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Malleus - Storm of Witchcraft (Reissue) Award winner

Malleus
Storm of Witchcraft (Reissue)
by Kira Schlechter at 09 March 2020, 4:19 AM

In continuing my toe-dipping into the frigid waters of black metal, it’s the younger, newer bands who are providing my education – like Boston’s MALLEUS. Formed in 2014, their “Storm of Witchcraft” is a reissue/remaster of the 2017 release originally put out by the Swedish Blood Harvest label (it was released the year prior on cassette). The CD re-release includes the two-track EP “Night Raids” as well.

The Watcher stepped in to replace bassist/singer The Channeler in 2017; The Sceptre took over vocal duties the following year. They’re currently working on a second full-length album, due out this year. In the meantime come these re-releases. They've drawn comparisons to European elders like BATHORY, HELLHAMMER, and CELTIC FROST, and indeed they are melding old-school hallmarks with the benefits of modern technology and a sound respect for the song itself.

“Winds of Wrath/Ire” starts as a cold wind from hell, atmospheric and full of dread and foreboding. The Sceptre’s vocals are undermixed and sinister – they’re so in the background, it’s like they were recorded in some other zip code, almost acting like another sonic effect rather than actual singing. Cleanly played and well-balanced, with plenty of bass bottom, it’s filled with concise riffing and brief soloing – nothing wasted and no overindulgence – and there’s plenty of melody in both. The tempo changes are superb – never once do they lose their way or hesitate or get awkward. Here, there’s a very slight one towards the end, where it starts slowly, then gradually fleshes out and builds up steam and changes keys ever so slightly and then back again, before it picks up its final rush to a close.

“Blackened Skies” is de-tuned all to hell at the start, laying waste to the floors of your ears – dare we say, your malleus bones – before establishing an extremely evil and wickedly slow melody and then a satisfying groove. It’s the first of many well-deserved kudos to The Relentless – relentless he may be, but he’s also tasteful, clever, and imaginative, even on the slower parts, and his fills turn on a dime. He’s not all just high-end, either – he’s using the whole kit. This one and others are long tracks, but they’re kind of mesmerizing, especially in the choruses.

The opening guitar in “Demonology I” buzzes like a demented wasp, but it winds up becoming the same notes of the initial guitar melody and it leads into it perfectly. I wasn’t expecting the groove here and it’s most appreciated, the guitar adding heft and texture. The riffs and the drum fills echo each other later on in the bridge, and the syncopation bumps it a bit into jazz territory. They close the song with the same melody that starts it, which is most satisfying and ties it up really well – might be my favorite track here.

“Demonology II” isn’t really related to Part I in that it’s much much faster, but again it establishes a strong guitar melody. The Relentless’s cymbal work is like blasts from an automatic weapon, punctuating the speed and guiding it. It’s unhinged fast, like you’ve-surely-lost-your-mind fast, but again, it’s tightly controlled and not chaotic. “The Wolf” keeps up the speed angle, but moves into a bit that actually swings a little by way of a tom-heavy segue. They really are skilled melodically with their riffs, even though they’d probably hate hearing that, and The Hammer is even allowed tiny little solo moments here and there.

“Act of Faith” borders on traditional metal, with an initial melody that’s very SABBATH, but the almost painful de-tuning in the chorus is pure black. They see-saw between clear and defined guitar melodies that are repetitive but hypnotic in their way, and it’s those subtle changes that make the track tasty to the ear. The ending that repeats the initial riff is exactly as it should be. The title track, like “The Wolf,” has a looser structure, and is notable for The Hammer’s use of the wah, which gives warm, bluesy seasoning to all the de-tuned chilliness. The end morphs to a luscious sludgy groove that’s maintained through the fadeout.

It will be interesting to see if MALLEUS’s upcoming 2020 release continues the baselines established in this remaster.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Winds of Wrath/Ire
2. Blackened Skies
3. Demonology I
4. Demonology II
5. The Wolf
6. Act of Faith
7. Storm of Witchcraft
Lineup:
The Sceptre - Vocals
The Hammer - Guitar
The Watcher - Bass
The Relentless - Drums
Record Label: Armageddon Label
     


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