Review Summary: To commence, a mission statement. I'm not here to please. But you might just be pleased by 'Retribution'.
To commence, a mission statement. I am not here to review everyone's favourite bands. I am not here to pander to the needs of a mainstream society. I am not here to stand in line with convention. In short, what I want to do couldn't be much further out of the comfort box. My goal with these reviews is to bring to the fore bands no-one has ever heard of, bands that deserve recognition but have been firmly punted out of the spotlight. I want to expose the unsung heroes of music, those that strive for acceptance but only get rejection. And so that is why I shall be discussing the virtues of a new underground band each week, showing you why, although they have been ignored before, why you cannot enjoy these unsung treasures of our rich musical tapestry.
And so that brings me nicely to the subject of this review: Malevolent Creation's 1992 second album, the much under-appreciated 'Retribution'. Overshadowed by such nigh-on classic death metallers of the time such as Morbid Angel and Suffocation, it is easy to see why this band have been largely, so to speak, swept under the carpet. Which is rather a shame, considering the quality of their music. Initially, listening to the album with ears well-used to '90s death metal template sounds, I admit I wasn't surprised with what was delivered. Nicely gothic lyricism, layered over a fast, arpeggiated riff with an accompaniment of blastbeats and crash cymbals, with the occasional shift in pace to add some dimension- downbeat and downtuned it firmly was. However, on my second approach, I noticed that, actually, there was a lot of similarity with the records we now behold as classics. The resemblance of the afore-mentioned 'big bands' was uncanny. Indeed, I began to notice that the guitar attack and structures were just as precise and brutal as anything Trey Azagthoth and co. have produced, that the vocals were in a similar vein of guttural snarls and that the song topics, although rooted in lurid mysticism, were just as appropriate to the genre. I found myself unable to draw overt distinction in terms of quality between the two artists after three or so songs of engagement with the album.
In terms of the songs themselves, there is a lot of death metal par excellence in attendance here. I found that opening track 'Eve of the Apocalypse' was a very solid opener, with its intensly technical underlying riff coupled with excellently delivered blastbeats during the bridge betwixt first and second verses. In addition, 'Mindlock' is well worth a look too for similar reasons- the technical proficiency of the band cannot be denied, as evident here on the ferocious guitar work as the song commences. Actually, I would say that one of the sticking points of the album was the fact it possessed such a degree of visceral coherency. The songs differed subtly rather than launching between styles and genres, and offered interesting yet wholesomely aggressive takes on a genre that was then still nascent and ready for experimentation with. It is pleasing to see a band who can maintain strength and drive throughout an album such as that which is present on 'Retribution'- Malevolent Creation have succeeded in avoiding one of modern heavy metal's deepest pitfalls in the execution of this. They have avoided becoming boring.
In terms of whether 'Retribution' should be considered a classic, a la 'Altars of Madness', I would personally veer away from such status and merely brand it an excellent piece of early death metal expression. Should one listen to this album then subsequently partake in a little of Malevolent Creation's more well-known peers, the differences are few and far between. Wait, you cry, does this mean they are just clones of the greats rather than artists in their own right" No, I prefer to think of it as meaning they are just as good as the artists to which I draw comparison. And once you deign to give the album a spin, you may just find yourself agreeing with me. One cannot deny both the band's technical ability nor their ability to write consistent and powerful death metal. In fact, if Malevolent Creation had come to fruition just a few years earlier with this album, it may be them we worship today as the forebears of the genre. It is a shame they aren't as well-respected as they rightfully deserve.
So there you go. The first exploration of a lesser-known bands I wish to offer you. Of course, my opinion is my opinion and thus not the world of gospel- I've got no issues with your differences with what I claim. But, if you too enthuse about '90s death metal and how it defined the genre's future and development, I would urge you to give Malevolent Creation a try. They shaped the music too, perhaps not as much as others, but with this album they succeeded in giving us an opus of the style that warrants appreciation of some degree. So, if you agree with me and you want the hidden gems to rise to the fore, move away from Morbid Angel and their pathetic 'Illud Divinum Insanus' and listen to something a little more... Underground. I'm not here to please. But you might just be pleased by 'Retribution'.