It awakes – breathes a tarry, rancid breath somewhere in the depths. Stirs, discontent, then slouches like the rough beast waiting to be born.
Those are the opening sounds, captured from the very belly of Tiamat, on this feverishly anticipated new release from Ireland’s Malthusian.
Feverishly anticipated, indeed? For once, yes. Their debut simply was not enough. For Malthusian took us both by surprise and by storm with that debut of winter 2013.
It was an almost sublime distillation of all the ugliest, most occult and punishing metal vortices into a brief few songs. It had a very real black magic about it.
Sickening Foul Breath
I love bands that succeed in turning ideas and images into music that sounds like them. ‘The Gasless Billows’ is just this – a deeply, deeply ugly and slouching track that takes its time opening this new EP.
As it goes between languid, catarrhy lumbering and frenetic blast beats one is immediately reminded of the best of Incantation, round about ‘Onward To Golgotha’ – that mix of death metal so underground it’s at the earth’s molten core and the ugliest and most irreligious sludge.
It’s a track that manages to have a sickening, foul breath about it, with all the many many vocal styles groaning and howling above it.
By the time it builds into its speedier sections, ‘Slouching Equinox’ reminds of Immolation from their most extreme ‘Close To A World Below’ album. That’s a comparatively mainstream influence where this band is concerned, and there’s probably more of Manifesting and their like about the majority of the track.
When it ramps up the speed it is absolutely punishing; when it crawls its disfigured and horrific.
An Attack Of The Vapours
Another superbly named track (these things matter!), ‘Forms Become Vapour’ is yet again a quintessence of underground ugliness and aggression.
The fantastic, dark production comes into its own here, with Johnny’s drumming echoing around the walls of the Mines Of Moria when he thumps the toms late into the track.
Again, Immolation are recalled, from around the ‘Failures’-era here, albeit cloaked somewhat. It’s another absolutely flattening track that puts the darkness back into Death Metal, returning its obscurantist and murky origins to it.
There are couple of essential reasons you need to understand as to why Malthusian are actually an important band making important music, and not just flavour of the week here because they’re Irish.
The main thing is their turning of concept into music. Everything, and I mean everything in this is aligned. The concept, the words, the music and the art are all seamlessly evoking the same idea. That is a joy to take it, because one supports the other. You can practically smell this music, they convey it so well.
Secondly is of course the musicianship itself. It is not technical in the shrink-wrapped, clickety modern sense, and yet it is no less extremely able.
No surprises when you’re anchored down by the drum talents previously lent to the likes of Altar of Plagues and Abaddon Incarnate by Johnny. And then the riffs: everything Andy was trying to do in Wreck Of The Hesperus finds its logical development in here.
It is timely to mention Altar Of Plagues. Because although this may be premature, and perhaps a slight hostage to fortune, I see Mathusian doing for Death Metal what Altar Of Plagues did for Black – guiding it, if not forcing it, into a new place in a really meaningful way.
We’re quite a way off that yet. But with the momentum the band have at this time, coupled with touring and the inevitable critical acclaim this release alone will earn, I see no reason why not.
This high-concept, brutal and impressive musical evokation of a fevered nightmare deserves it. It’s like the sound of Shub-Niggurath awakening, angrily.
4.3/5 – Earl Grey ::: 25/03/15