The Malkuth Grimoire
17th March 2015 – Self-released
01. Carbon Phrases
02. From A Hadron Machinist
04. Alter Magnitudes
06. Dyson Sphere – I. Mining The Oorth Cloud
07. Dyson Sphere – II. Assembly
08. Dyson Sphere – III. Kardashev 2.1-The God Oven
09. Dyson Sphere- IV. Sol Omega
10. The Malkuth Grimoire
11. C-Value Enigma
12. Funeral For A Continent
With members from bands like Aborted, Obscura and Noneuclid, Alkaloid fall into the unenviable category of “supergroup”; a group mostly inhabited by sore disappointments only defended by the most rabid of fanboys unable to deal with the crippling disappointment that comes from the realisation that your favourite musicians are apparently unable to work together to produce something vaguely similar in quality to what you’d expect of them. Luckily then, for us and them, Alkaloid manage to avoid this entirely and actually produce a quality album that is a genuinely original and intriguing take on progressive metal.
But while it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon of 5/5 and 96/100 reviews that have been popping up everywhere, The Malkuth Grimoire is not without its flaws.
For starters, it’s quite long: twelve songs in seventy-three minutes, to be precise. When it comes to long albums, length is unfortunately often the result of bad quality control. The Malkuth Grimoire doesn’t really seem to suffer from that, but still, it doesn’t quite manage to keep me listening all the way through on a regular basis. It’s not that it’s lacking in quality – all the songs have great elements and if you listen to the album in two sittings it’s a very enjoyable ride – but for whatever reason I sometimes find myself checking my proverbial watch as if I’m waiting for a train around the halfway point. Maybe it’s due to the lack of any sort of emotional connection – maybe Alkaloid just aren’t quite there yet – but either way, although it doesn’t break the album, it definitely doesn’t help either.
The instrumentation is quite technical at times – as is to be expected from the players involved – but it’s not all shredding at 300 BPM, and this is one of the reasons why calling it progressive metal, rather than technical death metal, will give you a better idea of the album’s sound. The three-guitar assault of Christian Muenzner, Danny Tunker and Morean remains the main focal point, but bassist Linus Klausenitzer is no slouch, as anyone familiar with his work in Obscura should know. Hannes Grossman‘s dominance of the drum kit shouldn‘t surprise anyone either, considering his tenure in bands like Necrophagist, Obscura and Blotted Science.
In fact, no one should be surprised by any of these players‘ mastery of their respective instruments – but what may surprise you is the genuine variety of styles and moods displayed on The Malkuth Grimoire outside of the death metal you might expect. There are shredding solos, rapid-fire riffs and brutal blasting, but there are also clean chords, slow slams and creative crescendos; variety really is the name of the game.
Up front, Morean covers a wide range of styles. His clean melodies are catchy, and often arranged with interesting harmonies. His rough voice is sometimes reminiscent of Motorhead’s Lemmy or I’s Abbath – something that might be a bit polarising depending on your thoughts on the those two – but while the style serves its purpose here, often to great effect, it isn’t quite consistent enough. What’s more, Morean’s growls are functional, but mostly unspectacular; there are times where they feel more powerful and bring more energy to the music, but most often they are, as is sadly par for the course when it comes to death metal vocals, more function than form.
The album starts with a couple of incredibly strong songs, “Carbon Phrases” and “From a Hadron Machinist”, which effectively show off not only the variety, but the band’s excellent songwriting skills at work. The pair clock in at a cool 19 minutes; couple that with the epic album closer “Funeral for a Continent” and you’ve got three songs that outlast Slayer’s Reign In Blood. Despite these potentially excessive run times, the songs are never boring and consistently bring something new to the table, but also return – very effectively – to exactly the bits you’d like to revisit, often with slight twists. For example, “From a Hadron Machinist” features a great chorus of sorts (“Sincere – your organic thought machine“) that features both clean and screamed vocals, whilst the instrumentals follow along with appropriate feel for each style.
The Malkuth Grimoire is a very good album. The variety, the power and the overall quality is something you almost never see from supergroups, and considering they could have easily churned out a semi-solid tech death album and still sold as much as a tech death band can expect to sell, the decision to do something completely original is one I greatly respect.
However, given the amount of ambition and care that obviously went into crafting this album, it’s disappointing that not as much care has been taken with the harsh vocals – especially when so many bands make an effort to make an emotional statement through this medium.
So it’s good, but it’s not a game changer. Definitely check it out if you’re a fan of progressive metal and/or the people involved, but don’t let the hype ruin it for you.