Monday, September 24, 2012

Rise of Malice - Rise of Malice DEMO (2012)

Though Rise of Malice is a Greek band, they sound nothing like what you'd expect from Hellenic heroes like Rotting Christ or Varathron; this eponymous demo, their second, bears a more ghastly characteristic redolent of the Norse bands in the earlier 90s. A heavy Darkthrone influence is evident through the unwashed grime of the music's mix, but the tremolo picking sequences and the tundra-scavenging grandeur of the songwriting also bring to mind Immortal, or perhaps a few Swedish groups like Marduk. There's even a cover of "Withstand the Fall of Time", from Immortal's 1999 album At the Heart of Winter, which occupies over a third of this 21 minute tape. To their credit, the Greeks have a few traits that prevent them from sounding like carbon copies, but in terms of individuality, the demo doesn't set itself apart form the thousands of other, straightaway black metal acts spawned throughout the underground.

Not necessarily a bad thing, if a band has the control and ability to conjure that cold nostalgia for the past, and at this the Greeks do succeed. The tinny beats blast along distantly below the fuzzy confidence of the guitars, and I found that the fills were often louder than the snares and kicks during the faster sequences. The bass doesn't do all that much other than mimic the guitar progression, but then it rarely did at the dawn of black metal. The vocal inflection forms a decrepit, grumbled tone that doesn't always match up percussively with the instrumentation, but still sounds like some scarred warlock conjuring up a curse; and the acidic, atmospheric whispers that follow the eerie clean guitars in "The Forest of Mist" were a nice touch. Riffs range from tremolo streams, to melodic chords with an air of dissonance about them, to even a blackened thrash riff like the one in the depths of "Bloodshed", a decent variety even if few of them feel fresh or unfamiliar. The Immortal cover doesn't sound anywhere near so powerful as the original, but they pull off the various licks well enough in tribute.

Ultimately, I was torn between my enjoyment of this style and the lack of anything particularly savage, new or compelling happening on the three original metal tracks. Let's be clear: this is self-aware, archaic and grisly black metal which seeks little more than to honor its foundations. Aesthetically, I felt fully in step with the rawness of the music, the fragile balance of viciousness and melody which Rise of Malice does not disservice. This is cold, authentic, buzzing and bestial; not as unflinchingly primordial as something like Nattens Madrigal, as the instruments are quite clear (save maybe the blasting). The demo is reasonably well paced out, from the creepy dark ambient intro "Silent Echoes" to the gruesome grandeur of the cover at the close; and they're not without some sensible riffs. The isolated torment of the lyrics is well suited to the genre. Grim, cohesive, and decent, yet clearly there's enough talent in the group that the riffs and transitions can be improved upon in the years head; a little added dissonance and atmospheric insanity might go a long way.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]

No comments: