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Unplanned, Improvisational Psychoramas - 93%

bayern, September 9th, 2017

I got acquainted with these Canadian auteurs through the album reviewed here. Before I bought the cassette, I had only heard one Malhavoc song, “Release” from their album of the same title, which was featured on an all-industrial compilation. It’s a fascinating song, this “Release”; it releases you of all possible barriers you may have put before you, both consciously and subconsciously… So I bought the tape on the strength of this only composition, definitely not because of the tale-telling cover, and I didn’t make a mistake although in retrospect this is probably the least representative effort, I mean if one wants to start exploring the band’s repertoire this would be the least objective starting point.

In 1992 I had no idea that this band were one of the true pioneers on the metal scene having started as thrash/death metal hybriders, pretty much the first providers of this blend on Canadian soil, before becoming the originators of the industrial metal movement alongside Ministry with their sophomore, the mentioned “The Release”, arguably the highest point of the whole industrial thrash panorama. Never content to reside in the comfort zone and release more or less the same albums over and over the band, that is pretty much the multi-instrumentalist James Cavalluzzo helped by session musicians here and there, embarked on a new journey, one that took them out of all musical conventions, into a world where organization and premeditated actions were anything but the norm.

The album reviewed here is the first genuine avant-garde, bizarre recording, opening new vistas for other acts to follow through the years like O.L.D., Carbonized, Verwaint, Kinsky, Kobong, and many others. In other words, there were no tangible genre frames to be applied here, neither were there any particular regulations as to how the music should flow, including the ways of expression and the respective tools to be used. Still, the final result is quite listenable, albeit not for a very wide range of fans. At least the opening theme should have no problems entering the audience’s blood system being a peaceful balladic instrumental with a couple of edgier guitar-driven sections in the second half, nothing eccentric here. The eccentricities begin with “Languish”, first with the arresting twisted melodies served initially, then with the harsh rhythm-section which rudely interrupts the instilling “idyll”, and comes accompanied by hellish whispered witch-like rasps; the melodic beginning keeps appearing on regular intervals the resultant concoction reaching a fever, noisy pitch at the end. “Solitude” is inaugurated by serene balladisms before a techno drum beat joins the fray, both sides merging into one thick industrial miasma which relatively smooth march is seldom interrupted save for the increased presence of industrial noises which nearly overwrite the musical background by the end.

“Crusade” is where things really space out, first with the accumulations of noisy ambience, then with a dancey disco tune which is replaced in its turn by a guitar-driven passage both applications overlapping each other the whole time with more dramatic escalations “stealing” the second half, the dance potential preserved all over. “Conspiracy” is psychotic, jarring, scratchy riffs distorted into one big abrasive melee, the sinister whispering reaching hysterical dimensions on the supposed chorus, the musical background still retaining some semblance of normality with bizarre thrash rhythms pricking the listener’s brain, at least the one of those who were still around, putting up with this unpremeditated “conspiracy” against the whole music industry. The madness is not over yet, and it goes on with “The L.O.C. (Loss of Control)”, another schizophrenic, utterly unnerving accumulation of sounds that will bring the fans to the edge of their sanity, the vocals horrifying the audience further with their apocalyptic infernal, synthesized rendings. Not many will be those to remain in the vicinity after this mind-fucker, but those who will will make no mistake cause right after comes some actual music in the form of “Kill (Dislocated)”, a fascinating blend of thrash and keyboards with skin-peeling riffs “torturing” the psyche which will also be exposed to some bizarre twisted hooks mid-way, and some intriguing dancey shredding at the end the latter tool later fully epitomized by acts like KMFDM, Die Krupps, and Rammstein. “Dead” is a controversial cut since in its initial version it contained samples from songs of Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones which led to court trials and other unpleasant shite; here it’s turned into a standout brutal thrasher, a clear nod to the guys’ roots, primal headbanging thrash at its best the assault interrupted by short samples, but not those notorious ones. All the way to the “Extro” which wraps up the saga with beautiful haunting leads, a marvellous epitaph to this most diverse, larger-than-life recording.

Four tracks are added at the end as bonus material those taken from the band’s early demos; in other words, expect intelligent technical thrash/death assault with improved production qualities, 20-min of some of the finest rifforamas to ever come out of North America. The biggest “psychopath” on the album, the mentioned “The L.O.C.”, is remade as “dessert”, but the band have made it more listenable, polishing it here and there to present is as an acceptable macabre industrial thrasher. The remastered demo material may have been served as an afterthought, the band willing to show to those who haven’t been lucky to know them earlier what long path they have walked, and what huge metamorphosis has taken place along the way. It makes the whole package even more compelling with the two contrasting sides of the guys’ discography juxtaposed, leaving the fan to choose which style is more to his/her liking.

There was nothing like this effort out there at the time, the world was still thinking what to make of this whole groovy/aggro/alternative charade, and shocking anomalous propositions like the one here were simply beyond the regular fan’s comprehension the latter simply dismissing them after the first, maximum the second track. Spacing out was definitely on the metal scene’s list, but it had to take a bit longer before the audience would get accustomed to such hallucinogenic, perspective-altering invasions of their minds. The whole album is permeated by the feel of impromptu-like, improvisational jam sessions the guys just stitching whatever perverse ideas they, or rather he, had at the time, those merging with the obligatory flashes of genius. This speculation is strengthened by the presence of the demo material at the end, the remake as well, the band kind of throwing everything they had available in order to make this endeavour as varied and as perplexing as possible. And even in their most disorganized, most dishevelled state of mind they still have managed to come up with a near masterpiece, albeit of a very different, unexpected nature.

Cavalluzzo’s brave experimental spirit continued producing twisted musical vistas on “Get Down” which was a way more accessible form of avantgarde, not so much industrial, metal compared to the album here. All the ties to the band’s thrashy roots were severed this next instalment sounding like a natural evolutionary step from the man’s catalogue offering interesting, less orthodox music for the umpteenth time, again not for every fan out there. “The Lazarus Complex…” was the eventual radical move from any metal “flirtations” the approach strictly for the electro/techno dancefloor champions. Yeah, I guess all roads lead to the club across the street at some point in life... be it for the regular “dance the night away” routine, or for the isolated, unpremeditated deviation from the righteous metal trajectory.