Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Step Back into Obscurity: A Look at Malevolence's Martyrialized (1999)

Since forming in 1994, Malevolence has come a long way after battling with a seemingly rocky future. Lineup changes, a rather lengthy hiatus, and a number of other obstacles threatened the band's existence, but in recent years they've reunited with hopes to release new material. It takes mad guts to reform and face a fanbase after years of inactivity; bands that do so repeatedly gain my respect because one wrong move and fans rage at music that doesn't sound exactly like the back catalog. That being said, 1999's Martyrialized is the act's second full-length and a fine one at that. The untitled forthcoming release will have quite a mini legacy to follow.

Yes, it's especially impressive that Martyrialized is the group's second full-length. Normally, I expect a band to take a handful of albums to find their own unique sound, but Malevolence shoved their foot into the death metal scene's door and established themselves as more than a carbon copy early on in their career. The building blocks to their sound were firmly cemented into place and offered a look at what Portuguese metal was like. And let's be honest, how many Portuguese metal bands can you name off the top of your head? Before Malevolence, I could name a whopping sum of one. I'll assert the first time I gazed at Martyrialized's cover art, I assumed it was going to be a culmination of generic death metal that would pass through my system fairly quickly, only to be forgotten about and thrown into the "music for later" pile. The thing is, you can never judge an album by its cover. In all the time I've been listening to music, I've rarely done that, but every once in a while it happens. This time I was off. Like, all the way out of the earth's stratosphere.

Dare I say it, Malevolence's uniqueness owes itself to the utilization of orchestral elements that don't overpower or fight with the rest of the instruments. Unlike a certain recent release, they're well-balanced and create a fixed atmosphere I've come to recognize as Malevolence's own. It's quite exciting. In part, I'd guess it's due to the flat, yet square production. It's unlike anything I've heard recently, though it may credit its quality to being a product of the '90s. The production, guitar riffs, and synths mingle together to create an interesting feeling that is a whole 'nother world, a totally different place that helps me escape reality and into a fantasy metal realm. The chord progressions in a few of the tracks are all together sublime, most notably in the chorus of "Hunters of the Red Moon," and concoct a sound that's indicative of something that's pretty damn marked and distinguished. Yeah, I know. That isn't very descriptive. But it's fitting for a band like Malevolence and once the record passes through your system, you'll instantly understand what I mean. I've never had this much trouble putting a band's sound into words, but I guess we all get stumped at some point. Bravo, Malevolence crew!


Another interesting aspect of Malevolence's sound is that they're on the more melodic side of death metal. But don't get me wrong - this isn't the wimpy drivel coming out of the Swedish Gothenburg scene that's almost always nothing more than a pile of steaming pop music. Malevolence's tunes are well-composed and filled with interesting hooks that draw you to the music like mosquitoes to a bare arm. You'll be glued to the perplexing melodies for hours on end and wonder how on earth a few metalheads came up with something so ingenious. And that's just the beauty of it: music knows no boundaries, and I think Malevolence pushed them so many years ago in 1999. It's undoubtedly a shame they remained so obscure with the release of Martyrialized and into their breakup, but I have high hopes their recent reformation will post different results and get them the recognition they deserve. 

As for favorites on the record, "Hunters of the Red Moon" might just be my most played on Matryrialized, though it would be nothing without its musical brethren. The album must be listened to in full to gain the lush effect Malevolence's music creates. It's simply hypnotic. Okay, so that might sound a tad cheesy, but I'd hope my readers recognize that some albums only work when listened to as a whole. It's like picking one track off of Queensr├┐che's Operation: Mindcrime and trying to figure out what the whole album is about. You ain't gonna get nothing out of that one.

I whole hardheartedly recommend you give Martyrialized a look. As you've probably already surmised, it makes for a considerably interesting listen, and while interpretation may vary, it's unique enough to merit repeated attention in order to dissect its inner contents. I know for a fact that these Portuguese metallers would appreciate you giving their music a try. You've got nothing to lose anyway. Go for it.

-TMA

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