Review Summary: In the face of death i've grown colder
Originally sharing stages with the likes of In Arms and (the sadly defunct) Never Cry Wolf, Malevolence have all of a sudden catapulted into massive popularity. How did this happen? Before this album was released, resulting in a Download slot and album sales not only in the UK but across the world, I saw vocalist Alex Taylor share the stage with fellow Sheffield hardcore band Rough Justice (whom they share members with) at Sheffield Corporation, to a maximum of 30 people. And barely a year before that, my friend was part of barely 50 people watching the band. Now they play to hundreds of people, and it's all down to Reign Of Suffering.
Releasing the album's first single, Condemned To Misery, in 2012 was a smart move as it built up hype for the record with it's mystical Nile-esque intro, before slipping into Lamb Of God worship via feral roars, monstrous grooves and killer solos. A sleek production job made everything sound as appropriately epic for a band built off elongated intros and twisting, serpentine riffs. Second single Serpent's Chokehold shot the hype upwards as backing vocalist Konan (yes, really) flexed his Crowbar-ish clean vocals to play off against Taylor's demonic screams and guttural growls.
The band's breakdown-laden music is surprisingly complex. In The Face Of Death packs more ferocity into 4 minutes than most albums do into their entirety, with layered vocals sounding war cries across the musical battlefield and the drumming remaining brutal and tribal through the whole song. Wraith begins in similar fashion as the double bass is slammed harder than humanly possible to accompany to lead into the re-recording of one of the band's most recognisable (and fan-favourite) songs. The southern guitar styles that slow the songs down from their fits of rage are oft accompanied by yet more of those Pantera-esque vocal performances, indicating that the band wear their influences on their sleeves, yet never slipping into parody.
But the album's biggest surprise is Turn To Stone. A slow, doom-influenced track, it plods rather than rushes and therefore suits those brilliant cleans better than any other here. Of course the track eventually dips into thick sludginess to allow for Taylor's fury, but most of the time it's a slow, weed-smoke-fuelled anthem that truly respects the greats of crushing heaviness that Malevolence draw such inspiration from. Although it becomes very samey as the album reaches it's middle section, the record has enough variety due to tracks like this to keep even the most skeptical listeners moderately interested. It's not the most original thing to come out of the UK's heavy scene, but it's incredibly good fun and a reminder of times where metal was simpler and groove dominated.