Blackened speed metal titans Malleus are looking to make a name for themselves within the competitive underground. Originally debuting with 2017’s Storm of Witchcraft, the four-piece is back for more with a sister EP, titled Night Raids.
Celtic Frost-inspired riffs, dirty speed metal undertones, and rusty vocals; what more could you ask for? While calling the band a Frostian rip-off would certainly be deleterious libel against flairs of honest creativity, many of the band’s stylistic and thematic choices certainly point in that direction.
Don’t get me wrong, Malleus isn’t a worship band by any sense of the term. Celtic Frost fetishists to the likes of Apocalyptic Raids (the band named after the Frost EP) have certainly made a splash, but we don’t need more bands that sound exactly like one of the most influential metal bands of all time. However, seasoned veterans will certainly pick up on a few inspired references here and there on Night Raids, alongside Malleus’ partial sonic imitation, of course.
The thick production coating the entirety of the EP is the first element that the listener will notice, and this is a good thing to get right as an artist. Good production choices (or “bad” choices that turned out to sound pretty cool) end up being the difference between good and great releases, despite this quality’s separation from songwriting. Luckily for us, Night Raids sounds crunchy, loud, and heavy as hell. The cymbal crashing ripples through the soundscape, the vocals are meaty, and the guitars sound thick but equally capable of slicing a 2×4 in half. We’re off to a good start.
Malleus manage to stray far enough away from their Frostian roots, for the most part. The EP’s title track is the superior song on the release, for a few reasons. Firstly, “Night Raids” is well-constructed from start to finish, with the juxtaposing complexity (relatively) of the introduction and primitive simplicity of the song’s chorus, whereby the lead singer simply screams “Night Raids” in bestial fashion.
Furthermore, “Night Raids” successfully straddles the line between a serious atmosphere and rewarding songwriting. The lyrical themes and sonic complexity tease at the music lover inside me, while the catchy riffs and breakdown sections are just delicious ear candy. The song triumphs.
Unfortunately, “The Wretched” veers into a different direction. While first impressions unveil an appreciation on many levels, the track grows stale following a handful of playthroughs, for a number of reasons. First off, the song is constructed with catchy, earworm riffs that sacrifice long-term enjoyment for immediate gratification. The track’s main riff is absolutely delicious, but it lacks depth. While tracks like these are fine, and even delightfully complementary in full-length scenarios, “The Wretched” takes up over half of the EP’s timeframe, and thus brings down the release’s overall quality by a fair margin.
The track’s second shortcoming falls within its unjustified length. While both of the numbers on Night Raids fall within the same timeframe, the opening track uses its allotted time to good measure. However, “The Wretched” plays a little long due to its over usage of the aforementioned main riff, as well as its repetitive nature. Malleus clearly put an effort into making this track waver and build up/slow down to make things interesting, but there simply isn’t enough meat on these bones to justify the eight minute runtime. Furthermore, the song’s introduction leans dangerously close to being straight Celtic Frost worship, which goes against the innovative practices of the first track.
Night Raids really is a hit and miss. I praise the opening song’s qualities, as it juggles complexity and a rock n’ roll attitude effectively. However, “The Wretched” is somewhat derivative and suffers at the hands of an unnecessary runtime. While I cannot back up my upcoming claims, I’ll suggest that you check out Malleus’ debut full-length, titled Storm of Witchcraft, as it seems to have a little more variation, just from an observance of the track lengths. “Night Raids” is a great tune to add to your playlist, but unfortunately the sister song seems to quickly lose its poise. I’m definitely keeping this band on my radar for future releases though, and you should too.