MALICIOUS – Deranged Hexes (2020)REVIEW

Leaden tabulae defixiones spilling from the heaving soil of chaotic, harried mass graves — The further we wither in distance of death metal circa 1986 the taller our beloved crumbling tapes stand as monolith to innovation and truly inspired musical violence. The echoing dread hammer of Necrovore, the stamping wrath of Slaughter Lord‘s reproach, and for the sake of today’s ritual of forms: The roaring Satanic grime of Obscurity and the most adept idolatry of Morbid Angel bear the weight of music that’d been death metal beyond extreme thrash metal in sound and spirit before proper studio releases would assign greater hierarchal historical arrangement. Beyond this (necessarily incomplete) impetus the future comes in waves where some of the more infamous shores invaded were Scandinavian. Though we could eagerly pull up to Grotesque and Liers in Wait to start, none touch these standards… for the sake of the subject matter today we’ll push a decade later where we’d all caught a hearty whiff of these “old ways renewed” via the maestros in Verminous, Repugnant, and Degial who represent a keenest few choices from the always righteous n’ ripping Swedes keeping the spirit of this ancient music alive in the early 2000’s. A few years later the ultra-maniacal Suomi shredders in Vorum, Obscure Burial, and Malicious beyond would pick this thread up alongside infamous acts out of Germany at the time — These are elite examples that’d remained steadfast in style ’til death. Well, I’m not just here to namedrop, eh? Point being Hyvinkää, Finland-based death metal quartet Malicious‘ caught the tail of the serpent in this regard and held on for several years until they were most readied to kill. The murder in question is ‘Deranged Hexes‘, a vile and electrically charged attack without regard for life (or groove) as its merciless death blasts, jogs, and weaves its timeless curse across a truly energizing nigh half hour whip.

Belligerence, absolute disregard for anything but the riff and the havoc of classic death-thrashing forms, the really hard-headed riffcraft here does actually have a bit of a strong groove to it but Malicious don’t spread fun or fancy bullshit as they rip unholy riff-after-riff like a 1987 demo tape on this debut. Who knew? Hell, I’ll admit to not giving the band’s first demo (‘Mental Illness‘, 2012) the time of day until several years later due to the scribbled ass cover artwork, which was an outlier considering I’ve more or less bought everything Me Saco Un Ojo has ever picked up outta Finland (including and especially the Detest Records stuff). It wasn’t until the band’s incredible debut EP (‘Black Fumes‘, 2015) came screaming out from its hole that I was on board; At the time it’d appealed to me because of the almost Necrovation-esque crawl we’d gotten from that band’s self-titled record a few years previous. It was “Din of Odious Chaos” on that EP that more or less sold me on what made Malicious something extra, a force to stare and marvel at while the extreme violence emanating from their craft surged. The core appeal is best summed up as Insanity‘s “Fire Death Fate” (alternately “Bleed For the Devil”/”Blasphemy”) but that outrageous death/thrash attack expanded to album length. If that is too obscure, think of Superstition‘s recent debut and the peak crush of the their compact rhythm guitar work. For their debut album the Finnish quartet aim to create a vortex of primal thrashing pure death metal — ‘Deranged Hexes’ is one brutally ripping constancy. A potent shot in the arm of non-commercial death metal frenzy and a strong distillation of death metal riff attack unique to the late 80’s demo tape phenom.

Just as Infesticide‘s second album was relatively short and delivered with utmost tunnel vision a few months prior, so does Malicious arrive with velocity in mind, a rush from Side A to Side B that could easily loop 2-3 times before you realize you’re in its goddamned cyclone. The tightly achieved demo sized bite, the complete statement of the full listen, the ‘old school’ thrashing death metal approach, all of this could sound amateur or flippant in the wrong hands. ‘Dangerous Hexes’ is for sure ball lighting of the highest order, and it will take several listens to stick and show some deeper layers, but they’re serving it up dead serious with enough precision to keep the entirety of the spin engaging. There are several classic proto-extreme metal examples that tie this approach to my own taste, be it Cryptic Slaughter‘s debut or ‘Morbid Visions’ but most folks will connect to this record via its exceptional rhythm guitar voicing, phrases that run up against the fastest bursts of ’86-’89 Morbid Angel arrangements; Malicious speak that language loudest and their most immediate appeal will be the hyper sped colonnade created. “Death Embalmed” is a clear standout in this sense bringing a twinge of ‘Blessed are the Sick’ to the table as the pace changes are expertly modulated, transitioning between skillfully juxtaposed main riffs. This vaguely amounts to variation on theme as the bigger picture reveals itself in creation of meaningful advancement, contorted riffs built from preceding movements into larger directional events; These pieces are strongest when they circle back around, something which is very Hellhammer under the hood but achieved within relentless ‘Reign in Blood’ pace. “Nefarious Mutations” follows “Death Embalmed” with even more lucid events, there might only be four riffs at the core of the piece but they are elaborately crafted and strung together with some broader understanding of how each change-up will reflect upon the last and lead into the next. The appeal of becoming entrenched in the guitar work reveals itself from there, where following the thread becomes a surge of adrenaline that provides addictive ear clenching riffs that become the major reason to return to the album and tour its sharper mind-bending movements.

It might be hard to see this sort of record as a great work because so much is possible with the wild high-tech world that death metal musicians are so capable of these days. To be fair, broadly reaching enormous works that transcend a gamut of styles and techniques often forget to write effective death metal songs. I’d suggest simple and efficient experiences often bear the most profound mark in the right context, and not constantly, which shouldn’t be a stretch by any means if you’ve been indoctrinated by the charms of early extreme metal action. This is the major argument for a song like “Ecstasis” over on Side A, where Malicious provide a “Blasphemy”-esque storm of stress and release it around the 2:00 minute mark with a jagged, hardcorish grind break and a solid catchy riff before stirring back into gear. A simple pyramidal experience where the high is brief and the song is pure chaos that creates the illusion of speed amidst its venomous action. This is an album of those moments, around twenty big shredders that offer a most succinct isolation of what makes records like ‘Altars of Madness’ still vitally important today. Catchy, furiously thrashed death metal achieved at full throttle. Yes, it is a short record at ~25 minutes yet the entirety of ‘Deranged Hexes’ is a massive blur of killing riffs and rasping, echoing menace enough that it’ll still feel like a full-length experience. In moderation or excess, this debut hits hard and keeps its kinetic energy high as Hell enough to warrant a high recommendation.

High recommendation (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Deranged Hexes
LABEL(S):Invictus Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 30th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Death/Thrash Metal

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