I got a quick one for you tonight. What started as a surprisingly enjoyable find in the depths of the modern death metal underground has slowly grown and grown on me, drawing me back in over and over again. Malignant Altar and their second demo were included in my Listening Log #1 (which stupidly covered 7 months worth of music) and rightfully deserve a ranking of The Sickest.
Channeling the likes of Morbid Angel circa-2000 through and through, Malignant Altar bring just the stupidest amount of oppressive heaviness on Retribution of Jealous Gods. It’s a fucking demo and it sounds better than most underground bands’ label backed full lengths. For real, the guitars kick in on the opening title track and you could swear you accidentally put on a Conan record. Hyper saturated, crunchy, down-tuned-to-shit guitars rumble without resorting to cliche and boring chugs. The riffing ebbs and flows between lethargic doom laden passages, almost Cannibal Corpse-esque razor sharp riffs, and everything in between with surprising fluidity. Headbang friendly mid tempo grooves provide a solid backbone to Malignant Altar‘s sound, really driving home that every member of this band absolutely, definitely, 100% owns a Gateways to Annihilation long sleeve t-shirt.
While the guitar work is very reminiscent of actual eldritch fret warlock Trey Azgathoth, the drumming is where I think Malignant Altar truly separates themselves from the pack of old school death metal revivalists who are dominating the scene right now. Does an album from 2000 count as old school today? I don’t know. Either way, I digress. Drummer Dobber Beverly might be one of the most in-the-pocket death metal drummers I’ve heard since maybe Adam Jarvis on Pig Destroyer‘s 2012 masterpiece (yes, fight me) Book Burner. Beverly grooves along with the tracks so well, bringing in thundering double bass and blasts when needed, but mostly sticking to a driving, almost Neil Peart-ian use of his ride to keep the songs chugging along at a nice pace. Even the 7 minute opener doesn’t feel like a slog, and the other two tracks which are shorter come and go sooner than I’d like.
His use of fills are always creative too, sparking more stank-faced air drumming than I care to admit. A part of it is definitely the production, because holy moly this boy has such a monstrous snare tone. It’s not something I’m usually particular about, but again, Malignant Altar show up to the party with something lifted right out of one of my favourite albums. While not quite as extreme, Beverly (who also engineered the demo) managed to capture some version of the violent, bludgeoning snare tone on Suffocation‘s self-titled album.
Even when they bring some synth/ keys during the cupboard-slamming gallops of the demo’s closing moments, Retribution of Jealous Gods does not let up. The church bell chimes ring out as if Malignant Altar have finally completed their 18 minute ritual of ushering in some cosmic entity with one last crushing rhythm, and now it blackens the sky and dooms us to an unwound reality. This ending legitimately makes me smile every time I hear it because not only does it really does fit the atmosphere of this release to a T but the inclusion of keys only at the very end of the run time is a bit of a ballsy move on their part considering they’re nowhere else to be found anywhere else on Retribution. It was a gamble, but they pulled it off with flying colours.
Retribution of Jealous Gods was released independently, but was picked up by primordial aficionados Maggot Stomp and is available on their label Bandcamp as well. While the cassette version is sold out from both stores, Maggot Stomp’s involvement does give me hope that they will help push the desecrated word of Malignant Altar.