Lord Mantis: vocalist Dylan O'Toole, guitarist Scott Shellhamer, guitarist Andrew Markuszewski, bassist Will Lindsay, drummer Bill Bumgardner Credit: Anastasios Ketsios

Early last year, Chicago blackened-sludge band Lord Mantis re-formed after the departure of front man and bassist Charlie Fell and guitarist Ken Sorceron (also of Abigail Williams). Since then, founding drummer Bill Bumgardner and lead guitarist Andrew Markuszewski have been joined by bassist Will Lindsay and vocalist Dylan O’Toole (bandmates with Bumgardner in the defunct Indian) and guitarist Scott Shellhamer of American Heritage.

I’ve heard a lot of smack talk about who really held the reins on Lord Mantis’s 2014 album Death Mask, the final release to which Fell and Sorceron contributed—it was the closest thing that such a deliberately ugly and unpleasant group could have to a “breakout” record. But now the new lineup are dropping their first release, and it proves that enough Lord Mantis DNA persists in this incarnation to earn them use of the name. On Friday, April 29, the EP NTW comes out via Markuszewski’s New Density label. Lord Mantis celebrate with a headlining set tonight at the Empty Bottle, supported by Moral Void and Sanford Parker.

Like Death Mask, the new EP combines the maniacal, droning focus of black metal with the queasy, bottom-heavy lurch and suffocating bulk of sludge. It’s mechanical and almost anesthetizing in its punishing repetitions—I’m reminded that I once described Lord Mantis as sounding like a “pissed-off steel mill.”

I do miss Fell’s unhinged personality, though. On Death Mask, as I wrote at the time, “He sounds like you’ve impaled him on a spear, and now he’s gonna pull it through his own body so he can get close enough to you to tear off your lower jaw with his bare hands and throw it under your car.” 

O’Toole sings a lot like Fell, but he comes across as more ruthlessly in command of his voice—where Fell seemed deranged by suffering, O’Toole comes on like a vengeful demon, contemptuous of the mere idea of life. His scouring, hateful screech is one of the best things about the new Lord Mantis sound. 

I do have to ding O’Toole for the title of NTW, though—it was originally Nice Teeth Whore (as it still appears on Bandcamp), and that phrase occurs repeatedly in the lyrics. There are so many legitimate reasons to hate humanity that by-the-numbers misogyny seems (at least in this context) like a missed opportunity.

Metal bands! If you’re ever at a loss for a satisfying target for your venom, drop me a line. I can provide a long list of predators, profiteers, hypocrites, butchers, and monsters, all of whom would enrich the world by being removed from it one small, bloody piece at a time. And if you go after them, you won’t risk alienating so many potential fans who don’t have a Y chromosome.