You ever get that feeling that music takes you to a dark place? Of course you do, you’re metal fans. Some darkness comes from the blackest of metals, leaving you cold and alone (Katharsis, Ayat); some leaves you pondering the duality of good and evil and the philosophy of being (Deatspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord); some is dark, but fills you with a sense of satisfaction after you listen to it, mostly because of its majestic passages into realms of imagination (Mgla, Wolves in the Throne Room, Panopticon). But then you have music that wants to turn you into a bloody pulp while you’re running for your life (Morbid Angel anyone?). These all have a place in our sado-masochistic hearts, and we return to it, wanting the cuts to run deeper.
Most styles have been done to death, with hordes of new bands imitating everything that is new and exciting, leaving us to sift through the trash. The post-modern era did not leave heavy metal out of its ludicrous grasp, but resistance is never futile, and often, new generations of musicians just want to say fuck off to everything pretty (very, very relatively pretty) and return to primordial form. Enter bands like Portal and Impetuous Ritual – to some, barely listenable forms of expression, to others a long-awaited escape from the tried and boring, opening up unknown and hardly-believable places of exploration
Come Malthusian. Dark as you can bloody well imagine, pushing you into escape posture, and in prime shape to show the finger to what little conventions metal has known.
If you want to familiarize yourself with the (extremely interesting) origins of their name, head on over to this section of LR and take a peek.
After their initial demo and signing with Invictus Productions, they released their second effort in the form of an EP: Below the Hengiform. Now, I had no idea what the fuck hengiform is, so I researched a bit and it turns out it’s an archeological thing, a monument of sorts, and “…inside hengi-form monuments the most common features are pits, burial pits, graves, and stoneholes.” And then I understood the potential source of inspiration for the name of this band’s first official EP.
The EP consists of three songs and it clocks in at exactly 25 minutes. Too. Fucking. Short.
The first song (which takes up almost half the EP) opens slowly, but before you know it, it starts pounding on you, leading you into their version of death/black and showing you they mean business. The thing you also learn from the first song is that the band relies heavily on balls-grabbing riffs, while the vocals are dragging themselves, climbing from the muddy hengiform, looking to frighten villagers. The hook is set. You want more.
Enter “Forms Become Vapor,” going for your throat, exchanging god-fearing hooks with slow passages of viscid despair.
Hengiforms hanging with bloated carcasses
Bloodless fauna on the clay
Banks of votive meat
A bleary gateway
Dry crackle of fire
A guttering flame
We trample the routes
Grit between the teeth
Forest ablaze, endless days chased away.
As the despair and shrieks fade in the second song, the final composition is the culmination of both the screams reminiscent of the black metal of old, and the finest, most urgent and malevolent death metal one can hear in Ulcerate and Immolation. The two aspects intertwine, twirl, eating each other whole, uncompromisingly. It’s the sort of experience that, even in its short 25 minutes, manages to suck the air out of the room and the silence that follows is weird and unwelcome, and the only thing you can do, is press play again.
So, to say it as shortly as possible: Malthusian is a welcome addition in the metal scene. With their demo and this EP, they’ve grabbed the listener and shown real promise in delivering a full-length that will, if they continue in this direction, be a most-talked about event.
I’ve had the privilege of listening to them play live recently (where they also delivered in a big way), so we here at Last Rites decided this young band deserves not only a review, but an interview also.
We hope you will read what they have to say, and then mosey on over to their bandcamp page to show them your love.
LR: To start traditionally, can you tell us a bit about how you guys came together and started playing?
M: MB and JK started jamming together sporadically in around 2011 and soon realized that what they were coming up with was worth exploring further. They drafted in myself, AC, and PG as they thought we might be on the same wavelength as them as we share similar interests in death, black and doom metal. After a jam or two it was clear that what we were coming up with together was exciting and was worth pushing forward and here we are three years and two releases later.
LR: So far, you have released a demo and an EP. Do you feel that shorter forms are more suited to your expression or can we expect a full-length at some point?
M: We decided straight away that the first step for the band in terms of recording was going to be a demo. We knew that it would make sense to focus on making three songs as strong as we could so that our introduction would have the right impact. Although we set out to do a demo first, we had it in mind that we wanted to be operating at an international level rather than just playing to local crowds, week in, week out. With Invictus Productions keen to release the demo we knew that that was probably likely to happen, if people actually liked our songs. It made sense to release a demo first, to have a really strong half hour or so of music rather than rushing straight into a full length that might not have had the same impact over its duration. Plus we were a new band and we were still finding our feet. The new EP has been put together using the same modus operandi, it just feels like every aspect has been brought into sharper focus by spending more time honing a smaller amount of music, giving each song depth, movement and intensity. We will most likely work on a full length next but as we are quite exacting with what we want from our music, the chances are it will take us a couple of years to write.
LR: Listening to your music, and reading the lyrics to your songs, I would say your inspiration comes from a dark place, be it the human psyche or the physical experience. Where do draw your inspiration from and do you have a lyricist “in charge” who writes your texts?
M: I take responsibility [Andy Cunningham aka AC] for most of the lyrics, specifically on Below the Hengiform. That is not to say that the others can’t or won’t contribute ideas in future. I tend to read quite a lot, mostly fiction (not horror as is probably more typical with DM bands), but I also dip into poetry which influences me to approach lyrics in a slightly different way, I think. I like to use unusual combinations of words and find inspiration in lots of different places. Working in archaeology has helped to really feed my imagination as some of the excavations I have worked on have been quite inspirational in their own ways. It is about stepping outside of the typical DM tropes and trying to find themes that are a bit unusual. There is a lot of weirdness and darkness to explore outside of Lovecraft or whatever. We are all going to die at some point, and what then? There is more fucking horror in that question than there is in an army of Cthulus!
LR: What I’m really curious about is, being embedded in a local scene myself, what is the “scene” in Ireland like? I’m not talking about just the metal scene, but the scene of independent culture that is most commonly associated with the metal music. Do you have supporters in your local community or are heavy metal and the form of expression you chose still a bastard child in need of basement shelters and back alley clubs?
M: It’s weird, I mean we are all so entrenched in this whole lifestyle and its scenes that sometimes it is hard to say if it is big or small. It feels more international these days than local, with the internet and forums etc., but there are plenty of great bands operating in Ireland at the moment, too. Gigs are small, usually between one and two hundred people in attendance in Dublin, but I think that the creative side of things is pretty exciting at the minute. Metal has not been cool or accepted in mainstream culture here since the early nineties so in terms of support from outside of the actual scene, there is fucking zero. That makes it all the more special, in a way. It makes it ours- and I mean that on an international level, too. There is so much great interaction between all of the various scenes around the world through the dreaded Facebook, and that is why I mentioned earlier that it feels more like a collective international scene than a number of small homogenized ones sometimes.
LR: Outside of Altar of Plagues as a band you’re closely associated with, do you have some other bands hailing from Ireland that you would say influenced you in any way?
M: Despite the obvious ties with AOP, nobody in the band would consider that project to be an influence on what we are doing in Malthusian. We see it as something quite different. There are no other bands in Ireland that we would consider to be a direct musical influence on us either, and that is not meant as a slight against other bands here. In fact, when the band was starting the idea was to work on creating a style that has not really been explored by other bands here. There are a few bands that we feel particular affinity with, however, namely Zom, Vircolac, Slidhr, Rebirth of Nefast and Fuil na Seanchoille. Those bands are all doing something that has some kind of parallel with what we are doing but what makes it really exciting is that none of the bands have the same approach or sound. I think there is possibly a connection in general outlook than anything else. There are also some really cool bands who maybe don’t share the same vibe as us but are really worth investigating, such as Putrefaction, Rat’s Blood, Wild Rocket, Wizards of Firetop Mountain, Terminus, Corr Mhona and Rabid Bitch of the North, to name a few.
LR: You were recently on a European tour with Altar of Plagues. Can you tell us a bit about the touring experience? The good, the bad, the ugly?
M: It was a fantastic experience, it really couldn’t have gone better in terms of the shows and the vibe among everyone involved. Some gigs were better than others but we feel we gave a good representation of ourselves for the most part. We sold all of our merch so we must have been doing something right! We all had our own favourite gigs of the tour but my personal favourite was the Berlin show. It was in Tommy House, a squat that was rammed to the rafters with a couple of hundred punks, metalheads and crusties who were full of energy from start to finish that it was impossible not to get swept up in that energy. It was a complete buzz. Other than that, we had fun watching Metallica DVDs and listening to a lot of Metallica tunes as we travelled, hehe.
LR: Talking to some of my colleagues about interviewing you, some of them were curious about your hooks, i.e. they freaking love your hooks and your “catchy” parts. How do you work on them, do you test the material on people from outside the band and how do you know a hook is a good hook?
M: No way, we never ask for anyone else’s opinion when writing songs. We don’t let anyone into our rehearsals in general so the first time the “public” hear a new song is either if we play it live or once it is released. It would feel really weak to have to ask for outside opinion while we are writing. We all set high standards for ourselves and we all know if something sounds good or not. If other people like what we are doing, then that’s great, but we please ourselves first and foremost and so far that has proven to be a trust-worthy gauge of a riff’s effectiveness.
LR: How are you satisfied with the support from your label thus far, and do you think being signed to a label is an important part of getting your music across these days?
M: Working with Invictus has been great as the label has a strong reputation, a tonne of great releases to its name and works hard to push our name and get us on gigs. We all know Darragh [O’Laoghaire, founder of Invictus] on a personal level as well, so we can get things sorted out really quickly and easily when we need to. It’s great to have the weight of that label’s reputation behind us.
LR: Finally, as a band that now has some experience under its belt, would you do anything differently in your musical journey, given the chance?
M: No, not at all. We knew how we wanted to approach the band, how we wanted to present it and where we wanted to go with it. So far we have achieved all of that and more so we are incredibly happy with how it is going. We feel our songs continue to get better, more fucked up and twisted while still remaining memorable. Hopefully we are developing a recognizable sound, too, which is something we think is imperative. We will keep going as we have been going so far.
LR: Thanks a lot guys. Best of luck with your art!
M: Thanks a lot for the support.