Reviewed: September 2021
Released: 2021, Firecum Records
Reviewer: Lee Carter
It’s an old argument, but we revisit it here: is there much point in reviewing re-releases? On the one hand, you have the potential scenarios of having the easiest writing session of your life (“Review: see comments from [DATE]”). Unless it’s been a remix/remaster, in which case there are grounds for further commentary. On the other, you’re introduced to a new piece of work by a new band you’ve not been familiar with. Regardless, it’s all publicity and an opportunity to keep metal in the discourse, so here we are with MALEVOLENCE’s ‘Antithetical’.
Originally released in 2013 and the band’s last entry in their discography as of writing, ‘Antithetical’ sees itself re-enter the public domain on vinyl. So how is it in short? Simply, it is a howling piece of progressive death metal that litters itself with cuts of different subgenres throughout. From the extremity of opener “Slithering”, to the doom-laden sprawl of curtain call “Mechanisms Of Destructive Behaviour”, there will easily be something for every metal fan available here. Just don’t expect much in the way of “accessibility”, as this is among the furthest things from that. “Cult Of The Everlasting” sweeps all before with tremendous opulence, with supplementing orchestrations and choral effects, yet there is an unbridled fury that permeates throughout. Similarly, the album’s title track burns away menacingly, and does more than a passing imitation at BEHEMOTH with its brass section pomposity. Yet this was done back in 2013 – a full year before MALEVOLENCE’s Polish peers perfected their grandiose brand of blackened death metal in ‘The Satanist’.
Those of a more out-and-out progressive persuasion can steer towards “Exocortex Momentum” for their daily dose, and the first of that comes in the title – modern progressive metal in a song title, right there. That it mixes in a little acoustic/clean guitar with traces of flamenco flair only serves to enhance those proggy credentials. Having said that, it does feel a little jarring falling off the death metal cliff into the above with little warning, but, hey, if OPETH can do it, so can MALEVOLENCE. It’s an uneasy listen, but it does offer some variety to proceedings, so that can’t be bad, can it?
So with the normal part of the review just about covered (“How is album?”), it remains to be discussed how it holds up eight years on. Us mighty space-folk of the year 2021 have the tremendous power of age and accumulated wisdom on our side, so materials of yesteryear can be better judged with the benefit of maturity. Now comes the kicker: does ‘Antithetical’ hold up? Short answer: yes. Longer answer: absolutely yes. The fact MALEVOLENCE were already alluding to BEHEMOTH’s future triumphant sound here (albeit with less refinement), is testament to the album standing up to the rigours of time. Even if it is a little rougher round the edges, ‘Antithetical’ still sounds incredible, with a surgically-clean and searing assault on the ears that has them wanting more and more. The songwriting, arguably the most important factor of all, is on-point, too, with nary a bit of fat lingering and a precise understanding of what makes a solid piece of death metal – kudos, gents.
From an artist or band’s perspective, it may be a little cheeky getting another review for a re-release of material you put out almost a decade ago as it’s like fishing for compliments. You have already had the praise, do you really need more? But since ‘Antithetical’ is a cracking album, you’d struggle to begrudge MALEVOLENCE it. 2013 doesn’t even seem all that long ago, and yet it is an album that has stood up to scrutiny in 2021, barely puts a foot wrong, and wouldn’t sound out of place if actually released this year. The band may have not released anything since, but as their last act at the time of writing, it’s a fine performance: an extreme and challenging listen, but one that will bestow riches if you stick at it long enough.