RAPTURE – Malevolent Demise Incarnation (2021)REVIEW

It will glide on in silence. It will prolong itself at neither a king’s command nor his people’s clamor; it will run on just as it started out on the first day, with no diversions and no delays. And the outcome? You’ve been preoccupied while life hurries on; death looms all the while,” Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

At some point we succumb to the madness of the mirage-plagued desert we live in, battered by the virtually riffless lands we walk while learning to love the bitter taste of polluted waters. All too willing springs of brackish nonsense sap us of life whilst scumming their pits for inspiration. Poisoned and shambling, with crusted mouths and delirious yawning skulls we’re left with what are yet undeniably good records; Rare great works that deserve endless praise for their stylized artistry, confident niche or demanding charismatic ambition. Yet the mind goes on wanting without knowing, its howling dry wells only quenched on the off chance that records arrive to create their own goddamned oases. Only then do we spring to life as reactivated fonts slake the dormant parts of the brain that’ve forgotten about their primeval thirst and resigned to a shriveled spirit. Well, that is how it tends to feel when elite death/thrash metal arrives beyond a years-long drought as the lifesblood of infernal riffing picks our unrighteous filth channel and storms in from the past, shocking dried river beds into terrifying torrents of mud that scour away the years of waste. The daimonian grip upon the skull that informs the sage destruction which Athenian death/thrash metal quartet Rapture bring is the long awaited quench, the water to revive old blood and reanimate a dormant mind. Their third full-length album ‘Malevolent Demise Incarnation‘ is the source of distant bestial howls and cratering fault-lines signaling their skull-crushing return, for my own taste these fellowes represent the highest standard the sub-genre has to offer.

When the original band formed in 2012 the line-up was almost entirely formative in the sense that beyond their greenhorn thrashing debut EP (‘Gun Metal‘, 2013) guitarist/vocalist Apostolos Papadimitriou (ex-Saboter, ex-Endless Recovery) was one to stick around. Though the arrangements were sharp and the songs fully formed, their ‘Gun Metal’ wasn’t representative of the band just yet, it was their 2014 promotional EP that would best indicate the way forward. The line-up that would be responsible for their next three albums was basically secured on their first full-length (‘Crimes Against Humanity‘, 2015) and this meant their style had shifted to frantic riff-obssessed brutal thrash, that would begin meeting halfway with old school death metal influences in varying ratio since. The blend of styles early on was fairly subtle but could be easily read as cut from the cloth of death/thrash metal. Elements of ‘street thrash’ (such as gang-shouted vocals), brutal thrash metal (double-bass drumming, harsh vocals) and some pure death metal elements a la Protector and Massacra recalled one of my personal favorite records of all time, No Return‘s ‘Psychological Torment’ as often as it did Insanity. Hell, the third song on their first album is a thrash metal cover of Death‘s “Born Dead” so, at the very least you can say front-to-back these guys have great taste in riffs and have been doing aggressive extreme thrash metal right from the start. Their second EP, ‘Total Madness Reigns‘ (2016), built upon this ideal with what read to me as some Dark Angel inspired guitar arrangements (see: “Behind the Mask of Evil”), not necessarily the riff salad of ‘Time Does Not Heal’ but that same springing-forth intensity where each successive guitar phrase leads seamlessly into the next at ’91 death metal speed. Of course this was the precursor to the mastery Rapture displayed on their second full-length (‘Paroxysm of Hatred‘, 2018) a perfect “in the pocket” riff album that I’d loved in review, eventually raising the score and placing as #13 on my Best of 2018 list. I still consider it one of the strongest death/thrash metal records of the last decade. The gist of it is that the ferality of Massacra and the precision bombast of Demolition Hammer collide on that album for some seriously rare magick. There are bands that sound like that out in the wilds, sure, but few write with the intelligent savagery of the ancient ones in mind as well as Rapture does and well, continue to with ‘Malevolent Demise Incarnation’ as they push deeper into pure death metal territory.

In the space between records some members formed death metal project Chaos Heresy with Giannis Grim (Ectoplasma, Vultur, Spawn of Flesh Records) and it sounds like Saboter became Triumpher at some point last year, but otherwise it seems these guys took the time to really sort this third record out and approach with a distinct shift into death metal territory without losing the momentum built upon on ‘Paroxysm of Hatred’. First impressions are flawless in this sense, as Rapture‘s sound transitions easily from ye olde pyroclastic Demolition Hammer-ing riff fests unto a style of death metal that compares well with Massacra‘s under-loved ‘Enjoy the Violence’, Protector‘s indomitable ‘A Shedding of Skin‘, and Malevolent Creation‘s ‘The Ten Commandments’ as a basic generalization, grouping bands that’d represented a convergence of late 80’s thrash metal and concurrently emergent death metal leading into the early 90’s. That isn’t to say we’re dealing with Floridian sounds in European hands as a rule, in fact there are shades of ‘Cross the Styx’-era Sinister (or, just Deicide?) all over this record even if the drummer’s style is considerably different; The bigger picture or, suggestion, here is that Rapture are treading rare earth with exceptional skill resulting in a record comparable to old masters. That’d be where my mind kinda cuts off the comparison log and sees the bigger picture as a sound that could only come from a band that’d made a gradual transition from classic thrash metal into death metal, and done so successfully.

There is a well-deserved misery, a true meditation upon callous mortality, inherent to ‘Malevolent Demise Incarnation’ and this is where we separate Rapture from legions of ‘retro’ idealist bands as a genuine article; Within their storm of stressed death-thrashing spectacle they’ve conjured the stark otherworldly Hell of a defiant existence, a conscious state of damnation all reasonable men share at their core, willing or otherwise. Though their lyrics have more to remark upon than the philosophic prevalence of death and suffering, the severity of their theme never strays in its morose tone. Granted it might take several listens to even begin to soak in this atmospheric sensation via lyrics and attitude because hey, they tear through a hundred sheets of classic death/thrash metal riffing throughout the ~45 minute blaze on offer. The opener and title track “Malevolent Demise Incarnation” is quick to the throat with its dagger, spraying an unstoppable slough of riffs at an inhuman rate still pulling in some light Massacra nods and a song structure that’d have fit in on ‘Epidemic of Violence’ ’til the ~3:40 minute mark switches things up with break you wouldn’t have heard on a death metal album until at least 1992 or so. It’d be fair to contrast this with the kick-off for ‘Paroxysm of Hatred’ to clarify the change wherein the drummer is more blast and roll heavy here, angling into momentum here whereas back in 2018 the steady brutalization of classic thrash was the main anchoring trait. “Inanimate Frigidity” introduces layered vocals, an even faster pace, and a killer bass guitar tone that bruises everything it touches. The secondary takeaway when I’d first bitten into Side A was that this record sounds vinyl ready from the start with a clean dynamic range and sharply defined mids that lend a more classic death metal tonality. A lot of your favorite late 80’s/early 90’s death metal albums received unsavory bass boosted remasters in the 2000’s, so take note real ‘old school’ death metal wasn’t all scooped-ass indeterminate thunder. Although every piece on this first half of the record is a highlight in my mind, “After Your Eternity” stands out for the (early) Vader-esque quality that arises within the riffs at its midsection before giving way to its cataclysmic end.

The natural division or, brief deep breath of a break between Side A and Side B doesn’t leave a lot of room for analysis. Rapture haven’t gone halfway with their death metal aspect here and the result is even more relentless than ‘Paroxysm of Hatred’ was as a full listen. “I Am Become Death” doesn’t waste a minute tearing into its reprisal of the energy from the start of the first side; This song highlights two of my favorite traits ‘Malevolent Demise Incarnation’ sports starting with the prominent but never invasive bass guitar tone which allows for a certain percussive intensity, and the lead guitar work which is easy to take for granted on a cursory listen. The trailing, well-woven leads on this song are probably the most effective use of soloing to characterize a song on this record. “Birthrape Leftovers, Praising The Maggots” is the hammer of Side B an entirely brutal kick to start that eventually sprawls into more atmospheric territory, and I suppose if Rapture wanted to lean towards a style akin to Question they’d probably be able to pull it off based on the end of that song. Closing the experience with “Requiem For A Woeful Dynasty (Memento Mori)” basically summarizes the greater oeuvre established prior to its entrance via an even more ambitious composition. I felt like the guitar arrangement takes the most risks here incorporating trailing lead melodies for a throttled Chemical Breath-esque thread alongside a sort of prog-thrashing sense of movement, still brutal but getting kind of weird in a great way.

Three years with ‘Paroxysm of Hatred’ have clearly left me primed and ready to jump on ‘Malevolent Demise Incarnation’ and if I can step away from that fan-based reaction for a bit I could understand why today’s mid-paced and spaced-out death metal crowd probably wouldn’t “get” what this record is all about. Yet the appeal of the hyper-sped and always killer riffing death/thrash metal record shouldn’t be reduced or taken for granted. Their last record went from a high recommendation to a modern classic in my mind in the space of one year, this time around they’ve kicked things up to an even more satisfying extreme that I could appreciate and spin Rapture‘s latest endlessly from the get-go. Your mileage will vary of course, the nuance is always within the ruinous storm in hand and there is no respite to take it all in until the last piece gives some breathing room. As stated earlier, this release hits the highest standard of the classics within it sub-genre and has provided a welcome boon of personal inspiration by way of elite death/thrash metal. Highest recommendation.

Highest recommendation. (100/100)

Rating: 10 out of 10.
TITLE:Malevolent Demise Incarnation
LABEL(S):FDA Records [CD, LP]
Headsplit Records [Cassette]
RELEASE DATE:March 26th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death/Thrash Metal

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