REVIEW: MALEVOLENT CREATION – “The 13th Beast”
Death metal is a genre constantly at war with itself; with veterans like Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Dying Fetus bringing their instantly recognizable brand of bludgeoning on one side, and upstart bands like Soreption, Tomb Mold, Archspire on the other side, forever innovating and blending genres while scrambling to cement a legacy to rival the genre giants. With their thirteenth release, aptly named The 13th Beast, Malevolent Creation stampedes into this battle proudly waving their flags of the veteran faction.
In 2019, the Floridian quartet makes a unique statement: The 13th Beast is an entirely familiar record even as guitarist Phil Fasciana remains the only founding member since the band’s inception over three decades ago! With an entirely new roster of musicians, it is truly admirable to steer the songwriting ship so close to what listeners have come to expect and adore from Malevolent Creation.
Seemingly ironically named opener End the Torture kicks off with a cinematic clip evoking a proclamation of violence immediately setting the tone of the entire journey before plunging the listener into the mouth of madness. Do not expect instrumental interludes that adorn the yuppie breed of millennial death metal, for no reprieve will be found in the maw of The 13th Beast. The blast beats and tremolo picked action continues in Mandatory Butchery, with a verse section that becomes an instant earworm; high praise judging from the sheer number of high velocity riffs and chugs that run rampant through each of the eleven tracks. Tracks like Mandatory Butchery really allow Phil (Fasciana) to bring the trademark sound to the forefront, but also sets the stage for the new guitarist (and vocalist) Lee Wollenschlaeger to fully flex his creativity and add jagged edged solos to the mix which only accelerate the emotion of being caught in a storm of aggression.
Drummer P. M. Cancilla, also a new addition to the Malevolent regiment adds to the brutal scenery painted by the riffs by adding blast beats, and vicious double bass, and all the death metal ornaments in a way that only adds to the savagery without stealing focus from the vortex of guitars and bass being thrown at the listener. Rounding up the newcomers is bassist Josh Gibbs, a worthy successor of the precious low-end so often lost in the swirl of many a death metal record. Born of Pain trades tremolo picked ferocity for a thumping, almost sledgehammer-like approach which serves as a terrific backdrop for the bass to really stand out beyond merely following the guitar riffs. The mix on The 13th Beast draws immediate attention to the twangy mid-rich bass tone cutting through distinctly and tastefully. The masterful mix, tones, and mastering comes as no surprise being helmed by industry powerhouse Dan Swano (of Bloodbath, Witherscape, Katatonia, Dark Funeral, Dissection, and what seems like EVERY European death/doom band!!).
Vocalist Lee (Wollenschlaeger) faced with the challenge of filling the metaphorically gigantic shoes of late vocalist Bret Hoffman, adopted a lower register to his growls than what Malevolent Creation owed to Hoffman, thereby carving out his own legacy in what is hopefully a long and fruitful relationship with the band. Unfortunately, his angry growls are blunt and relentless, to a point of driving the listener to fatigue and could benefit from some degree of variation in arrangement or tonality.
If there was ever a complaint that can be leveled against The 13th Beast, it is that there very little salvation to be found on this lengthy record, which makes it nigh tiresome to throw on as a cover-to-cover journey. Songs like Decimated are fantastic to listen to singles (and music videos) as they are a true representation of the prowess of Malevolent Creation but when thrown in the second half of a hefty record is quickly lost as there is nothing to punctuate the constant high tempo musicianship. Listener fatigue is a common gripe with many old-school death metal bands and The 13th Beast does find itself slipping into overly-similar territory more often than it should. Though there is surely the wisdom of not trying to fix what isn’t broken.
Make no mistake, every track in The 13th Beast as shown in the namesake artwork will grab you by the throat with its sharp claws and pummel you with no remorse – proving that new blood cannot stop the machine that is Malevolent Creation from walking among the titans of death metal.