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Mutating the beat - 84%

Smyrma, February 27th, 2013

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.