Review Summary: British metallers Malefice show continued quality but not quite excellency.
Formed in Reading, Malefice are a five-piece band that plays a mixture of thrash, metalcore and death metal and gained popularity after supporting such acts as DevilDriver and God Forbid, also receiving praise for their first two albums: Entities
(2007) and Dawn of Reprisal
(2009) which were praised as strong mixes of a more nostalgic sound mixed with much more modern feeling elements. These are very tight affairs that display an impressive level of certainty and skill for a band that had only formed in 2003. Awaken The Tides
was the eagerly awaited follow up, and the album that was hopefully going to push their popularity another step further, and while they may not have achieved that aim, what they did do was put out another strong contribution to British metal, even if they have not quite managed to release the classic that they were pointing towards with earlier releases.
The albums starts well enough with the title track beginning with vague noises before a sterling lead line and impressive drum fills. What comes after this however is slightly more unexpected as only thirty seconds in a full-on blast beat pummels you down, deathcore not being something that the band has previously tried their hand at. I never particularly saw that particular genre as being what Malefice should aim for musically and thus it is a welcome relief when you get the chorus which for me is a highlight of the album with a rousing shout of 'we can't carry on/we waited so long'. Vocally Dale Butler is a mixed bag. Although I mentioned musical links to deathcore earlier that is not giving Dale nearly enough credit as his style of singing has an emphasis on shouting that is more reminiscent of hardcore and which lends a commendable amount of personality to the songs, tracks like Awaken The Tides and Dead In The Water benefit from Dale, but on the breakdown to Delirium his vocals don't quite hold the crunch that they need too to feel satisfying, and on The Day The Sky Fell over clean guitar they really don't gel at all.
In fact the entire song, The Day The Sky Fell doesn't really gel. What has to be one of the best executed build-ups I have heard in a long time, with sirens ringing out, synths capably building atmosphere and those marching snare drum rolls that never fail to excite me the promise of a good pay-off seems undeniable but all you get is three discordant chords and then what sounds like a very angry man shouting over his mates soft guitar musings. Its rubbish, essentially, and although the song does bring in a climatic chorus later on by then its too little too late and Malefice have squandered what is a truly excellent crescendo on an almost incredible anti-climax. Ben Simmons and Andrew Wilson, the guitarists of the band largely have quite a good time on this record, with a good balance between showing off their accelerated arpeggios runs and sweeping on songs such as Baying For Blood and Blessed/Cursed, and slower solos when the time is appropriate as is the case with a abruptly sparse but gratifying solo on Minutes. Minutes features more synth work, mainly in the form of orchestral sound, violins playing huge melodies over parts of the song. There are actually a fair amount of synths used on the album overall but they are skilfully handled feel like a good contribution to the album.
The synth work is most noticeable on the final track of the album which begins as most of the other songs on the album do with a groove metal guitar lick, before about two and a half minutes into the song it suddenly becomes a much more oppressive atmospheric affair with low notes ringing out over less distinguishable singing. It has a sound that is reminiscent of a another new British band, The Defiled, and while The Defiled themselves have handled this sort of sound better its a pretty good effort by Malefice and I found it to be a pretty interesting diversion from the rest of the album. This section soon fades out however and is replaced by weird reversed noises and odd sounds which soon become dominated by acoustic guitar and Dale Butler employing his clean singing voice. This is a lot better than I thought it was going to be as Dale actually has a pretty strong singing voice, and although this strange diversion did feel a bit more like a distraction than the kind of musical journey that the band probably were looking for, it is admirable that they decided to do something like this and overall I am pleased that they did.
Chris Allan-Whyte's drumming is strong throughout as he really does step up on certain songs and some of his fills are nothing to be sneered at. As harsh it sounds I just don't remember any bass parts from the songs at all, I'm sure Tom Hynes is a good bassist but the songs just never provided a good spotlight for his playing, the production on the album is good and does a very good job mixing some of the heavier sections on the album with those previously mentioned string parts while I was not fully convinced by The Haunting it is definitely not the fault of the production as it mixed very well.
Overall I had quite a lot of fun with this record as most of these songs show strong song writing from the band and while I don't think this quite justifies them to step up into the league of other really really great British bands as its not without some problems, although there were many great riffs it is not without its more forgettable ones, and I don't think Dales voice is always perfectly synchronized with the rest of bands sound I do really appreciate the experimentation that can be found on parts of the album. If you have not checked out any of this bands catalogue out yet and don't mind the odd breakdown then give this or Dawn Of Reprisal
a listen and enjoy.