MALIGNAMENT – Hypocrisis Absolution (2021)REVIEW

Few eyes turned toward Finnish black metal duo Malignament‘s debut full-length arrive any more or less blind than I even after spending ages scanning around for an angle inside their world. When tasked with analysis and the greater value proposition of the release it makes little sense to offer much more than the results pondered within ear — Thoughts on tone, shades of “superior outlier” strengths, mulling over a few genius moments of songcraft, and a bit of a tooth-flashing, wide-eyed double thumbs up-ing like the idiot I am. It wouldn’t make sense to plainly suggest this is “one of those”, the sort of sweetly maudlin, melodically charged and introverted Finnish black metal records we’re all sublimely familiar with but even if we can ultimately convince ourselves that ‘Hypocrisis Absolution‘ is the exception to the perceived rule, they undeniably fit best within a certain biome on this fine debut release. The question of whom this propulsive and melodious underground inspiration is “for” bleeds hollow as we hit upon its strongest pockets of songwriting, what manifests therein is decidedly for the sake of realizing a representative sonic avatar for the artist — A defiant and gleaming sledgehammer raining upon the greater landscape.

The semi-conscious Eurocentric black metal spheres in the know were first forcibly indoctrinated into Malignament‘s charms with ‘Demo I‘ (2019), a two-song introduction which’d smartly selected their best foot forward, captivating pieces that now act as the most representative and memorable songs we’ll find today on ‘Hypocrisis Absolution’: “Call to Arms” and “Wolf and the Moon”, both of which appear in refined but not overworked form today. It goes without saying that these unforgettably lain songs are enough to riff on for hours, now surpassing the magnetism of their demo state herein. The clean vocal chorale of “Call to Arms” particularly stands out for its group harmonized sections, something like the shouted peaks of ‘Elegy’-era Amorphis or nearby seeping into the duo’s melodic sensibilities and creating an energetic, sweeping vocal motion which sticks in mind to great effect. This moment is notable for the sake of the resonance delivered resembling an emotive release rather than plainly tacked-on triumphal movement, it is inspired in the same way early Bølzer often was and still is, of course this is compounded by “Wolf and the Moon” and the skanking ride of its choruses. These two songs are enough to sell me on the album’s tone and purpose but does the rest of it stack up? Yes, but it doesn’t amount to a fully rounded breakthrough take on Finnish black metal instead an strong debut statement doing its best to live up to that major first impression.

A larger thought on emotion-dependent spectacle is generally scalable to most of the songcraft on offer as we delve into ‘Hypocrisis Absolution’ but that isn’t to say that each and every song whips a few extra feet above the high-set bar. “Like Rats They Followed” is immediately the exception, a menacing groove lead by a violently overdriven guitar tone and thousand snake-headed vocals. Enough to perk the ears of listeners who are still conscious of melodic black/death metal of the late 90’s and a rare splintering of style that might initially read as a sort of Thyrfing-esque gallop in a post-‘Let the Devil In’ world. “Storm and Chaos Within” immediately expands this vibe but from a different angle, linking it more directly to the Malignament modus we already know but keeping that bounding, folkish groove alive. We can excuse ourselves from most all comparisons and resume digging at this point, though it appears the drummer is involved with ex-The Wandering Midget traditional heavy metal band Outlaw, as well as session work for The True Werwolf, but the most sonically related blip on the radar is probably more recent work in White Death and, of course I believe I recognize the guitarist/vocalist via press photos but… It is pointless to speculate in this case, identity provides no tangible context. Where I’d like to focus instead is this thesis that these musicians have emptied their pockets of personally resonant melodic ideals for this album and delivered them convincingly as a result — There is some ‘feeling’ here on this triumphal melodic black metal album, and not the usual shit. That isn’t to say that Malignament are such a wild exception to either modern or ancient Finnish black metal paradigm at their core but that this level of songwriting and robust production values finds them vying for leadership cache by pushing into accessible production values and avoiding a self-conscious and/or derivative status. Whipping a leg out to the side and pissing on otherwise well-guarded Finnblack melodic black metal territory to some degree. Ha, or, at least upping the ante for anyone elite enough to be paying attention to what arm-swinging glory they’re getting away with here.

If we must meet Malignament on their own terms, at face value, then this inevitably turns the eye back to the title of the album, which I’d assume more-or-less suggests the duo’s intent presented up front, to beat the charge of mimicry or, less literally, to be freed of hypocrisy. If the goal is something distinct, away from imitation but still inescapably Finnish in its sensibilities (see: “Unforgiving North”). This doesn’t ultimately bring us more than a few steps closer to our original quandary of matching those demo songs in terms of songcraft, though. “Thunder of Awakening” is the only piece to fully stand as tall as the aforementioned fawned-over songs before we reach the inspired forward-pressing thrash riffs that initially direct closer “Bloodlust and Immortality”. A chest-beating tremolo riff should do the trick for most listeners but the quick changes found throughout this song were what held my attention most upon repeat listening. This is a particularly satisfying way to end an album, not at all tired or resigned to the end but battling on even harder, using the momentum of the last two songs to inspire a repeat listen in most cases. In fact the main endorsement I’ll give here is that I left this album on for several hours at a time, busied or otherwise staring off into space, and enjoyed every second of it without issue or complaint. That doesn’t mean Malignament have created their penultimate statement from the get-go but that they’ve arrived as absolute professionals capable of brilliant and engaging works on this first major salvo. They’ll hardly need to do more than iterate upon this achievement in the future to impress me. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (76/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Hypocrisis Absolution
LABEL(S):Primitive Reaction
RELEASE DATE:September 24th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Black Metal

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.