Here we are again—another album cycle where Malevolence will probably go unfairly ignored, because the search for terrific metal bands to elevate to great heights has glossed over them, apparently. That’s applied to this band specifically for way too long, considering they came out of the gate swinging with Reign Of Suffering in 2013 and have barely let up since. If anything, they’ve only gotten better, now tilting slightly further away from some initial hardcore leanings, but dialing up the skyscraping metal power in earnest, to where 2020’s all-too-brief taster EP The Other Side produced some of the most exciting tastes of their work to date. So on Malicious Intent, the album where Malevolence fully come good on sparks of that EP, it’s never been clearer how much of a dominating force in metal this band deserve to be. They’re rippling with muscle and might all through this album, opening on a title track that’s one of the album’s bridges to their hardcore-leaning roots, and running for absolute miles with it. It’s the gigantic sense of confidence that’s most striking, where a song like On Broken Glass roars to life with one of the best metal grooves put to record this year in one of many examples of Malevolence taking a decidedly classic metal formula and punching it up to a phenomenal degree. A song like Karma has the thrash and speed that you easily transpose to prime-era Metallica, only with the guitars and drums especially coated in an unmistakable hardcore gristle and Alex Taylor’s vocals have a more obviously wall-smashing gutturalism. It’s what Malicious Intent in particular does so right, in an embrace of scope and scale that feels fully unlimited for the heavy band that Malevolence want to be.
And that’s what ultimately makes Higher Place so effective as a centrepiece, continuing down the thread of towering ballads that The Other Side dipped into with arguably even greater success. The accompanying vocals from guitarist Konan Hall are perfectly integrated to lend a sludgier mood without straying too far from a classic metal framework. It’s the perfect showcase of versatility that a lot of bands will tend to neglect, and having it transfer over to Salvation does a lot for how sweeping and thunderous that song is, even without the Matt Heafy feature. It speaks volumes that additional star power feels deliberately held back; there’s Heafy and Kublai Khan TX’s Matt Honeycutt, but neither of them feel essential to their respective tracks, or fill in a piece that Malevolence themselves feel ill-equipped to handle. That says more in the band’s favour than the shortcomings of the guests, when they’re there more for additional spice added to an already filling course. Because, at the end of the day, Malevolence have racked up the miles to where they’re hitting a gold standard every time, not necessarily in an interesting or intricate lyrical sense (though it’s never outright bad), but in doling out metal that feels genuinely exciting. The genre’s past is used as a springboard rather than an anchor, more so in Malevolence’s case than most given how unfailingly fresh they continue to feel release on release. Malicious Intent is the work of a band flying past any previous bars set for them, heading onwards and upwards and just waiting to get the notice they critically deserve. Right now, there’s no excuse to not be onboard.
For fans of: Pantera, Crowbar, Hatebreed
‘Malicious Intent’ by Malevolence is released on 20th May on Nuclear Blast Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall