Well let’s face it, this was never going to be pretty. Irish extremists Malthusian more than proved themselves with 2015 EP ‘Below The Hengiform’ as well as at various live eviscerations. They have been quiet for a while but now they are back, armed with debut album Across Deaths. Perhaps somewhat cheekily I said to the group on interviewing them that their music is not exactly enjoyable and got this in reply, “We all find the song-writing process enjoyable and we enjoy playing them live, otherwise we would play something else. But yes, the music is designed to be chaotic at times, primitive and pounding at others, and generally just fucking ugly. We aren’t into writing melodic, twin harmonies but that doesn’t mean the songs aren’t catchy and identifiable. It’s a balancing act. The sound is unsettling but hopefully in a way that is addictive to those who share a similar outlook to us’” I think that kind of sets the listener up for just what to expect here and the band forge a sound out of death, black and doom which is the composite parts of the bands they have played in over the years such as Mourning Beloveth, Conan, Altar Of Plagues, Dread Sovereign, Abaddon Incarnate, Wreck Of The Hesperus and more. No doubt as with the EP there is deep meaning beyond the mere music itself reflected in the themes and the lyrics. No big clues are given here though so it is down to the music and the listeners imagination to do the talking us such.
Opening track ‘Remnant Fauna’ batters in without any sense of birthing, just a horrendous and obtuse barrage of hideous, pulverising drumming, grating guitars and low bellowed vocals. It’s almost too much and so dense there is little clarity in the sound. At first I thought the digital download I had been sent might be hampering definition but nope finding the track online it is the same and frankly quite horrid in sound. All part of the plan, remember this was never expected to be easy listening and the earthy bass sound and screams are suitably hellish as this grinds and grates out the speakers literally fraying nerves. Sure it slows down somewhat but it’s still utterly primitive and nasty to listen to. ‘Across The Expanse Of Nothing’ brings death like a plague with guitars sounding like a swarm of locusts, drums thundering and the low gruff vocals and occasional biting ones low in the mix, lingering like a particularly foul taste in the mouth. It literally sounds like the players have decided to adopt roles of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse and are vomiting things out but there is an underlying technicality behind it all and some morbid tones amidst the chaos that have a sense of dare I say it melody about them. Still it’s a particularly ghastly death being dished out and one that only practitioners of the most horrid sound will be able to endure. The rolling drum sound is particularly crushing here, the spiky guitars pierce like barbs and the occasional screams and growls all combine to set you on complete edge, looking carefully around to see if something is sneaking up on you about to bite your jugular out.
Developing a monstrous clamouring of souls like gibbering demonic madness throughout the 5 lengthy tracks here there is little in the way of respite. I’m not sure if the sound actually gets better as such throughout proceedings or if the ears get slightly more used to the punishing mix. Tentacles of crawling madness spread on the albums apocryphal 13 minute ‘Primal Attunement – The Gloom Epoch’ which lumbers away with a gravid gnarly and torturous slowness. Something strange and unexpected does occur though and you wonder at the very sanity of your ears but some strings, I believe violin, add to the disharmony giving the music even more of a devilish hue. This is a difficult album to listen to and certainly one to score. Although I like it if that is the right word it’s a hard listen but I’m sure that’s the point. I’m not sure if it is something that is going to have people playing it that much although if you want obstinate friends to leave it will certainly do the job. Personally I am hoping to catch the band live and be battered senseless and caught in a trance to some of the material here but for the moment I can only really say that as far as getting a review done and the album itself I have exorcised it out of my system for some time to come
(7/10 Pete Woods)