Released: 2007, Nuclear Blast
Twenty years can be a long and draining stretch for a metal band, especially for one with a tumultuous history of lineup changes. It's been twenty years in the trenches for guitarist Phil Fasciana, the core of Florida's mighty death metal purveyors Malevolent Creation, and if the furious assault contained on the band's tenth album DOOMSDAY X is any indication, there's still plenty of fuel and fury left in the tank. Once again, the revolving door of membership has swung several rotations, bringing back together the four members of the lineup from 1996's ETERNAL release and welcoming back for his third tour of duty original vocalist Brett Hoffmann, possessor of one of death metal's most utterly vicious voices. The result is forty-nine and a half minutes of relentless sonic annihilation.
The overall sound is a significant shift away from the production on prior album WARKULT, which is both good and bad - good because the guitars are more aggressively raw-sounding and in-your-face, bad because in a couple spots it seems like the snare drum is mixed in so loudly that it tends to drown out everything but Hoffmann's snarling vocals. Speaking of drums, Dave Culross once again proves he is a monster behind the kit, delivering punishing double-bass lines, explosive fills, and machine-gun blastbeats on every track...and speaking of Hoffmann, the good news is he sounds just as vindictively brutal as he did in his last stint in the band, and the bad news is he still doesn't sound anywhere near as good as he did on THE TEN COMMANDMENTS or RETRIBUTION. And oddly enough, arguably the best song on the album features no vocals at all - the instrumental "Prelude To Doomsday" is a menacingly-toned midtempo cut with lots of great lead breaks and foreboding-sounding guitar harmonies vaguely reminiscent of some of the tunes from HEARTWORK-era Carcass. Most-promoted track "Deliver My Enemy" is a solid (although too long...after the twenty-fifth or so "De-liv-er...my en-e-my!" in the song I begin to ask "Deliver your enemy what? A pizza?") tune with some driving midtempo deathstomp riffs, and while some may question the inclusion of a guest guitar solo from Slipknot's Mick Thompson in the track (or, more precisely, some may question why said guest shot seems to be proudly proclaimed in every advertisement you see for the album), he fits in perfectly. It's been claimed DOOMSDAY X is Malevolent Creation's most "diverse" album, and that statement isn't far from the truth, as other standouts show plenty of variety in their delivery, from the Bolt Thrower-inspired chug of "Dawn Of Defeat" to the technical-run riff-fest of "Strength In Numbers" to the grinding blitzkrieg of "Bio-Terror." One thing that remains constant throughout the disc is the use of dual-guitar harmonies in interludes and frequently in the riffs themselves, giving an extra layer of depth and weight to the sound. A lot of the music is fairly complex, moreso than on most of the band's previous albums, and while it works well most of the time, there are a few cringe-inducing moments like a descending riff-run partway through "Archaic" that sounds jarringly out of place. It doesn't ruin the song completely, but it takes away a good deal from the track's momentum. A couple tracks like "Hollowed" have a bit of a "been there, done that" feeling to them that had me hitting the skip button on the third listen and some parts are ridiculously predictable, like the buildup to the blast beat segment in opener "Cauterized," the likes of which has been heard about a million times before, but for the most part, the album still has plenty of capability to grab a hold of your ear and hang on with a grip of iron and more than enough whiplash-inducing moments to keep your neck happily in traction for a while to come.
Despite the fact I vastly prefer Hoffmann as a vocalist to Kyle Symons, I'm honestly torn as to whether or not to rank this album as better than its excellent predecessor, nor am I entirely certain where to rank it in the overall Malevolent Creation catalog except to call it "not as good as the first two albums." I can though honestly say DOOMSDAY X is a tour de force of Floridian death metal and a great way to celebrate the milestones of ten albums and twenty years for one of the genre's strongest veterans. Death metal fans who for some reason haven't already snapped this one up should certainly do so.