Review: Maggot Heart ‘Mercy Machine’

Linnéa Olsson is a name you might be familiar with if you picked up the sole record by The Oath, a fantastic collaboration Linnéa did with vocalist Johanna Sadonis of Lucifer back in the early 2010s. She also spent time with Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures before venturing out on her own with Maggot Heart. Mercy Machine is the sophomore album and follow up to 2018’s Dusk To Dusk and will be released on her own, newly formed label, Rapid Eye Records. Accompanying Linnéa is drummer Uno Bruniusson and bassist Olivia Airey.

Maggot Heart ‘Mercy Machine’

Somewhat inevitably I’m drawn to the cover art which was done by Kristian Valbo of the band Obliteration and has a Voivod dystopian feel. Opening track Second Class reminded me of Killing Joke’s The Fall if it was sung by Patti Smith. Industrial pounding with proto-punk attitude, yep I could live with that. From the longest track on the album to the shortest, Sex Breath was a spiky three minute punk basher with some East Bay Ray guitar surf touches. A well performed and nice change of pace.

Next track Justine, much like opener Second Class, reminded me of Killing Joke, this time around the period of the 1980 self-titled debut, especially the track Wardance. Roses was new wavers The Go-Gos, minus the sunny California disposition and given a more European gothic twist. We reached the mid-way mark with the gloomily titled Gutter Feeling which had a heavier grunge Alice In Chains sound, perhaps hinting at Linnéa’s doom metal past with The Oath.

The tempo was upped significantly with the title track, Mercy Machine, having an alternative 90’s Riot Girrl attitude ala Lush around the time of Lovelife/Ladykillers,  a catchy breezy number that would warrant a music video and repeated plays on ‘alternative radio’ if there was any kind of justice in the world. High Rise was a discordant Jesus Lizard slab of noise-rock capturing that band’s omnipresent sense of dread and foreboding.

Maggot Heart’s eclectic and unique sound is what makes them so intriguing…

Lost Boys was a mix of Iggy Pop’s swagger, combined with L7’s brand of grunge punk, and probably my least favourite of all the tracks on here. The repeated refrain of the title soon started to tire, rendering it a little lifeless and underwhelming. Penultimate number Senseless emitted a death-rock odour, ala TSOL and Super Heroines, darkness permeated but never cleared.

Modern Cruelty concluded the album with some Voivod style progressive thrash dissonance. Voivod are, in my opinion, one of the most important bands of our time, not just in the realms of metal but music in general, so I was delighted to hear their influence here. However, unlike say Vektor, the influence on Maggot Heart is a lot more nuanced.

Linnéa, in the promo notes stated that she has ‘always done things my way. And I’m proud to say that I think what I do is prettyunique’. I would say that she is correct in what she asserts as Mercy Machine is demonstrative of a band fearlessly wearing their influences on their sleeves, but not restricted by them either. Also, when legends such as Fenriz from Darkthrone and Jerry A from Poison Idea are singing your praises, then you must be doing something right.

Maggot Heart’s eclectic and unique sound is what makes them so intriguing, although some may at times find it a little jarring and disparate. My advice to these folks would be to persevere as the album may take at a couple of listens to fully digest but should you choose to do so, then you will be in for a tasty surprise.

Label: Rapid Eye Records
Band Links: Official | Bandcamp

Scribed by: Reza Mills