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I’ve always been moderately fond of what Malignancy brought to the table of technical death metal. They’ve always been an impressive group despite having just a handful of major releases, yet there has always been a timeless edge to most of their material that puts them in league with Suffocation or Cryptopsy as one of the godfathers of their mangling identity. “Eugenics” marks just the third full-length album under the Malignancy banner, but these New Yorkers are clearly as twisted and complicated as ever. The basis of “Eugenics” is a cyclone of unlimited depravity that scoops nuclear fallout out of irradiated wastelands and distributes the poison over every part of the planet, leaving no vegetation or life untainted. Too many parts of this album are inhuman, chugging through claustrophobic grooves which pound bone into brittle and swirl the genetic code into a dysfunctional mess of bawling, distorted horrors.
Malignancy’s trademark style of violating instruments in more ways than your imagination can fathom is in prime form throughout “Eugenics,” slapping Father Time right in the face. The entire four corners of the square–Danny Nelson, Mike Heller, Ron Kachnic, and Roger Beaujard– are together one of the most cohesive units that ever played the game. Every riff, bass line, drum beat, and guttural bellow is fully circular and dependent on the whole package to forge a large, complicated sound from its specific parts. In non-douche terms: everything works together flawlessly. Riffs that seem to have emerged from some mathematical abyss in space unceasingly fire above and below algebraic bass playing and flashy percussion algorithms that boil skin like nuclear fire; it’s insane how much stuffing lurks in each track. There is somewhat of a method to the madness, however, as much of the album boils its ingredients to maximum use, never leaving a single root depleted or overused.
Technical death metal in general seems to be a thinning field, but Malignancy has never failed to get it right. “Eugenics” is perplexing; “Eugenics” is also enjoyable. For something so complex and layered, the general key to the vault of technical death metal is merely a balance of elements without sacrificing one for the other, and that’s actually quite simple when you really think about it. Malignancy continues to defy and deny throughout “Eugenics,” and it’s a great expansion upon one of technical death metal’s finest (and unsung) heroes, the kind that reignites interest in a dying flame and remains animated in its own gruesome vision of absolute global collapse.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Malignancy have their own little niche in the death metal world. They’re too guttural to fit in with the proggy tech-death crowd, too fast and twisty for the slammy side of brutal death metal, and not headbangingly catchy enough for the old schoolers. But they’ve found a legion of devoted fans who love the complex drumming, the tasteful bass noodles, the serious-as-a-heat-attack low vocals, and the pinch-harmonic-filled guitar riffs. Their last album, the great Inhuman Grotesqueries from 2007, felt like a modernization of their sound and Eugenics is another chapter in the band’s modern era. They venture into slightly groovier territory at times, but never let the beat sit still for too long without twisting it inside-out and slapping it around a little.
After a tongue-in-cheek intro of a radio being tuned through various musical genres, look out: the album launches into “Type Zero Civilization,” a rager that sets the tone for the rest of the record. The songs are packed to the gills with guitar playing and drumming that will make musicians drool. Unlike lots of progressive or technical metal, however, these parts still sound like they're being played by humans instead of machines, and the playing has plenty of personality. The performances of these technical pieces are all flawless and the guitar and drum tones are clear enough that the listener can keep track of them. Danny Nelson’s vocals get buried at times, which makes the apocalyptic sci-fi lyrics all the more impossible to decipher, even when the listener is able to read along. The bass is also a bit low, which is sad since I’d like to hear more of the guitar/bass interplay. The high-on-the-neck bass runs near the end of “Cryptobiosis” are a highlight of that song, and I’d prefer if bassist Roger Beaujard’s parts were mixed a few notches higher than “Newsted on ...AJFA” level.
Like their last record, Eugenics is a veritable horn of plenty for fans of discordant technical riffs. From the grinding “Monstrous Indifference” to the impossibly groovy “Cataclysmic Euphoria,” the songwriting is clever and Ron Kachnic’s riffs are unique and memorable. Malignancy’s guitar style is like a hyperactive version of the Immolation or Gorguts school of riffing, but with all their riffs played in double-time, with little repetition and lots of odd time signatures. Drummer Mike Heller has recently posted videos online of himself performing some of these tracks, and they highlight not only the technicality of these parts, but his skill at filling in the blanks with improvised fills that add more character than a straightforward brutal death metal drum performance would.
Eugenics is a worthy follow-up to Inhuman Grotesqueries, preserving the tone of that record while taking it in new directions. Even though they don’t fit neatly in either subgenre, Malignancy continue to deliver the goods for fans of both brutal death metal and technical death metal.
Though I've never been as fond of Malignancy as their close friends (and Roger J. Beaujard's primary band) Mortician, they're nonetheless one of enduring East Coast institutions in brutality, and have released a few decent records like 1999's Intrauterine Cannibalism with a fair amount of technicality alongside a less refined production quality than you'd find elsewhere in the USDM field. They've also possessed a somewhat uncanny characteristic that's difficult to place; perhaps through the enthusiastic, vile choice of album titles and song concepts, or the spurious performance of the guitars and drums, they've always had a different means of constructing their songs than many run of the mill brutal/tech bands mimicking Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation.
Eugenics, the band's second full-length for Willowtip Records (and third overall), continues this pattern of spastic, elasticized pacing, picking and intensity with the best produced barrage of pinches, squeals and psychotic hyper-blasting whirlwinds the band has ever conceived beneath the guttural percussion of the front man Danny Nelson. Lots of broken, fragmented beats lurch and collide about a chaotic matrix of incendiary, almost comically hysteric rhythmic tension, each piece a vortex of manic riffing which sounds like it's been snatched from some other brutal death outlet and then placed in a blender on top speed. Of special note here was the performance of Roger Beaujard on bass (he was previously the drummer), who adds a necessary level of harried proficiency that helps balance out the mischievous spunk of Ron Kachnic's frenzied note progressions. Who knew the guy was a regular Steve DiGiorgio or Roger Patterson? I also can't say I've encountered many guitarists in this niche who can squeal which such dynamic perfection as Kachnic...you could probably remove all the chords and chugs and his performance would still be amusing...
The entirety of Eugenics thus has an admittedly 'playful' feel to it, that is until the entire band finds itself on the same page and charges through a pummeling blast that will spin your head off its spinal support column. At just about every turn, the band is throwing something different at the listener, and as a result the album demands a few listens just to absorb everything, even the more immediately excellent and memorable pieces like "Cryptobiosis" with its incredible, high-strung grooves. The production is more accessible than their later 90s fare, with a great balance between all instruments and vocals, I only wish I could hear Roger just a fraction more since he's going ballistic on that bass and it occasionally doesn't stand out so much beneath the rhythm guitar. The songs and lyrics deal with more than just your average gore, but with societal collapse and apocalyptic radiation, a great brutal death metal alternative to something like the Fallout and Borderlands games or the C.H.U.D. films. In sum, I'd say that the album's arsenal of acrobatic sensibilities outlives the quality of many individual tracks, but I enjoyed it as much as anything else in their backlog, if not more.