Malthusian — Across Deaths (contains worms)
Featuring Triggergate 2018, Long Riffs, Cochlear Parasites, Etc.!
CHAPTER ONE: TRIGGERGATE 2018
Gather round, ye feckless chaff of feeble seed. Malthusian is here to fill your ears and other cavities with glorious excrement and offal. Behold their long, long, long overdue debut full-length atrocity: Across Deaths.
In this Year of Our Whatever, 2018, as our metal community is shaken to its core by scandals involving quantization, noise gates, and the like, you’ll want to know before you even bother to press play whether or not this album uses drum triggers. And hoo boy, let me be the first to tell you — I do not know. I mean, I doubt it, given the exceedingly unclean and un-brickwalled sound of the drums, with their dry and brittle finish. You’re still skeptical, I know, I know; you’ve been hurt before. You’ve already written a message to the band on social media to pester them with ribald, snobbish paranoia. But why would a recording engineer go to the trouble to trigger a drum set only to make it sound like a bunch of refuse pulled from a land fill (which, if you’re wondering, is what drums are supposed to sound like)? I think we’re safe here. SHUT UP I SAID I THINK WE’RE SAFE HERE.
CHAPTER TWO: THE LONG RIFF
It is a matter of empirical certainty that things that are long are better than things that are short. Long cons, long lives, long butts… And while long songs are certainly in Malthusian’s repertoire, it is the longness of their riffs that truly deifies them. I do not usually get all moist and swollen over riffs because most riffs are short, and short riffs are disposable. Short riffs will invariable leave me thinking: Gosh, I wish there was just a tad more riff here. But Malthusian’s riffs, which are so seldom short, so seldom leave me thinking anything less than: Oh boy, this is just enough riff — almost too much. (Perish the thought. PERISH IT.) These babies stretch and wind like the non-euclidean hallways in your nightmares; they pull you along until you’ve lost sight of where you started and all hope of ever getting back. Most of the world’s riffs peter out at four bars, if that. “Four bars?” laughs Malthusian. “How about twelve.”
For reference, you need look no further than opening riff of first track “Remnant Fauna”. (This is not the longest riff on Across Deaths, I assure you — just the longest one available for preview.)
CHAPTER THREE: COCHLEAR PARASITES & [CENSORED]
The female Pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis) spends most of its life inside the human intestinal tract, only emerging through the anus at night to lay its eggs. (I am not making this up.) Imagine now that what hatches from those eggs is a Malthusian melody, which traverses your dermis through the cold and terrible night in order to embed itself in your ear. Imagine now that instead of irritation, the presence of this parasite causes sublime misanthropic euphoria. I’m not saying these melodies are catchy; they’re probably not short enough to qualify in the general parlance. But they are certainly infectious, seductive even: They bend like sickly trees in a pestilential wind, melt like flesh at the pyre, and seethe like something that seethes. Each one serves in and of itself as validation for your unfavorable opinion of the world and everyone in it. Usually your disgust and hatred for all human achievements leaves you feeling insufficiently attached to your life to bother living any more of it — but with this bitchin’ new parasitic infection in your ear, the fact that everything sucks is now pleasurable to you. There is nothing wrong with the world; it was supposed to fail, and thus it is perfect.
CHAPTER FOUR: ETC.
There is a cornucopia of thrilling dissodeath out there, but I think if we were all honest with ourselves we’d admit that a lot if not most of it has the tendency to drag, i.e., a full album of disorienting and dissociative murk can eventually feel pointless. Lucky for us, there is hardly a dull moment to be found across Across Deaths. That is, unless you count the egregiously bowing middle section of “Primal Attunement — The Gloom Epoch”, which finds Malthusian slogging into the very-rarely-listenable realm of crawling death-doom. Right around the 8:30 mark, however, your ears will surely perk up at the miserable, out-of-tune groaning of strings (violin, cello, etc.). The warbling procession of this diminutive orchestra gives the song the feel of corpses ambling through an autumnal fog, and definitely redeems the four-and-a-half minutes left to go.
I think what first attracted me to Malthusian — other than its inclusion of members from Altar of Plagues — was the guitar tone. I’ve been a sucker for a really gnarly tone ever since running out of super weird metal to listen to and being forced to explore regular old extreme metal instead. Malthusian’s tone has got that earthy rotting-compost sound I’ve always loved, yet it is just clean enough to allow the dexterity of the riffs to shine through.
And if the riffs or tone aren’t what ultimately saves Across Deaths from getting lost in the shuffle, then it just might be the vocals. It’s pretty easy to tune out when the screams or growls all tread the same pitch, but Malthusian employs the full frequency range of human non-singing, often layering shrieks and growls atop each other and panning them to disparate fields in the stereo range. The end effect on the listener is that of being trapped in an asylum at full tilt, or in a room on the 13th Sublevel of Happy Knife-Orgy Day.
What a weird cycle this has been. When Malthusian dropped their first demo in 2013, it was the first modern death metal album I’d ever heard that made me stop and think: Hmm, maybe I will like modern death metal one day… It would take about two more years for me to finally come around — by which point Malthusian still hadn’t released a proper debut — and since then I’ve heard a heap of bands who tread similar waters, but none who so adroitly invoke the flair for unpalatable murk, the lust for decline and decrepitude, of Demo MMXIII. Five years later, I’ve come to doubt how much more of this stuff I need in my life. Only a few months into this year, I felt I’d entered the twilight of my fascination with dissonant, esoteric death. And then Across Deaths pulled me back into the hole. Hard to say how long I’ll be down here. A week? A month? Another five years? My tastes are as fickle as the Arizona winter. (Send long butts.)
In a year that has been reportedly gravid with excellent death metal, this puppy will likely struggle to attain the attention and praise that it is due. It certainly presents a challenging listen. But isn’t there some adage your bastard father used to drill into you about the directly proportional relationship between challenge and reward…?