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Malkavian – Annihilating the Shades

Annihilating the Shades
by Harry Green at 17 July 2017, 9:37 AM

French extreme metal is generally pretty solid. The country can lay claim to fixtures in Traditional, Melodic, Symphonic and Dissonant Black Metal, Blackgaze, Technical Death Metal and of course Avant-Garde groups. MALKAVIAN, formed in Nantes in 2005, have their work cut out for them. They released “The Worshipping Mass” in 2014 before this album “Annihilating the Shades” in March of this year. First things first, don’t listen to this with a headache. That generally goes for metal writ large, but MALKAVIAN have the kind of dense baritone crust-ish sound that relentlessly cracks you about the noggin like a hickory truncheon. The band that usually comes to my mind for this kind of music is Strapping Young Lad, not necessarily stylistically but in terms of overall feel. The blurb notes that they have “the weight of death metal, lightened by groove”, which is half-right, but we’ll get to that. The production is clear and sharp with just a little bit of grit, perfectly suited to this type of music. The vocals fit well; a half-growl favored by some of the more abrasive thrash groups like SACROFAGO but pushing into a rough bellow so reminiscent of TREPALIUM I checked if it was the same guy. The singing and growls, along with the drums, are the only consistently good parts of the album, but they aren’t the best; the guitar work varies significantly but at its finest takes center stage, as well it should.

Listening to this album is a little bit like watching the Patriots in Super Bowl LVI in that it starts off weak but eventually comes into its own. The first half of the album would lead you to believe it’s the usual “Modern Metal” Death-Thrash miasma comprised of largely purposeless riffs that might flow well if they had any character, built toward any kind of theme and more importantly were distinct to the band as opposed to literally any other thrash, Melodeath, Metalcore, Hardcore or Crust band on the market. Credit where credit is due, at least the tracks have some flow and fiddle around with tempo a little – but it’s nothing you can’t get in a dozen other places. It’s almost exactly at the halfway mark, with the opening riff to the title track “Annihilating the Shades” that the album begins its focused ass-kicking. The riffs on this song are much sharper. They roll, as opposed to the lurching, jerking openers, which lends the song a stronger sense of flow than its predecessors. “The Great Overset” is something of a refined take on a previous song on the album, “Ruins”, having more technical licks that sort of bounce a little interspersed with more melodic lines from time to time, both of which are a significant improvement. “KBA” is a similar outing, being a thrashy song that significantly supersedes the album’s first half not only with better technical chops but also more memorable riffs, and densely packed at that. The band arguably save the best for last. “Void of a Thousand Eyes” actually takes some time to build – and sounds much better for it. It’s five and a half minutes of solid, purposeful, fierce, melodic riffing, and a powerful ending to the album.

To paraphrase the Bard, this stripe of “modern metal” death/thrash is usually the definition of “sound and fury signifying lack of focus”, but MALKAVIAN sticks in my mind as a band with a better sense for melody and time signature changes than most thanks to the latter half of “Annihilating the Shades”. They deserve credit for exploring new ground as the album goes on and pulling a Tom Brady by having the album really pick up in the last quarter. Bottom line, on this album MALKAVIAN buck genre trends with both talent and purpose – eventually.

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Production: 8
Memorability: 6

3 Star Rating

1. Resurgence
2. Altar of the Damned
3. Spit Away
4. Ruins
5. Annihilating the Shades
6. The Great Overset
7. Encryption Process
8. KBA
9. Void of A Thousand Eyes
Romaric Lamare - Vocals
Nicolas Bel - Guitars
Mathieu Deicke – Guitars
Florian Pesset – Bass
Alex Jadi – Drums 
Record Label: Finisterian Dead End


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