Tallah – Matriphagy (Album Review)

Tallah – Matriphagy
Released: October 2nd 2020

Lineup:

Justin Bonitz | Vocals
Max Portnoy | Drums
Derrick Schneider | Guitars
Andrew Cooper | Bass

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Matriphagy: the consumption of the mother by her offspring

If you have not yet heard of Tallah, then allow me to introduce to you Metal’s fast-rising Kings-to-be. Brainchild of the absolute demon behind the drums, Max Portnoy (yes, that’s Mike Portnoy’s son), and dominated by the theatrical insanity of frontman, Justin Bonitz, it will soon become clear to you why I claim that Tallah are one of the most unique, groundbreaking, and terrifying acts that Metal has had the honour to host. You might think of this group as the violent melting pot of nu metal, hardcore, and psychological horror – out of this mix, spawning the full-length visionary experience: Matriphagy

Underpinning the furious musical violence is a constantly mounting sense of claustrophobic paranoia. This is the atmosphere of Bonitz’s maniacal tale, wherein we explore the volatile relationship between Kungan and his obsessive mother, locked away for over twenty years in their death trap of a home. We watch as Kungan moves from unstable to unhinged, pushed to his edge by fear of his mother, and provoked into a murderous mindset by his stuffed rabbit, Lobifu. The cogency and pull to this tale is a testament to Bonitz’s extreme capability as a vocalist, whom I have yet to see truly rivalled. He commands a mind-boggling set of vocal techniques, masterfully executing gutturals, falsetto screams, beautiful melodic passages, and frenetic rap deliveries (in both American and British accents) – all of which feel distinct and unique to him. His performance is raw and genuine, with the rare instances of vocal layering really drawing attention to how crazed Bonitz sounds all on his own. 

Over 13 tracks, we are dragged across a vast breadth of sonic ground which Tallah has consolidated as their own. There is an insatiable, almost juvenile, rage captured in some of the more hardcore-oriented tracks. Kungan’ and ‘Cottonmouth’ converge on a genuine ferocity, with their insane low tempo riffage and the stellar production work that makes me miss the pit more than any other release this year. Alternatively, the JUMP nu metal-style riffs (complete with turntables) ride strong throughout ‘No One Should Read This’ and ‘L.E.D’, effectively recontextualising a great sound with more hostility than nu metal ever possessed. We mustn’t forget ‘The Silo’, which has some awesome moments straying from the raw fury of the rest of Matriphagy. These distinct sonic palettes very much create the impression that we are wading through a disaster. Each sound is distinctly Tallah, but the chaos immerses us in the discordant psychological state of Kungan – also mobilised in part by the totally unpredictable structural qualities to these tracks. Many are privy to a series of frantic, sharp cuts. Other times – such as on ‘No One Should Read This’, and ‘Murder Seed’ the instrumentation follows a flow so smooth the track seems to be continuously transitioning unto itself. Often these changes have struck before you realise it, and Portnoy is always there to catch it.

We must also take a moment to address the balls on this mix. It’s huge, it’s punchy, and probably most importantly, it decimates the contemporary ‘core’ sound without sacrificing any of the raw feeling from the band’s performance. I can’t remember the last record I heard in this style that felt like it was played live. That said, there’s also a great set of consistent production elements, including the tasteful glitch effects, turntables, dread-inducing synth work, and insane bass drops. In a holistic consideration of this record, it’s difficult to avoid a comparison to acts like Slipknot who, in their early days, pioneered lots of the energy that is present on Matriphagy. The sheer ferocity alone makes it difficult not to think of Slipknot’s Self-Titled work, let alone the horror-themed foundation, and uneasy interludes. 

The point though, I think, is that Tallah have succeeded in appropriating this sound in a new, extremely exciting way which simultaneously represents and contradicts the contemporary metal landscape. I have no qualms with writing this record up as one of the strongest contenders for AOTY, and wonder whether the standards for what constitutes an album of excellent calibre might have been forcibly-modified for some of you by Matriphagy. This is a terrifying larger-than-life experience which transcends the merely musical. Listen at your own risk.

Check out:

  • ‘No One Should Read This’
  • ‘Overconfidence’
  • ‘L.E.D’
  • ‘The Silo’
  • ‘Murder Seed’

Tallah – Matriphagy tracklisting:

  1. [redacted]
  2. No One Should Read This
  3. Kungan
  4. Overconfidence
  5. Placenta
  6. L.E.D
  7. The Silo
  8. We, the Sad
  9. Too Quick to Grieve
  10. Cottonmouth
  11. Murder Seed
  12. the borderline of pain
  13. Red Light

Rating: 9/10
Matriphagy is out this Friday via Earache Records. Pre-Order here
Review by Miles Knox

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