The fact that I’m writing this review is evidence that I’ve never had the experience of being fed through a woodchipper. But just as I’ve been grinding Malignant Altar’s debut demo, Retribution of Jealous Gods, into my ears over and over, it has given me a new understanding of what it means to be minced into tiny pieces of gore and viscera.
Short and sweet: Retribution of Jealous Gods is heavy. Dumb heavy. Oppressively heavy. I feel like Atlas under the weight of these three songs, except instead of the Earth on my back, it’s a gargantuan millipede with revving chainsaws for legs. Yeah. That heavy.
Featuring members of Insect Warfare and Church of Disgust, Malignant Altar is making music totally bereft of hope or humanity. Low-tuned guitars churn out punchy palm mutes and slick tremolo picking all across this record; the title track opens and closes with a riff so trudging and dirty, it might as well be a bog mummy pulling its way to the surface. The band focuses primarily on rhythmic, headbanging grooves, while the vocals growl out the guttural, unintelligible names of gods long dead. Malignant Altar deals solely in the loud, heavy, aggressive angle of death metal—there are no breathers, no pretty reprieves or flashes of light in the distance. The bright ringing bells that mark the coda of “Nephilim Burial” seem to mock beauty more than they provide it, like a key of false hope jingling just out of reach of imprisoned hands.
One of the best parts of this record has to be the drumwork of Dobber Beverly. If Retribution of Jealous Gods is a pit of slow and heavy riffs that smash corpses to meal, Beverly’s vicious drumming is the executioner reaping those bodies. Thundering double-bass rumble beneath the palm-muted chords, while splashes and crashes burst like bombs across the mix. There is so much space in the riffs that move these songs, space Beverly fills with near-constant grandiose fills and intricate cymbal work. No matter where my attention is placed, there is always some fascinating polyrhythm or syncopation to catch the ear and reel it into the grinding pit that is Malignant Altar’s music.
Retribution of Jealous Gods undoubtedly features sound and severe instrumentation, but for me, the lyrics fall a bit short of the bar set by the guitar riffs and blast beats. Every song is made up of series of short sentences laden with archaic wording, which hinders the imagery more than it helps; lines like “Precambrian lair provoked” and “A cretin suffused with hideous intent” certainly read as spooky, but really trip over themselves to get to their points. With all the antiquated language and strange pacing, the lyrics manage to come off a little blunt in comparison to the razor-sharp instrumentation—but blunt objects can be just as deadly, and Wilson P.’s bludgeoning vocal deliveries make them fit perfectly in Malignant Altar’s arsenal.
Listening to Retribution of Jealous Gods literally makes me tense: every time that last minute of the EP hits, the muscles around my mouth all contract into a grimace. Malignant Altar are sucking the very idea of life from death metal with vicious riffing, chaotic drumming, and an onslaught of distortion. These tunes are so brutal that every listen to this EP leaves me feeling like the skin has been flayed from my bones. If Malignant Altar is this relentlessly brutal out of the gate, I can only imagine (with more than a little terror) what savage darkness will be born of their upcoming full-length.
My Top Track: “Nephilim Burial”
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Retribution of Jealous Gods is on its second cassette pressing; you can grab a copy from Maggot Stomp in the US or from The Other Records in Europe. They are currently working on the upcoming debut full-length “Realms of Exquisite Morbidity;” hear a sneak peek track off their latest cassingle on Bandcamp.