Today marks the 25th(!) anniversary of Malevolent Creation’s debut The Ten Commandments, an album that announced the Floridian death metallers arrival on the scene with considerable style and holds up as a quintessential early 90’s death metal classic and an album that has retained its heavyweight impact a quarter of a century on.
A perfectly executed balancing act between thrash and death, The Ten Commandments remains a transitional milestone, as instrumental in bridging the thrash/death divide as Pestilence’s Consuming Impulse and Sepultura’s Beneath The Remains among others. The band may have evolved into an even more potent death metal machine in the preceding years but this outstanding debut arguably remains their finest moment; feral, unpredictable and fearless.
An album preoccupied with themes that affect all of mankind – violence, death, religion – the spoken word opening of “Memorial Arrangements” perfectly sets the stage for what follows; a morbid expression of primal urges, fears of mortality and religious dubiety set to some of the fastest – without becoming discernible – and most aggressive death metal of the early 90’s. There was no jazz influences, no classical interludes, no experimental or technical showboating, The Ten Commandments simply let rip with ten tracks of direct and clinically efficient hammering.
Herein lies the key to The Ten Commandments‘ success; consistent songwriting. Carried over from thrash’s heyday – with Malevolent Creation distancing themselves from death metal’s penchant for blasting away just for the sake of it – catchy choruses were paramount (check out “Thou Shall Kill'”), groove initiated and confidence in ‘their’ sound flowed with abundance, a band content to let the quality of the songwriting speak for itself.
With a style of riffing that retained its ‘thrashiness’ – “Sacrificial Annihilation” particularly hit a nerve, mimicking Slayer without ripping them off – sections of crushing doom were also utilised sparingly to create contrast and an endless parade of memorable moments. With the music nailed, the visceral visuals were then ramped up by the acerbic tongue of Brett Hoffmann. Highly evocative and delivered perfectly (precious few death metal vocalists achieved such raspy clarity and only David Vincent’s utterances on Altars Of Madness match Hoffmann here), the icing on the cake was a vocal performance that still retains its power and coherence.
In a year that saw an incredible number of death metal classics enter the world – Entombed’s Clandestine, Masacre’s From Beyond, Immolation’s Dawn Of Possession, Bolt Thrower’s War Master, Morbid Angel’s Blessed Are The Sick, Asphyx’s The Rack, Dismember’s Like An Ever Flowing Stream, Pestilence’s Testimony Of The Ancients, Cannibal Corpse’s Butchered At Birth, Atheist’s Unquestionable Presence, Suffocation’s Effigy Of The Forgotten, Autopsy’s Mental Funeral, Death’s Human, the list goes on- it is testament to The Ten Commandment‘s boundless qualities that it still holds its nerve in such awe-inspiring company.
Perhaps not as revered as many of the albums just listed, The Ten Commandments’ legacy as a thrash/death crossover remains undiminished. 25 years on and this heckle-raising experience is as palpable as ever!