I should feel guilty for never coming across Malvento in their 20 odd years of existence but then again there are many “cult Italian” acts so shrouded in obscurity within the underground that there are no shortage of them to discover. Malvento have been around since 1999 and this is their fourth full length. Residing on very small labels and having had small print runs in the past they now find their way onto UK label Third I Rex. This is their first full length release in 7 years and sees an evolvement in style from when they started out playing a more primitive blackened thrash style so we are told.

With members of other acts such as Experior Obscura, Mephisto, Primitivum & Sataanal in their ranks it’s the synthesized sequences of Whip that have become much prominent in the mix giving them a bit more of an industrialized leaning of late and the intro and album title Pneuma casting cold and bleak tones into things one is not too sure how this is going to progress stylistically. In truth I found their soundscapes to be a bit of a fragmentary nature. There’s a real ambient and somewhat sinister feel at first and it is quite horror soundtrack orientated with vocals just being whispered out. The night ‘Notte’ is summoned with strings and textures designed to be creepy, this could easily slot into a cult film of which the Italian is so rich of in heritage but it is a slow passage with vocals finally fleshing out and being ritualistically intoned. By La Via Sinistra I am looking for comparisons and it is not surprising to find the occult doom leanings of the likes of Death SS, Tony Tears et al cropping up. This track however with meandering bass and disquieting effects nods head towards early Monumentum. It’s certainly atmospheric and the still whispered and low in the mix ominous vocals give it a real feel of lurking Gothic terror. Some lullaby keyboard work seeps out like a clue in a giallo, it could be a red herring though as I am still trying to work this all out.

Pnuema very much ebbs away like a shroud of shadows and fog, the inner narrative is hard to find and indeed with many instrumental periods of ‘enchantment’ listeners may find themselves looking for more in the way of structured songs and find them somewhat difficult to discover due to the somewhat illusory nature of this beast. Satanik Terrorist Bathory Legion lends his “Ritual Nocturnal Voice’ at one point and Gianluca Martucci of Urna adds to the effects with use of Shruti Box, Bamboo Flute and Percussion. There’s plenty going on in the background here to fixate on and discover over repeated listens and it’s all quite unsettling and incredibly dark. Tones offer everything from post-punk with occasional rhythmic drum patterns to dark ambient and even martial industrial. Each track is different and offers new signatures to chill you from the ghostly choral work and vampiric vocals on ‘Respiro Notturno’ to the ominous clunks and mechanical sounds of ‘Apuania’ Penultimate number ‘Le Danze’ is definitely the one that has the most fully fleshed out ideas and linear structure to it but the fathomless aura the band have crafted here still leaves me wondering just how to file them. I guess the mystery and the intrigue here is that Malvento have obstinately not allowed me to do just that. Thankfully before they disappear once more in a puff of smoke and a bat no doubt shrilly flees into the fog I can’t say they haven’t entertained me.

(7/10 Pete Woods)