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Wednesday 9 January 2019

Reviews: Malevolent Creation, Legion Of The Damned, Mark Deutrom, Wolf Counsel (Paul H)

Malevolent Creation: 13th Beast (Century Media)

Last August I reviewed the re-release of The Ten Commandments, the blistering 1991 debut from Buffalo’s Malevolent Creation. A throwback to a time when the band had relocated to Florida and were a massively important band in the whole death metal movement which was mushrooming at that time. The likes of Death, Deicide, Suffocation, Immolation and Obituary were firing on all cylinders and it remains as brutally impressive today as it did back then. The original line up on that album didn’t stay together for long and over the years the band has had numerous line up changes, with only Phil Fasciana a constant throughout. In July 2018 original vocalist Brett Hoffman passed away at the outrageously young age of 51 due to colon cancer. Hoffman had been back in the band for 12 years, returning in time for Doomsday X and closing his recording time with the band in 2015 on Dead Man’s Path.

Hoffman’s unreplaceable vocal style is impossible to replace, but co-founder Phil Fasciana decided to face the challenge to continue the band and affirm the truth behind the lyric that “Nothing can kill this Malevolent Creation.” Having regrouped, Malevolent Creation return in 2019 with The 13th Beast, which introduces a new line up consisting of P.M. Cancilla (drums), Josh Gibbs (bass), Phil Fasciana (guitars) and vocalist/guitarist Lee Wollenschlaeger (Throne Of Nails, Imperial Empire). For Wollenschlaeger this is one hell of a gig. “This is the biggest honour I could ever be given; The opportunity to front one of my all-time favourite bands, and an even bigger pleasure of jamming with such great people. We have created one of the most relentless albums of Malevolent Creation’s history.” For Fasciana this is the conclusion of another puzzle in the band’s continued movement. “Lee was the missing link when I was searching for a new vocalist and guitarist”, he said. “Each new member is a solid musician and songwriter sharing the same passion for extreme music, Malevolent Creation has been striving for since 1987.”

Malevolent Creation’s thirteenth studio album expands upon Dead Man’s Path but retains the brutality of albums such as The Will To Kill and Eternal. With Wollenschlaeger’s understandable yet deeper vocal tone and song writing contributions, not to mention some lacerating lead guitar work, The 13th Beast is one viciously intense album. Song titles remain as visceral as ever; Mandatory Butchery, Canvas Of Flesh and Knife At Hand slash and tear. Cancilla’s drumming is immense; machine-gun rapid-fire blasts that rarely pause for breath, even though the listener will want to. Agony For the Chosen rips and claws, whilst the battery is relentless, especially Decimated, an insane pulsating fireball that injects a blast of melody before roaring again. It’s punishing just to listen to this. By the time the final track, the brooding Release The Soul kicks into the killer finish with a quite blistering assault, there should be little left to scoop up off the floor. 49 minutes, 11 tracks and quite possibly one of the best death metal albums I’ve heard for some time. It must have been a challenging decision to continue the band but in the words of Hoffman, “Nothing can kill this Malevolent Creation”. 9/10

Legion Of The Damned: Slaves Of The Shadow Realm (Napalm Records)

It’s been five years since the Dutch thrash brutes Legion Of The Damned hit us with Ravenous Plague. The Dutch outfit now kick a hole through the door of 2019 with album number seven, and as their press release states, ‘this is a band that'll break your neck from the sheer force of their music’. Slaves Of The Shadow Realm starts in blistering style, with Widow’s Breed merging thrash and death metal into one boiling cesspit of howling carnage, and from here on in its grappling time as things get gnarly. Lacerating riffs don’t so much drip as shower you, slashing and driving relentlessly.

With fifth band member / producer Andy Classen once again on board this album is a furious trip to the early LOTD sound but with a modern edge that cuts mercilessly. The veteran status of the band may not be in doubt, but they have a power and youthful energy that belies their status. Thunderous tracks such as the old school raging of Nocturnal Commando sit comfortably alongside the malevolence of Charnel Confession whilst Slaves Of The Southern Cross and Shadow Realm of the Demonic Mind contains the groove and ferocity of earlier classics. This may be missing the legendary cheese block of 2007 but otherwise this is a band that is as punchy as a well matured Gouda. A monstrous and welcome return. 8/10

Mark Deutrom: Blue Bird (Season Of Mist)

Mark Deutrom is a guitarist, composer, songwriter, and sound engineer who produced and joined The Melvins as bass player between 1993 and 1998, contributing to albums Prick, Stoner Witch, Stag, Honky amongst others. He also co-founded Alchemy Records, which released the debut album Pain Of Mind by Neurosis and who he also produced. He has also collaborated with Sunn O))) on various live dates and released various solo projects as well as continuing to produce. A multi-instrumentalist, Blue Bird is a new release which follows re-releases of some of his earlier solo works. 

Broad in scope and varied in style, Blue Bird is hauntingly paced, measured and yet at times urgent, with a retrospective style which echoes bands from the 70s to 90s whilst also adding a modern vibe. Hell Is A City should be the soundtrack to a late-night thriller series; Somnambulist echoes with modernity and O Ye Of Little Faith has shades of Kyuss’ style desert rock. This isn’t an easy listen but the music that is wrapped up within these 44 minutes is intelligent, stylish and provoking. If you want to challenge yourself to step outside of the comfort zone, this is an album which you should seriously consider. 7/10

Wolf Counsel: Destination Void (Endless Winter Records)

This is an album I want played at my funeral, such is its grandeur and power. Wolf Counsel emerged from underneath the snow and ice in 2014; two veteran musicians merged their enthusiasm for monumental low-tuned music and a great appreciation of heavy riffs into a new band. With three albums already under their belt you could call them prodigious. With each previous album featuring seven songs, there was opportunity to hear their evolution as they covered the diverse scope of classic doom metal. With the band having written their fourth full-length within four months, Destination Void once again consists of seven new tracks that once more follow the path of classic and epic doom metal. 

With a sound that sways from Candlemass to Cathedral, this intense beast is loaded with haunting harmonies, sonic interludes and diversified arrangements. With the two opening megalodons, the throbbing Nazarene and the deep vibrations of Nova leading to a total of 48 minutes of concrete shattering slow doom. Switzerland hasn’t felt such a tremor in the force since one Thomas Gabriel Fischer emerged blinking into the dying sunlight. Bone crushingly heavy, I need painkillers to ease the headache after the title track alone. Wolf Counsel is Ralf Winzer Garcia on bass and vocals, drummer Reto Crola, Andre Mathieu on guitar and guitarist Ralph Huber. 8/10

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