Reviewed: December 2020
Released: 2020 Transcending Obscurity Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Australian death merchants Depravity unleashed an utterly masterful debut with Evil Upheaval in 2018, setting the bar mighty high for themselves to follow up. Yet Grand Malevolence does not disappoint. Though it doesn’t quite inspire the sort of “holy shit” spit-take of the debut – if only because the band is now a known entity with Upheaval as a reference point – Malevolence is still a lethal, imposing work by a death metal troupe to be reckoned with.
The quintet – made up of current and former members of a bunch of other Aussie bands, some like The Ritual Aura and Impiety fairly well known, others like Entrails Eradicated and Malignant Monster not so much – is proof that the whole can sometimes turn out to be more than the sum of its parts. Melding together traditional death metal, tech death and moments of brutal death metal with some progressive flair, Depravity delivers a sound that is utterly punishing, but at the same time sophisticated and engaging.
Titles like “Cantankerous Butcher,” “Castrate the Perpetrators” or “The Coming of the Hammering” might hint at something more primal and crude. But with an ever-so-slight undercurrent of melody, the titanic, swirling riffs and dive-bomb solos of Lynton Cessford and Jarrod Curly and the careening rhythms of Ainsley Watkins and Louis Rando, they are transformed in something more majestic and, well, grand, as the title advertises, even with the fire-breathing vocals of Jamie Kay.
At 11 songs and 50 minutes, Malevolence isn’t quite as lean and efficient as Upheaval’s 40-minute beatdown, but it does offer a bit more in the way of variety. The death march groove of “Trophies of Inhumanity” or “Ghosts in the Void,” the epic swells of “Epitome of Extinction,” and taste of industrial clangor and pick-sweep frills of the uber-technical “Hallucination Aflame” expand the band’s sonic palette, if but modestly.
And even here, the songs in the end are no less merciless or massive than the snub-nosed bludgeon of title track or “Barbaric Eternity,” thanks to the album’s crushing, thunderous production, something that has carried over from the debut. So no worries of a sophomore slump from Depravity. Malevolence might not inspire the unexpected awe of Upheaval, but here the band have taken the considerable strengths of the debut and honed them to a certain degree, making for something that is at least as equally formidable. And that will certainly suffice.