This far into such a long and distinguished career, it’s rather difficult for bands like Malevolent Creation to continue evolving their sound and managing to stand out in amongst the often crowded, often brilliant metal scene of 2019. If keeping up with the times wasn’t hard enough, the US quartet have also had to deal with the added tragedy of vocalist Bret Hoffmann passing away in 2018, making this album a unique prospect and a potentially difficult record for the band to put together.
If you were expecting a more cathartic, sombre or reflective listening experience on ‘The 13th Beast’ however then you would be sorely mistaken. Gut-wrenching growls and pummelling drums provide a destructive aural assault within 20 seconds of opener ‘End the Torture’, and thus the blueprint is set for the rest of the record, as Malevolent Creation follow their own lead and deal almost exclusively in blastbeats and face-melting riffs… lots of them.
New vocalist Lee Wollenschlaeger does an excellent job of stepping into the role of lead headache-inducer, with a guttural style that sits perfectly alongside music that sounds like it’s been written for Satan’s birthday party. As if his vocal contribution wasn’t enough, he’s also responsible for some piercing guitar work that often shines when it’s allowed to burst to the forefront instead of being buried the mix.
One issue with the album though, and it is a pretty major one, is that there’s precious little variation on offer. Even early on in proceedings on the delightfully titled ‘Mandatory Butchery’ and ‘Agony for the Chosen’, there are few moments that make one track stand out above the other, bar a fleeting appearance of a searing riff midway through the latter. This is absolutely fine if you’re just looking for another solid slab of death metal from one of the most respected names in the genre, but it doesn’t necessarily cut the mustard when compared with the stylistic ingenuity shown by bands like Cattle Decapitation over recent years.
That said, if you were to isolate any track from the record and digest it as a single, blood-drenched morsel, then you’d be left feeling incredibly satisfied by what is technically a brilliant blast of brutish metal. To be over 30 years into a career and still producing music of this quality despite a revolving door of new members is therefore very impressive, and there is certainly enough here for long-term fans to get on board with while still offering something a bit different.
‘Born of Pain’ does a pretty decent job of disrupting the flow of the record and bringing something new to the table; a slower, more methodical pace creeping in before the battering onslaught continues with a vengeance. The compulsory shout along moment comes in the form of ‘Decimated’, with a repetition of the title being solely designed for live crowds to chant while simultaneously giving themselves whiplash.
Overall then this is a record that does exactly what it says on the tin, arriving with fists flying and staying until your ears are a bloody mess and you’re in need of a lay down. While it would be hard to recommend this above the most recent releases from the likes of Cannibal Corpse or Obituary, it is in a similar league to the last Deicide album, which is more a hallmark of its quality as opposed to its flair. At no point does ‘The 13th Beast’ come anywhere close to reinventing the wheel but in its defense it never tries to, instead adopting an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality that ensures Malevolent Creation retain their place in the upper echelons of death metal royalty.
‘The 13th Beast’ is set for release on January 18th via Century Media Records.