Review Summary: The 13th Beast does very little to distinguish itself from the first.
It would be easy to pass off the latest Malevolent Creation release as a cheeky nod back to the band's brief albeit notable emergence in the underground death metal scene back in the early 90s, but that would mean forgetting the band never really went away. Sure, looking at each gap between their last few albums will only ever cast an impression of a band taking their time, but Malevolent Creation are in no rush to release new material these days. Rather, they're seemingly content to flesh out ideas, take their time and have as much fun as their younger selves did back in 1991.
Unfortunately, as solid as latest effort The 13th Beast
is, it's little more than what would satisfy those who have been waiting for this new release for a while. It's very hard-hitting, indeed, but it's also easy to annoy because of the sheer boredom some songs allow. Add to this the fact that the album borders on 50 minutes in total length (I.e. too long for a death metal release of this calibre), and you're left with a flash in the pan. Opener "End the Torture" introduces the album fittingly enough with some frankly menacing grooves and on-point rhythms, even elaborately battening down the proverbial hatches with those razor sharp solos, but to hear so much repetition in virtually every other song is a bit, well, lazy
. It's not so bad if you've been following Malevolent Creation since day one, but to newcomers hearing the likes of "Canvas of Flesh" even once becomes tiresome.
As a flipside, at least the obviously stronger moments in The 13th Beast
go some way to derailing your thoughts of boredom. "Mandatory Butchery" is a more frenzied animal and doesn't settle down into the same groove-flecked main riff for longer than half a minute, whilst "The Beast Awakened" revels in youthful exuberance thanks to its punkish energy and generally more grinding performance. That said, the production doesn't quite match the musicianship. Imagine you're listening to The Ten Commandments
and then hearing the otherwise raw riff work as it gets twisted and cleaned up, sounding synthetic as the end result. You can hear how compressed the album sounds and it offers no feeling of immense power or maniacal deliverance, something which engaged Malevolent Creation's earliest works from the get-go. Here, the result feels too clean, and hearing too much of it on the near 7-minute long "Born of Pain" simply gets frustrating too soon.
The 13th Beast
isn't exactly the best death metal album to kickstart the year with. For comfort listening it's decent enough, but decent in this day and age won't quite give anyone further reason to lend repeated listens, especially for those who know they can get better quality versions elsewhere. Nobody's knocking Malevolent Creation for wanting to stay true to what has worked for them for almost three decades, but with average, tiresome full-lengths such as this perhaps four year gaps between releases can be seen as a good thing.