Malthusian- Below the Hengiform

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, October 18, 2015

On their 2013 demo Irish death metal band Malthusian demonstrated themselves to be a newcomer that was able to provide the same level of songwriting and unsettling atmosphere as most of the longer running groups out there. Two years later, they’ve returned with a new EP entitled Below the Hengiform that presents listeners with three new tracks spread out across twenty five and a half minutes. The core of Malthusian’s sound is still the extremely dense, cavernous death metal that they showcased on MMXIIII, but even more eerie melodies and twisting and turning instrumentation has found its way in. While not quite as immediate as the group’s debut, let this one sink in and you’ll find that it’s another worthy release from an act that seems to be pushing further towards their own nuances.

Malthusian has chosen to stick with a format close to that of their demo, releasing three new songs that sprawl across seven to ten minutes. The biggest difference between Below the Hengiform and its predecessor is that the instrumental work seems to have gotten even more twisted and creepy. There are still plenty of heavy hitting sections where that cavernous death metal base becomes the focus and each instrument blasts away at your eardrums, but all three songs spend just as much time backing away from the assault a bit and providing ominous melodies that get under your skin and feel genuinely unsettling. It’s a combination that makes the writing feel a bit more complex than before, as there are regular changeovers between the softer sections and denser walls of sound that have plenty of dissonance. Stylistically I’d say that it falls somewhere between Incantation style death metal, chaotic dissonant black metal, and the sheer madness of a band like Portal. But Malthusian continues to blend these elements together in a way that gives them their own subtle nuances, making their material distinguishable from some of the others that have gone for a similar effect. With that being said, I did notice that the move towards unsettling melodic leads and slower twists and turns made Below the Hengiform take a little more time to sink in than MMXIII so do keep that in mind as you make your way through.

One of the elements of Malthusian’s music that grabbed me the most on their demo was the versatility of the vocal performance. Rather than sticking with the extremely low, reverberating growls all the way through there was a wide range of higher screams/shrieks and growling. This has been expanded upon on this release, with the shrieking taking on an even more prominent role than before. Where there were regular switch offs between the pitches previously, now there is a regular emphasis on the polar opposite pitches coming in simultaneously to attack the listener. The downright scary sounding high pitches from “The Mother’s Blade” have been further utilized as well, with the ending of “Slouching Equinox” offering up a similar level of spine chilling screams. With the increased emphasis on the higher ranges, there is also a bit more separation between the vocals and instrumentals than before and it’s a bit easier to take in all the different pitches.

Below the Hengiform still provides plenty of the murky, cavernous death metal that Malthusian offered on their demo, but there has been a noticeable push towards haunting, unsettling melodies and dissonance. It may take a little more time to get a feel for, but the increased complexity of the arrangements and unpredictable shifts between tempos makes this an EP that pulls you in the more times you make your way through it. By branching out towards other genre elements and increased dissonance and unnerving instrumentation, Malthusian has pushed towards their own distinctive sound that will appeal to fans of both death and black metal in both their densest variations.

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