Malevolence - 'Self Supremacy'
British heavy music finds itself in rude health in 2017. Architects, Black Peaks, Heck, Broken Teeth, Venom Prison, While She Sleeps and Martyr Defiled have all released very different belters since the beginning of last year, and, whilst this country continues to pull itself apart, brilliant British bands are doing their damnedest to give us something to celebrate. And so, like a more tattooed and slightly less hairy Bill Bryson, our metal journey around the UK in 2017 takes us back, once more, to the city of Sheffield for another outstanding and unique heavy record, this time from Malevolence.
Let's immediately say what needs to be said here: Malevolence are disgracefully underrated. Their debut, Reign Of Suffering, was simply fantastic and came at a time when British metal was in something of a less rosy place. Gigantic riffs, groove, sludge and beatdowns were all ubiquitous on their first album, and were carried off alongside the demeanour of 5 blokes who were safe in the knowledge that they had a van full of mates waiting outside the venue in case you felt like starting something. And so here we are again, four years down the line (an extremely long time indeed in today's fickle music industry it has to be said), and if Malevolence don't catapult to something bigger off the back of Self Supremacy, then there truly is absolutely zero justice in this world.
Just in case that sounds as though Malevolence have traded in portions of their searing menace for something lighter, let's put a pin in that right now. Self Supremacy is virtually 50 minutes of pure bludgeon, but with a streak of technicality and nuance that marks them out as something really special. Sounding like Crowbar meets Pantera meets Hatebreed, Malevolence tear through this record with grin-inducing riffing, on pin-head tempo changes, beatdowns that (if you are so inclined) will make you want to crowdkill a close relative and bellow-along lyrics that shift from the Jamey Jasta-style PMA ("self supremacy, in myself I must believe") to social commentaries on the dangers of substance abuse ("still searching for my soul, no one to blame but my self control"). Indeed, the homage to Hatebreed is writ large across this record - the Connecticut hardcore legends themselves having a track entitled Supremacy of Self on the 2006 banger Supremacy. Anyway, back to Malevolence, and thankfully Self Supremacy sees guitarist Konan also stretching his outstanding vocal talents once again, with those sludge-infused vocals that got such a good outing on Turn To Stone last time out, providing a repeatedly interesting antithesis to Alex's excellent full-throttle bulldozer lead attack here.
The musicianship on Self Supremacy is really second to none and, in conjunction with the songwriting, demonstrates genuine, and extensive, progression from Reign Of Suffering. When in full flow, the riffing as a whole is inventive and dynamic, occasionally also sounding like Lamb of God at their finest when the band lock into that groove metal swagger, as evidenced at the beginning of Spineless for example. As for guitar hero moments though, Low Life has a genuine claim to possess one of the hooks of the year so far, up there with the title track from Code Orange's stellar record from January, and one that will have you screwing your nose up as though you've just inhaled a particularly potent Vindaloo guff. Charlie Thorpe's work behind the drum kit is spell-binding; at one point on Body Count sounding as though he has triple the number of limbs of an ordinary human being, and detonating those blistering double kicks to devastating effect on a number of occasions throughout the record. Of course, on top of all of this, the requisite beatdowns on Self Supremacy hit harder than an Anthony Joshua uppercut and will have you wondering how any venue will possibly be able to contain this band when they head out on tour soon.
The injustice when it comes to Malevolence is that, due to their penchant for a beatdown or two, they appear to get lumped in with a bunch of bands to whom they are in simply a different league. Whilst their modern hardcore ethos is doubtless laid bare for all to witness, Malevolence bring a level of technicality, delivery and attitude that is simply unparalleled amongst their so-called peers, and Self Supremacy has just put another country mile between them. Fucking outrageous.