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The Age of Dark Progressive Deathly Thrashisms - 96%

bayern, July 16th, 2015

It’s a crying shame that Malhavoc aren’t mentioned right beside Sacrifice, Slaughter and Infernal Majesty as one of the progenitors of the death metal movement in Canada. And, they should also be placed alongside Annihilator, Savage Steel, and Disciples of Power as one of the first acts to try something more complex and engaging thus carving a path which would be trodden far and wide by numerous progressive-inclined practitioners through the following decades. If we trace the band’s career all the way to their first demo from 1983, one should also consider them one of the originators of all things metal on Canadian ground together with Anvil and the Voivods. However, their 1983-85 period mostly contained semi-amateurish noise the guys’ youthful enthusiasm clearly surpassing their actual musical skills…

Things took a more organized and a much more proficient shape on the “Age of Dark Renaissance” demo in 1986 which was a real statement of intent featuring very well executed progressive thrash with violent riffage combined with some great melodic tunes thus giving this recording a strongly individual character. Two years later three of the songs from there have found their way into the band’s first official release, the ”shrine” under scrutiny here. A word of warning to those who would be willing to venture into it, though: you won’t encounter any actual singing here; what you’ll be exposed to would be macabre animalistic semi-whispers/semi-growls, agonizing sounds which are perfectly fit to accompany the dark nature of the music on offer. If you remember Smeagol from “Lord of the Rings”, his agonizing barely audible utterances… the “vocal” approach here is similar only a tad higher-pitched and less prone to using the “my precious” expression. If this unholy delivery had been an impediment for the fans to fully appreciate this recording in the past, then it had been such for a very good reason…

The album begins with three tracks from the demo “The Age Of Dark Renaissance” being an all-instrumental mid-tempo shredder setting the scene for the brutal proto-deathster “Urban Grandier”, a nice reminder of Possessed’s ‘Seven Churches” imbued with a bigger sense of melody, also introducing those unholy inhuman snarls which will fiddle with your nerves quite a bit throughout. “Attack From The Sepulcher” is a wonderful little progressive thrasher with some addictive melodies which nicely remind of Sacrifice’s “Flames of Armageddon”. The “beauty” only escalates from here, though, “Empirical Minds” brutalizing the environment to almost full-blooded death metal proportions with enchanting melodic tunes circling and twisting around, not to mention the cool balladic interlude which is an additional atmospheric boost.

Our favourite Howard P. Lovecraft has been honoured with “Dunwich Horror”, a macabre sinister piece which creeps forward at the beginning with brooding mid-paced riffs before the band start thrashing with passion and a sophisticated technical edge, something which Possessed tried to implement on “The Eyes of Horror”, only less successfully. This “horrifying” number has time and tempo-changes galore the latter staying for “Dread” which richly deserves its title also moving up the complexity scale with a more meandering structure and serpentine riff-patterns which are interrupted for another slower, this time 2nd half, break. The closer “Trial and Error of Reanimators and Immortals From Beyond Deathtrance” is perhaps the most known composition having already won numerous Grammy, Emmy, and other awards for the longest song-title in music history… kidding, of course!, but music-wise this is an unbearably heavy shredder bordering on doom this part taking most of the 6-min's playing time before the guys embark on another short fast-paced technical “journey” towards the end finishing this grand effort with aplomb and a lot of promises for other great things to come in the future.

Several listens will definitely ensure the vocals’ relevance and in the long run one will be happy to not have a growler, a shouter, or even worse, a screamer here to distract from the topnotch musical experience. And, with a bit of an aural strain the listener would even learn to decipher the lyrics, especially on the higher “whispering” tirades. Having in mind that this EP is whole 36-min long, it can easily qualify for a full-length release and be a major contender for the top ten of the best Canadian thrash metal albums of the 1980’s, and is also a very strong addition to the pleiad of talented technical/progressive acts from the Cold North (Obliveon, Savage Steel, DBC, Dyoxen, Disciples of Power, etc.) from that same time period. Although it comes as a potent blend of Possessed’s output and Sacrifice’s ‘Forward to Termination”, it recalls several future masterpieces, like Messiah’s mid-period (“Choir of Horrors”, “Rotten Perish”), Merciless’ “The Treasures Within”, the French Witches’ “4.3.1”, later-period Protector, etc.

The band operate like a well polished machine every instrument given a fair share a particular highlight being the seamless interplay between the cutting riffage and the memorable melodic licks their symbiosis creating plenty of horrific, dramatic atmosphere. The bass thunders prominently in the background, always clearly heard, albeit never obtrusive and show-offy. All the compositions are mixtures of fast and slow passages with a somewhat operatic structure again mostly due to the frequent melodic “decorations”, with dramatic riff accumulations which at times reach the crescendo pitch on the fastest parts. The band by all means looked well equipped to play a more important part on the American metal scene…

And they did rise to prominence eventually, albeit under a slightly different guise: rather than “flagging a dead horse” into which thrash metal was turning fast in the early-90’s, the band decided to modernize their approach by adding the up-and-fashionable industrial gimmicks to it, and things pretty much hit the top on “The Release” (1990) which presented the definitive “marriage” between thrash metal and industrial, a marvellous, deeply atmospheric “release” standing head and shoulders above other industrially disguised thrashisms like Ministry’s “Psalm 69”, Skrew’s “Dusted”, and “Die Krupps’ “The Final Option” although it’s much shorter than each of those albums (it runs for merely half on hour if we exclude the two remixed versions of the first two songs). Another lengthy 30-min EP (“Punishments”) was added to the guys’ discography a year later further consolidating their status as industrial metal wizards with a still strong appeal to the diminishing metal masses.

“Premeditated Murder” followed in 1992, but the sound had mutated into quirky industrial extravaganza, still almost exclusively based on the guitar sound, a reminder of their thrash/deathy past being the inclusion of several remastered versions of songs from their 80’s period. Then the band really spaced out on the surreal, avantgarde “Get Down” (1994), a great album in every way, only very far removed from any thrash or death metal heroisms. This was also the effort which logically dropped the hellish subdued snarls passing for vocals up to this point since they served to no purpose anymore. A 6-year hiatus followed which was interrupted by “The Lazarus Complex”, an almost entirely electronic/techno dance floor sweeper, arguably the biggest U-turn metamorphosis ever witnessed in metal. The band are still operational and the hopes are still high that they may as well look back in anger one day, and embark on a journey to bring about another age of dark thrash/deathy renaissance.