Contrary to what many close-minded metal fans may believe, being heavy is not conducive to being good. A band can cram as many bowel-loosening breakdowns as they like into a song, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’ll be good. As countless modern examples have shown, the opposite is probably more true. And yet, for the uninitiated going into Malevolence’s 2013 debut album Reign Of Suffering, expecting more of the same would’ve been forgivable to a degree. The average age of the band was 19 for starters, and coming at a time when every ten-a-penny young metal band was trying to be Bring Me The Horizon – as well as being from Sheffield themselves – there would’ve been plenty who would revel in crucifying this lot on arrival. But considering that album actually ended up sounding like Pantera by way of Hatebreed and Lamb Of God, Malevolence were instead elevated to the position of the underground’s greatest hopes. But it’s been four years of relative silence since then, and given how fast music moves these days, there are two different roads that Malevolence could go down. The first is to pivot towards a more commercial road, smoothening and softening their sound to round up an audience to replace whoever may have fallen away in the interim.
The second just happens to be the one Malevolence have chosen with Self Supremacy – disregard all of that and make an album that goes just as hard, leaving their fusion of beatdown sensibilities and white-hot riffs by the metric tonne firmly intact. The result is an album that certainly does them more good than harm, the sort of thunderous metallic assault that’ll keep a grin plastered on even the most avid of riff-fiends’ faces. Granted, for anyone who wants both that and something a bit more songwriter-ly, this might not quite hit the spot. It keeps in its lane of hardcore kerbstompers filtered through an underground metal lens unwaveringly, and while it isn’t the most varied selection in the world, Alex Taylor’s snarling delivery pushes aside any major criticisms in a palpable sense of anger, even more so when Comback Kid’s Andrew Neufeld shows up on Severed Ties to lend some backup to Taylor’s aural fist to the face.
To be fair though, with this sort of heavier, more traditional take on metal, lyrics are arguably less important than instrumentation that can pick up weight and use it effectively. And in this area, Malevolence unquestionably shine, laying down riffs that switch between pounding metallic hardcore and filthy sludge-metal with consummate ease and equal proficiency. And while their hardcore side is undoubtedly impressive, like on Severed Ties or Body Count which both bear more than a few stripes of an act like Hatebreed, when they channel their inner Down on Slave To Satisfaction or the seven minute sludge-metal opus True Colours, Malevolence hit a stride that’s truly undeniable. Guitarist Konan Hall does his best Phil Anselmo impression here, and the whole thing becomes bathed in an even more authentic light, like Malevolence could convincingly run with this sound. There’s an atmosphere to what the band do here that’s totally compelling, with each stressed, laborious breakdown crashing like a sledgehammer to the temple. The only moment of respite comes in the atmospheric guitar passage 4am On West Street, but even then there’s a windswept, sinister air that fully benefits the flow and tone of the album, and is an ultimately welcome inclusion.
But even then, Malevolence still feel like a relatively unassuming prospect in modern metal. There’s no flash or gimmickry beyond technicality, and it’s not the sort of metal that enjoys being boxed in a certain style. Nevertheless, Self Supremacy is an album that knows exactly what it is, and does it’s damnedest to accentuate its best qualities, namely by making the riffs as potent and fiery as possible, and actually using their intrinsic heaviness to their advantage. The result is possibly the most thrilling underground metal album of the year so far, uncompromisingly heavy but in the best, least derivative way that demarks a band currently at the top of their game. For anyone who can’t go without a good riff, the top spot for Album Of The Year is essentially secured.
For fans of: Lamb Of God, Pantera, Hatebreed
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Self Supremacy’ by Malevolence is released on 19th May on Beat Down Hard Wear Records.