Review Summary: RICHMOND TRIPLE FEATURE: 1
Richmond, Virginia and its surrounding areas have over the past twenty years been a great source of aggressive mostly hardcore based music. Groups like Gwar, Municipal Waste, and Undertow have all left their own mark on the scene. Perhaps the most universally acclaimed group from the area though is emo based pg.99 who personified an extremely aggressive and chaotic sound of hardcore that can even now be seldom mimicked. pg.99 and their sister project City of Caterpillar are two of the most important late '90s hardcore groups in terms of influence so of course when their specific members are release something new it causes some form of anticipation. Pygmy Lush's 'Mount Hope' and Verse En Coma's 'Rialto' are both records that encapsulate what their former bands were about in ideals, but in terms of sound these two records are far removed from their humble beginnings. Pygmy Lush has removed the heavier side of their sound and created a completely acoustic record. Verse En Coma on the other hand has crafted a record that seems like a lighter Malady.
On the topic of Malady one must realize that the group was essentially the successors to City of Caterpillar. When Malady’s self titled came out there were definitely a lot of people disappointed with CoC’s sound not being kept in full. While Malady's self titled debut release does embrace the dynamics that were present in City of Caterpillar there is also a pronounced rock influence on the record. 'Yeah' the second track on the record starts off with an introductory guitar part that would not seem out of place on a Third Eye Blind album. If you're looking for sonic comparisons Malady is a tamer more controlled Gospel. If Gospel was Yes than Malady would be Zeppelin. The group can play their instruments, but they certainly aren't doing anything remarkable on the record in technical terms. That isn't the point with Malady though as the band has harnessed their influences of post rock and shoegaze using subtle tricks like layering their vocals to give stronger accents to the shifting nature of their songs. Where City of Caterpillar would extend a song for four extra moments to build to that final crescendo Malady inserts a repeating riff or a double vocal attack that quietly and more abruptly ends the developing guitars. Malady's attitude and song construction seems based in mid '90s hardcore, but their actual sound only flirts with the post-hardcore of Unwound and Fugazi instead the band is more set sounding like a really lo-fi Hot Snakes. The guitarists are playing as two separate people, but come together as one with their layered melodies. Drummer Johnny Ward does not play busy instead allowing the album to groove with the help of exceptional bassist Kevin Longendyke and finally there is vocalist Chris Taylor.
Chris Taylor has an extensive resume. pg.99, Pygmy Lush, Mannequin all feature his vocal meeting point between extremely aggressive screams and rather gruff singing. In Malady his vocal performance is crucial to the band's success. His vocals not representing the visceral nature of pg.99 here instead coming off much like Adam Drooling of Gospel in their background nature. Taylor is low in the mix, but his voice suits it. His spoken word build up in 'The World is a Tomb' helps the song reach new levels when the beat finally breaks. His repetition of the numbers '56, 17, 27, and 12' makes 'Bad Life' a strong contender for the best track on the record and this is all without mentioning the vivid detail of the lyrics he is actually yelling. Taylor clearly has a way of coming off like Tom Waits and in his lyrics you can see the imagery of Waits seen through the lens of Richmond and surrounding Virginia. Malady's self titled is a record with stories that echo drop outs, burn outs, and those left behind. Taylor's bridge in 'Bad Life' clearly representing the purpose behind his words,
'but from womb to grave
and everything in between
it gets real ***ing mean,
and you wonder why i drink?
i wonder why we're not all drunks
sunk in our dumps where nothing changes.'
malady – ‘bad life’
Malady's debut record is a sharp commentary on the nature of towns like Richmond. The type of record that leaves the listener only hoping that the emotion the band is pouring into playing is what helps them deal with the issues on the record. In a long line of extremely fragmented views of today through the guise of post-hardcore Malady stands. Echoing the sentiments of 'The Underdark' and 'The Moon is a Dead World' Malady reflects the cold reality of our pain and desolation, but in doing that helps us examine ourselves. Certainly a record worthy of being the successor of City of Caterpillar and more importantly establishing the members of Malady as people to watch not only because of their past, but because of what their future might entail.