Maul – Seraphic Punishment Review

[Cover Art by Jason Barnett]

Our dear writing friend Captain recently extolled the value and joy that comes from a successful blind buy based on cover art in his recent Diamonds & Rust article on Beneath The Remains. While blind buys have certainly become less common in the age of the internet, there is still one type of surprise buy that will never leave – the live show purchase. Live shows offer a great way to be introduced to a band but there’s no telling how that stage show will translate to recorded material when you purchase it after the set, of course spending time at the merch table punishing them with your compliments, fist bumps and inane questions. The level of potential surprise elevates exponentially if you happened to be, oh I don’t know, shithammered during that same set. In that situation, you’re stuck waking up the next morning asking yourself “was that band actually good, or was I just a happy little drunk goblin who would’ve enjoyed almost anything with a riff?”

Release date: July 15, 2022. Label: Redefining Darkness Records.
My introduction to North Dakota’s Maul was precisely the above situation this past February when they came through Indy and played the best local spot, Black Circle. It was a Saturday, so obnoxiously drunk I was. Maul was crushing from the stage with their simple riffs, steady beatings and the obscenely deep and powerful roar of Garrett Alvarado. While my thoroughly intoxicated fiancée handled punishing them with questions, I purchased Maul’s Gallery of Torment compilation. Did I have a hangover the next day? Was the show worth the money and pain? Was Maul’s recorded output just as killer as their stage show? The answer to all three of those questions is a resounding yes!

After four years as a band with a slew of demos, EPs, splits, singles and even a live album, Maul is clubbing us all over the head with their debut album Seraphic Punishment. Despite the spectacular and complex art that adorns its cover, this album is all about simplicity. There’s more of a mid-pace crush-your-enemies type of Bolt Thrower mentality here without actually being a Bolt Thrower clone (thankfully).

At their simplest and most straightforward, you get a track like “Oracular Burial Grounds” that starts with a hideous guitar tone, quickly jumps into a steady troll stomp of a riff and spices things up occasionally with a little tank tread guitar magic. Oh, there’s a nice little divebomb in there too. The main riff in “Infatuation” comes right out of the Obituary cookbook ready to chop you in half. The title track offers the best riff on the album along with some rumbling speed and a moment you won’t be able to avoid screaming along to when Alvarado is belting out the name.

While the name of the game is simplicity, Maul doesn’t dip all the way down to dragging knuckles on the ground to make caveman death metal. No, they make sure to throw in subtle well-timed tempo shifts and added elements throughout the album to keep it engaging and rowdy. There are occasional slam riffs (“Monarchy of Mold”), shades of synths to justify that pink and purple cover (“Seraphic Punishment”), and the ability to slow things down into an ominous dark beast (“Carrion Totem”). Drummer Robby Anderson keeps pace with the tunes offering steady and varied beats, only treading into blast territory when songs really take off making it all the more impactful when they do appear.

The type of death metal Maul plays is unlikely to surprise you in any real fashion. That being said, you may be surprised by how much you enjoy Seraphic Punishment – and how often you end up spinning it – should you happen to pop over to Bandcamp and give it a blind buy right now.

Posted by Spencer Hotz

Admirer of the weird, the bizarre and the heavy, but so are you. Why else would you be here?

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