Death metal elites Malevolent Creation have returned to inflict severe amounts of punishment on your fragile body and mind with another balls-to-the-wall record. “The 13th Beast” is fittingly their 13th album, and while it does stand as a solid release within their large discography, it also reflects the problem with many death metal artists (old and new) in this day and age.
The sick, twisted New Yorkers that make up Malevolent Creation are best known for two records: “The Ten Commandments” and “Retribution.” What makes these albums effective is the machine-gun speed of the drums, the buzzsaw sound of the guitars, the vicious vocals and lyrics, and the raw production that can be hazardous to your hearing abilities. Crucially, the songs have a wide variety in substance and creativity. Rather than just being forty minutes of unchained aggression, there are also some effectively placed rhythm sections, solos, and vocal variations. There are also songs that utilize keyboards and samples to break up the pace. The lack of this variety is what stands as one of the main problems with their new album. Most of the material just does not feel very memorable and tends to sounds the same. A listener could fall asleep listening to it, wake up and not realize what track they are on.
The album’s other main issue is one that plagues many modern death metal albums. Today it seems that many bands record digitally, which involves using a computer to add to the production value. While this may work to the benefit of some genres of music, death metal is not one of them. Death metal is meant to sound like it was recorded in your friend’s basement with rusty amps and distortion pedals that predate your existence. It is meant to sound absolutely disgusting in nature while also having a very live feel to it. A live band recording music should not sound perfect. There should be mistakes because when a machine makes everything pitch-perfect, a lot of what makes the death metal experience so unique is lost.
This is exactly the problem with “The 13th Beast.” It is overproduced and seems to have lost the memorable tone of their earlier sound. Compare the drums tracks from “Multiple Stab Wounds” on “The Ten Commandments” to “Agony for the Chosen” off the new album. The first sounds like a maniac musician working his artistry while the latter sounds very artificial and devoid of substance. On “The Ten Commandments” the listener is treated to a wide variety of fills, blast beats, well-timed cymbal hits, double bass pedals and more. This along with the crisp production makes it evident that a real drummer is playing. “The 13th Beast” does have many blast beats and double bass usage, but it is overused to the point where it sounds mechanical and many of the cymbal hits and fills feel unnatural. The same could be said about the production of the guitars. The first sounds much more like a live band in comparison to the overproduced mess that makes up the latter sound. Too many riffs sound the same and the rhythm sections are near absent.Malevolent Creation may have lost a lot of what made their earlier material so memorable, but the album still hits many of the right marks. They still have that incredible drumming and guitar style that will make it feel like someone hurled a bulldozer at your face. This is often enough for many fans despite other missteps. Some notable tracks include “Release the Soul,” “Canvas of Flesh,” and “Decimated.” These are the songs that best represent Malevolent Creation’s sound which is a relentless instrumental assault with crushing vocals that can keep things interesting despite the insanity. Malevolent Creation also recently suffered the loss of their lead vocalist Brett Hoffman and the torch has now been passed on to Lee Wollenschlaeger. He does the band a lot of justice even if he doesn’t quite compare to the cruel insanity of Hoffman’s vocals. This album isn’t quite the beast it’s meant to be, but there are enough redeemable qualities to make this an enjoyable listen for metal and non-metal fans alike.