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A death metal concept album? - 100%

goredisorder, April 4th, 2010

The Ten Commandments kicks off with a haunting and disturbing spoken-word song about putting a man into his grave and what happens to him from there. “Memorial Arrangements” isn’t a relaxed intro, rather it sets the stage for all of The Ten Commandments, an album preoccupied with death, the morbid side of spiritualism, religious uncertainty, and the afflictions of a “tortured mind,” to quote the song eponymous with the band, ideas all depicted through vivid scenarios of lyrical bloodshed and slaughtering death metal.

Malevolent’s one of a kind style and riffing is at its thrashiest here, though still very much in the death metal camp. Sections of crushing sludginess are fused with a plethora of hammering away (hammertime without the parachute pants), the music more focused on speed than any of the subsequent Malevolent Creation albums but not without the trademark.. stigma be damned, BREAKDOWNS. Breakdowns that slaughter you and leave you begging for more. Breakdowns in random and unexpected places that help form elaborate song structures, NOT the breakdowns that got raped in every imaginable orifice by bands with floppy bangs in their eyes, that have unfortunately come to be associated with metal. These are as crushing as any proper breakdown should be, damnit. The volatile song structures make for an electrifying and unpredictable listen every time, even after you’ve listened to this album so much you have every riff, song shift, drum hit and grunt etched in your memory. There’s an absurd amount of material and diversity in The Ten Commandments, which surprisingly doesn’t even hit the 40 minute mark.

Similarly the vocals take on two different methods, at times painstakingly reminiscent of slow motion and at times so fast half the syllables are lost in a fury of tongue-twisting time constraints. A few variations come into play, like the computerized effects in “Impaled Existence,” the ghoulish scream towards the end of “Malevolent Creation,” and the previously mentioned spoken word intro, but a big range of styles isn’t needed to make the vocals sound as deliciously deranged and agonized as they are here. Brett Hoffman is one of the most evocative vocalists in death metal, hell all of metal.

I’m not sure if it is, but The Ten Commandments can certainly be interpreted as a concept album, starting with “Memorial Arrangements” being somewhat of a eulogy at a funeral. “Premature Burial” up next indicates that the buried was.. well no shit, buried prematurely, that is put in the ground while still alive and he’s wondering what will happen to his soul. “Remnants of Withered Decay” goes on to discuss a cold and ravaged land of the apocalypse and begs the question “where is the lord,” a religious doubt that’s referenced several more times during the album. And so on, each song is filled with ample amounts of gory visuals and typical death metal violence but a greater idea prevails beyond the sum of its parts, and ultimately comes together to weave a story.

One song “Injected Sufferage” stands out in that it discusses drug use and AIDS, not a subject commonly explored in death metal (unless you’re Death) – yet isn’t this synonymous with death? Like the similarly themed “Monster” discussing crack addiction on the next album Retribution, this is one of those songs that really make you think. The final track “Malevolent Creation” pulls the “..and it was all a bad dream” shtick you’ve probably read in a few dozen short stories, but indicates a sort of rebirth of the initially buried character and unexpectedly enough, the possibility of change of the ugly and corrupted world he’s witnessed.. yet at the same time indicates that any hope of change is futile. It comes full circle but is beyond intricate. I don’t want to get into a whole analysis of the meaning behind this album, but lastly I have to point out two things: one, it’s The Ten Commandments and there’s ten songs, and two there’s a song called “Thou Shall Kill!” so in addition to the scattered references to god, it’s hard not to consider the religious implications behind this album. Anyways, this is coming from someone who isn’t normally concerned with lyrics, but The Ten Commandments is special in a very strange way, it holds a lot of secrets behind the guise of death metal.

Back to the subject of death metal, this is an astonishing album to rise from the prolific early 90’s Florida death metal scene, though it seems like Malevolent Creation is a less familiar name than others. The Ten Commandments is nothing short of hard-hitting and essential death metal, and hard to believe this was damn near 20 years ago that Malevolent first put the embodiment of death on an album. A mandatory listen for any death metalhead – not only is this album musically awesome but it’s a masterpiece with a shrouded deeper meaning.