What to make of this madness?
After so many spins, it’s still the question I’m wrestling with.
Malthusian’s past three (superb) releases haven’t exactly been inviting, but you could at least grab hold of them. You knew what was going on – in general.
This is very different. They’ve gone off the deep end here.
Initially you think there’s a comforting regression to death metal norms. ‘Remnant Fauna’s first few bars could almost be Immolation. But a few bars is all it lasts.
Even within the confines of riffs and beats that ostensibly ‘work’, everything everywhere seems to jar, and seems uncontent with just being where it is. And deliberately so.
It is absolutely headwrecking.
But it is possible to chart a way through.
‘Remnant Fauna’ establishes the vibe, ploughing a reasonably straight furrow through some very dissonant and mulchy death metal: production is all here, with Johnny’s crispy, organic drums driving it all forward.
Even before two thirds of this track is complete are the band howling at the moon, with layered barks and a delerium mindset making things anything but comfortable. Its rescued back by those blasts and an atmospheric reverbed lead lick making sense of it all.
The flat, hard tom thumps that open ‘Across The Expanse Of Nothing’ are part of the awesome drum voice that Johnny has established across this piece – like Frost of Satyricon, every stroke is a lyric of its own.
It’s like Ginger Baker set to Incantation, if you can imagine such a thing.
A militaristic, Sandoval stomp does kick in to this track, but its rapidly dislodged by the black psychedelia.
How many listeners are still here at this point? It isn’t for stray travellers, that’s for certain.
And ‘Sublunar Hex’ is where it all properly dives off, as drunken guitars seem to tire and flop as if exhasted by the effort of it all. The vocals howl and crane. The listener is adrift.
If you haven’t got the point by now, it is this.
There are no songs to grab on to here, no verses, choruses or anything even resembling memorable formats.
It’s all just experience and mood – and audible journey through brain scratching mania, where the journey isn’t so much one you’ve chosen as one you’re being dragged on.
Still, it’s compelling. It’s hard to look away.
Now, some people may say all this is just a mess, a dirge, an inchoate collage of bends, shrieks and blasts. ‘A heap of broken images’, if ever there was one.
Certainly I thought that was the direction they’d gone on first listens.
And I’m not saying it’s either straightforward or, indeed, brilliant.
But it most certainly is evocative in the right mood, and headphones offer much to the listening experience (or just straight out comprehension).
And they have done exactly what they set out to do: to bring the audio representation of existential turmoil to air.
So to come back where we started, I prefer the earlier releases. It’s not that I don’t “get” it: I have tried very hard; and I wonder if that’s even fully possible to any but the four people that made it anyhow.
But in making music, that’s partly what’s important.
It’s sick in the head, and incredibly hard to review in terms of either good or bad, enjoyable or not, and worse still, any kind of numeric value, which of course for stuff like this is beyond pointless.
But lets come back to basics to make sense of it.
The drumming is the bedrock from which we all can draw sense, and it is superb. As experiential sound, it says exactly what it means to, no matter how unpleasant and difficult.
After so much experimentation, chicanery, obfuscation and difficulty, to hear ‘Telluric Tongues’ crash in with its driving blast comes as almost sweet relief.
Look, it’s bloody difficult, and context is everything here.
But they’re doing it their way, and that’s what all of this ultimately comes down to. The death metal is absolutely bestial; but the expansive mentally-funereal doom is a challenge to say the very least.
There you have it.
3.7/5 – Earl Grey ::: 03/10/18
You can go much deeper into the creative process behind the album in the Metal Insight Podcast we did with Malthusian – and that’s here.