Review Summary: Although even further removed from their death/thrash beginnings, Malefice proves they're all the better for it.
With humble beginnings in Reading, England, a demo ("Relentless"), and an Anticulture Records release entitled "Entities" in 2007, Malefice began its career as a death metal/thrash metal crossover. Dishing an accessible amount of metalcore into their debut under Metal Blade in 2009, "Dawn Of Reprisal", the group was praised for their mixing pot of influence, nostalgic to the old thrash sound but modern in execution, yet deliciously progressive. This album is easily one of my favorites, so naturally I was stoked to find "Awaken The Tides" in 2011. Except it wasn't very good. Although packed with the same style of instrumentalism, the chemistry was flawed, mostly due to vocalist Dale Butler's new hardcore shout, as opposed to his gruff and raspy screeches and growls. "Five" is their follow-up to "Awaken The Tides", and shows an almost completely new approach for the five-piece, but it proves that Malefice is still worth a listen.
Right off the back, we're introduced to Butler's hardcore yells, which is retained from their previous release, so I was skeptical at first. He utilizes mostly a mid-range hardcore yell, but occasionally lets out a roar or shriek, which are even more powerful due to the contrast. Although his position in the band has not really changed, the other musicians, guitarists Ben Symons and Andrew Wilson, bassist Tom Hynes, and drummer Chris Allan-Whyte effectively tweak the musical mix so to be in conjunction in tone and fury on all fronts. The main difference between "Awaken the Tides" and "Five" can be boiled down to a difference in chemistry. Whereas the former showed a heavier musical (almost deathcore) sound clashing with a hardcore vocalist, here the guitars are crisp and fast, enhancing the sound as well as improving dynamics.
The wave-like structure of opener "V" shows Butler letting out a deep growl as the guitars proceed with a climactic breakdown or chaotic riff. With these dynamics come a newfound sense of melody, allowing the instrumentals to dabble in melodic hardcore. Tracks such as "The Great Deceiver", interlude "Time", or "Blueprints" bring to mind the reflective plucking of fellow countrymen While She Sleeps or Heart In Hand, to the emphasis on melody and lighter tone, as well as effective clean singing. There are hints to the old Malefice in the execution of riffs, such as the closing breakdown of "Never Say Die" or the opening crunch to "Wasted", but overall these guys take a new approach.
This is all not without its flaws, however. The downside to this one is that it is a metalcore album, and although more melodic and subtle than the brodowns of other notorious acts, these guys still use breakdowns. These can be powerful when used correctly, such as in "The Great Deceiver" or "Time", but tend to wear thin in other tracks such as "Never Say Die" or "Reach Up". Also, this is technically an EP, but it's a little too long for an EP, but too short for a full-length, at 7 tracks and 30 minutes long. So if you're expecting a short listen, it'll be longer than expected. Also, although a minor issue, the vocals can wear on one's eardrums after a while, since Butler's yells sound fairly monotone. Thankfully, he does mix it up, as aforementioned, but it can still be an issue for the impatient listener.
Although not perfect, "Five" shows this band building themselves back up from a fairly embarrassing release in "Awaken the Tides", and may prove to whet appetites for what they may release next. These guys may not reinvent the wheel, but this EP serves as a nice transition into what the new future may hold for this British group.