “Serrated” is the most death metal we’ve ever been, mostly because I pretty consciously wanted to write a Carcass song [laughs].

This album was inspired by grief and grappling with loss, both recent and not-so-recent. Does writing about subject matter like the loss of a parent and a son help you find catharsis or peace?
I don’t think writing about our collective grief ultimately ‘fixes’ anything about how we feel, but putting those dark and overwhelming thoughts out there in this form is as good a way of opening that pressure valve as any. Getting to express how I felt after losing my mother so suddenly on “Void” definitely had great value in me getting through that initial grieving process, though I’m grateful Jim is the one actually singing it every night—I’d likely find that overwhelming if I had to dredge that well of pain at every show. How Jim does it when he’s singing about Isaac, the son that he lost back in 2010, I don’t know, that takes a lot of grit.

What was the writing and recording process for Deprecipice like? It sounds emotionally painful; was the act of creating it hard because of that?
Writing is always hard for a number of reasons—in a practical sense, there’s always that internal pressure to one-up your last album, and when you’re in the middle of the creative process it’s sometimes difficult to have an objective view of whether your new songs are better or not. And yes, due to the nature of some of the lyrical content on the new album, there were times where it was quite emotionally draining. Thankfully, the actual recording process was anything but, which we can 100% attribute to Joe Clayton at Nø Studio for being the coolest, easiest guy to work with we could ever hope for. We rented a house 5 minutes from the studio and just spent a week having fun both in and out of the studio, you’d never guess how much joy went into the process of recording such an ugly album!

Deprecipice has a few guest features on it, including Ethan McCarthy (Primitive Man) and Harry Nott (Burner) plus XIII and Yersin. Why did you select those artists specifically, other than the fact that it allowed you to dip into other sounds?
We’ve never had any guests on any of our albums before, and try to remain as self-sufficient as we can usually, but for Deprecipice we wanted to push the boat out a bit and see what would happen if we introduced collaborators into the mix. Ethan is someone we’ve all admired for years, and our bass player Dan kind of knew him through mutual collaborators in one of his side projects, so we figured it was worth a punt asking if he wanted to contribute to the noise track in the middle of the album, which he very graciously did and knocked it out of the park.

Harry from Burner has been a great friend since we first met a couple of years ago, and is easily one of the best vocalists in the U.K. at the moment, so asking him to appear on “Serrated” was a no-brainer. The dude showed up to the studio with a full set of lyrics written for his parts, smashed them out in an hour and then went back to London. What a pro!

As for the two guitar solos on the record, Dan from XIII actually filled in on guitar for our tour with Avatar last year, so asking him to play on the album was as much a gesture of thanks as anything else, but the dude can absolutely shred and his part on “Serrated” absolutely rules. And with Rob from Yersin, we wrote a song that was very consciously indebted to Slayer, and he’s basically a lab-grown clone of Kerry King so it seemed dumb to not have him slap some mad divebombs over that tune.

Deprecipice is a word that Mastiff coined for the album title, appearing to combine “depression” and “precipice.” Is that accurate?
That is 100% accurate, and you may be the first person to figure that out independently. It’s a title that Jim came up with quite early in the process of writing, and having that in place helped shape the themes and mood of the album for sure, that feeling of being on the brink of the void, just inches away from disappearing into the blackness. I personally just love a good portmanteau—blame Norma Jean’s O’God The Aftermath for that [laughs].

What’s next on the agenda for Mastiff? Will you tour and take some time before writing the next album?
We’ve got a U.K. tour that begins on the album’s release day, and it starts with a hometown show which is a big deal for us—for whatever reason, we’ve never managed to do an actual album release show before, and since Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth came out, people in Hull actually seem to want to come watch us now, so it should start the tour off with a bang. Beyond that our year is pretty open for now but we’re looking at things for summer and autumn, and we’re already starting to get itchy to write so I wouldn’t be surprised if the next album is well underway before 2024 is done.