MALTHUSIAN / SUFFERING HOUR – Time’s Withering Shadow (2022)REVIEW

Indiscriminately and with fully warranted brutality upon the unprepared the moment of death arrives just as it should, in a panic and without any chance of escape. Evacuate the lungs, the bowels, flee, howl and tremble bug-eyed with terror if you will, the suffering won’t stop ’til your writhing is done and grimmest acceptance sets in. ‘Time’s Withering Shadow‘ is an idea set into motion beyond a 2019 joint tour between two of today’s most profound and unconventional black/death metal bands, a split long-player which finds Malthusian and Suffering Hour conspiring together in dual renderings of a death scene, aiming to burn into mind an abstract yet defining witness to the cessation of life. These are neither leftovers nor cursorily sketched flavor but rather reinforcement for each project’s legacy of bravely innovative angling upon death music, focusing on esoteric and exaggerative forms even more than the sharpest mind might’ve already imagined.

The last we’d heard from Irish malcontents Malthusian was a seeming lifetime ago wherein their impressive debut full-length ‘Across Deaths‘ vexed and distorted all minds back in 2018 by way of odd-metered yet brutal maelstrom and polyrhythmic exploration, aging well since and rightfully taking some extra time beyond review to finally wrap my head around. In expanding their realms beyond the dissonant bestial black/death sound they’re known for this group take an slower-paced and even more manic approach to duality of performance, going beyond tandem throngs of riff and rhythm with vocal clashes, psychedelic whorls, and slithering death’s wrenching snake-like body in full motion… and that’d been what, the first four minutes of “Dissolution of Consciousness” to start.

As life fades and mental shock eases the fear of impending death Malthusian begin to swing in broader strokes wherein doomed and cyclonic slow-grinding gives way to elastic lead guitar wandering, a chorale send-off to the river of woe and right into the speaker-blowing noxiousness of “Delirium” itself, the second longform half of their half of this split. It may very well be my favorite piece from the band (barring various riffs from their LP) as a suite of pure disarray, jammed and doom-stricken agony enriches by way of additional vocals from A.A. Nemtheanga (Primordial) and prior vocalist A.C. (Bacterium) alongside what I believe is some throat singing, a healthy dose of ‘Enemy of the Sun‘-level discord and tension in alternation as we reach the disturbing precipice of the piece nearby ~8 minutes in. I was expecting Malthusian to make thier part count but hadn’t realized how much of a bad acid trip they’d had in mind.

At some point beyond their much lauded 2017 debut ‘In Passing Ascension‘ and today western United States-based trio Suffering Hour have evolved from one of the more notable dissonant black/death metal modernist ritualists to a somewhat singular psychedelic blackened death metal entity with its own Killing Joke-esque swerving and effects-laiden nausea of late. Their second record was huge from my point of view, a high standard for bands still wishing to aim avant-garde and away from the relatively scoured and discarded spectrum of dissonant death, it’d been a real leap into their own distinct sound, something like a post-punk uber guitar tone engorged with nuclear waste.

Back in 2021 I was sure they’d already run through the use of that sound well enough via ‘The Cyclic Reckoning‘ but, nah, judging by “Temporal Lapse” it seems they’ve got all manner of use for it’s expert modulation from song to song. Though that central piece is the big deal here it isn’t likely the part of Suffering Hour‘s side you’ll want to go show your friends for starters. The largely instrumental “Crawling Embers” is a Leone-esque ‘western’ (or, Andalusian inspired) preamble and full-on flamenco exit with couple minutes of blackened dissonant churn at its heaviest rise, dark, unusual and yet a bit more than a loose end. I’d found it a bold use of seven and a half minutes anyhow. That extended intro paired with their cover of long-forgotten Arizona deathrock/goth punk deep-cut Mighty Sphincter‘s “Reserection” couldn’t be any more interesting as a bookend in feature of “Temporal Lapse”.

You’re not getting the usual shit from either band in general and here they’ve both shown up with something extra weirding-out, pushing the limits of eerie extreme music and each wielding a stronger personal signature walking away from their parts. Splits are rarely essential when it comes to my own collection but I have to commend both bands for freaking out a bit, curb kicking expectations and making for a memorable duo. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Time’s Withering Shadow [Split]
LABEL(S):Invictus Productions
RELEASE DATE:May 6th, 2022

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