Hammered To Hell: An Interview with Malleus
Ancient witchery is alive in America. Boston is more known for its punk scene than its metal one, but there’s always an exception, and Malleus are one of Boston’s best right now, playing primordial black metal noticeably inspired by groups like Hellhammer, Bathory, Sodom, and Venom.
Though the band is fairly new they’ve made waves in the underground, and fresh off the release of a new two-song mLP titled Night Raids guitarist The Hammer has agreed to do an interview with me to talk a bit about the band.
So, why are you called The Hammer instead of the drummer, who goes by the moniker “The Relentless?” Seems to me that it should be the other way around.
The Relentless is Malleus’ drummer. His first appearance actually pre-dates Malleus on a couple really limited tape demos for a band called Akrasia that also featured our original singer, The Channeller. Akrasia was more primitive akin to the likes of Ildjarn or even Darkthrone at times, but very minimalist in its approach. As far as The Hammer goes, Malleus is the Latin word for hammer and being that the band is so guitar driven and riff oriented, we felt that it was the most fitting moniker for myself, handling guitar duties in the group.
You say your original vocalist, who I believe also sang on Night Raids. Does that mean you’ve had a lineup change?
This is going to read like a Napalm Death discography but last fall, our original singer decided he was leaving the band. It’s funny because he told us he was leaving not even a week before we were going to open for Merciless in New York. But he agreed to sing on Night Raids and play whatever shows we had booked so he stayed on for the Merciless gig. Knowing that we would need to fill the void on bass, we added The Watcher to fill that role. The last show with our original singer was this past February as a four-piece opening for Morbosidad. Not too long after that, we found a vocalist, who we’ve now played half a dozen or so shows with, and who will be on our next record.
Does that mean that your next release will be the full length I’ve been waiting for?
Yes. The next release will be a proper full length album. We actually get asked about this a bit, with Storm of Witchcraft originally being a demo which got the vinyl treatment a little over a year later. While we are proud of that record, it is more or less a collection of songs that were written over several years. While our ultimate goal for those songs was always a 12″ vinyl release, they were not necessarily written from the start with that in mind. As for the next record, we began writing for it in earnest this summer and hope to have it completed early next year. Our goal is to write an album that is slightly darker, heavier, and more intense than Storm.
Did you guys expect any of the incredible reception that Storm of Witchcraft got?
We thought people would be into it but we definitely didn’t expect to get the rabid response that we received. We were lucky to have a ton of people flip the band onto their friends and it all just kind of snowballed from there. I sent demo tapes practically everywhere I could think of and just based purely off word of mouth, people wanted to seek it out and the response was insane.
It was incredibly refreshing to hear a band debut that sounds like they grew up on Hellhammer and Sodom instead of on newer bands.
Yeah, bands like Hellhammer, Sodom, Venom, Motorhead. Just bands with a raw and abrasive sound. Stuff like that is what influenced us to start this band and still serves as a template for what we want to do going forward.
You’ve mentioned to me before that you guys try to channel the spirit of the earlier NWOBHM bands and hardcore punk, which is very different from the litany of failed bands that freely admit they directly worship at the altars of the classic early black metal bands.
Pretty much everything Malleus has ever done is directly influenced by NWOBHM or UK82. Those bands obviously created the aesthetic and the sound but I think the biggest takeway from that era is just how catchy they were. It could be a riff or a chorus, but whatever it was, something about the songs they wrote would always stick with you. And so that’s what we try to do with Malleus.
Storm of Witchcraft is focused on topics such as occult rituals, historical serial killers, hate, and fear. Do the same motivations drive you with Night Raids, and with planned future material?
Yes absolutely. Almost all of our lyrics are based on actual historical figures and events, with the overarching theme being humanity’s fear of the unknown. Throughout history, human beings have attempted to rationalize and process events beyond their understanding or control. As a species we often take the easy way out of these psychological battles, resulting in a demonization of things we do not fully understand and/or a need to believe in an ordered universe (religion for example). This breeds individual and societal fear, and eventually hatred toward maligned individuals, groups, movements, etc. The concept of “evil” as a malevolent force in the world is a direct result of these mental processes. This description is an oversimplification, but you get the idea. The lyrics for “Night Raids” deal with this very specifically, and actually take place along the English frontier in New England during the late-17th/early-18th century. I expect these themes will be present in most of our lyrics going forward.
Are the songs on Night Raids a single conceptual story for both songs, or are you just referring to the title track?
Just the title track. “The Wretched” is actually a loose continuation of the two Demonology tracks from Storm which are again loosely based on King James VI / I.
Night Raids appears to be the first and only release that Atomic Force Records has ever done. How did your partnership with this new entity come about?
Atomic Force is run by one of our longtime friends who’s run a DIY punk label since the late 90’s. After Storm of Witchcraft came out, we wanted to follow it up with a new release in a relatively short amount of time so we decided to record a couple tracks this past Winter for a new EP. We brought the tracks to our friend and he was into them. Initially we were just going to do a 7” but he said we should just go for it and release it as a 12”. We’ve always been huge fans of the 12” singles Venom released on Neat. Even the singles Metallica did in the 80’s. You could argue that the art on some of those singles might be better than the art they used on their full lengths. So we thought we’d do the same with Night Raids. Do a single as a 12” with killer artwork, good packaging, etc. Now that it’s out, Atomic Force and the band have been working together to promote it and distribute it as best as we can.
Speaking of artwork, how did you guys get in touch with Tanya Finder, who drew the front cover? Is the previous statement about the artwork on ‘80s singles the reason for deciding to use a second artist and bring in Karmazid for the artwork on the insert?
The manner in which me and Tanya met is actually hilarious. I don’t even remember it because I was so piss drunk that night but basically I was in New York at a show. This was probably four years ago or so at this point. I noticed that a group of punks were all headed to the same party or aftershow that I was. So I helped myself to a ride back in some random van full of people I didn’t know. At some point on the ride back, Tanya notices me and is like, who the fuck is this guy? I have no clue what I said to keep myself from getting kicked out of the van but the next day, I ended up drinking at a bar and it just so happens that Tanya works there. She comes up to me and starts explaining what happened and obviously I have no fucking idea. So that’s how we came to meet. We’ve bumped into one another at shows and parties since and we actually have a bunch of mutual friends so these days, we just laugh about that night.
As far as the art goes, me and our bassist both came across it online on our own and one day after some beers, we both brought up how we thought it would be perfect for the cover and the other members agreed. Thankfully, Tanya was cool with us using it. The art that Karmazid did for us was done maybe a year and a half to two years ago. We were just sitting on it waiting for the perfect time to unveil it and thought that it also tied in perfectly to the lyrics for Night Raids so we decided to feature it on the lyric insert. Even though “Night Raids” is essentially a 12” single, we didn’t want to skimp on the packaging, so having both pieces featured on the record really tied it all together. Not having both on there would make the record feel incomplete in a way.
It certainly is a nice touch and I can tell that your hearts went into making the presentation as strong as it could be. Do you feel like that extra bit of attention to detail and aesthetic is an important step into moving into the world beyond your first demo?
Yeah, every aspect of the band is poured over and scrutinized. The layout and art you see on a record is just as important as the lyrics or the riffs heard in the songs and so everything presented on our releases is put there for a reason. For us, there has to be a unifying theme running through everything and if not, then it doesn’t belong on the record.
With that said I’m definitely looking forward to your next output. Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks for the interview. Thanks to Blood Harvest and Atomic Force and thanks to anyone that booked us a show or put us up on tour.
Distort ’til death.
Listen to Malleus here. Support evil metal or pose forever.