I sometimes feel a twinge of sorrow for a record released in December. By that point, all the year-end lists are set and settled, with precious coverage space at blogs and zines dedicated to albums that came out six months ago. Writer and reader alike have shifted focus to festivities, holidays, wrap-ups, and all the other swirling responsibilities of winding down a year. As an example, I offer up the obvious: This record is over a month old, and we’re just now getting around to it.
I especially feel a twinge of sorrow when the record in question is a very good one, like, for example, Grand Malevolence, the second album from Aussie death metallers Depravity.
Each of Grand Malevolence’s eleven tracks sports world-crushing hooks, be they in the form of the nearly endless series of ripping riffs from guitarists Lynton Cessford and Jarrod Curley, or in some grunted or shrieked turn of phrase from the furnace-bellow pipes of Jamie Kay, or the machine-precise rhythm section of Louis Rando and Ainsley Watkins. Those rhythms and riffs shift and twist in perfect lock-step; Depravity is nothing if not tight as drum, pulled taut as a whip. After three tracks of a nearly flawless ferocity, Grand Malevolence hits an even stronger stride with the epic turns in the wonderfully titled “Cantankerous Butcher,” adding in some of the album’s brief flirtations with atmospherics as balance against riffs that alternate between blunt instrument bashing and the scalpel-sharp surgical. A further exploration of that balance occurs with the squalling dissonant breaks of follow-up “Trophies Of Inhumanity” and elsewhere, and as great as all of Depravity’s Cannibal Corpse-indebted death is, it’s those sections that stand out simply because they break from the norm. Add those tracks to “Castrate The Perpetrators,” and Grand Malevolence’s middle section proves to be its strongest.
Sonically, Grand Malevolence’s knife-edge aggression is bolstered by a sparkling and stout production that manages not to wipe everything down too cleanly. Each instrument is clear and crisp; Kay’s vocals are deep and yet distinct; Rando’s drums are the perfect balance of clicking clarity and crushing thunder; Watkins’ bass does tend to be tucked tightly beneath the guitars, but he’s given a few Alex Webster-esque moments to step out, and he takes advantage of them. Most importantly, the production serves the songs, letting the arrangements sparkle and shine as they drive rusty meathooks into your skull.
So yes, I’m a month late in reporting on this record, but better late than never, right? 2020 is thankfully behind us all, but don’t let this last-minute bruiser slip by unheard. It’s a grand malevolence indeed.