Crashing into your shattered field of vision and sound, US outfit Malleus leave little to the imagination with debut album The Fires of Heaven. It’s an album that takes no prisoners and isn’t going to get them mainstream air-time; although that’s unlikely to be the primary aim of this mysterious named quartet, comprised of The Channeler (vocals), The Hammer (guitar), The Watcher (bass) and The Relentless (drums).
A collision of chaos, For The Fires of Heaven is a maelstrom of blackened thrashing death metal that is barely contained in a tightly grasped, metal studded grip. And yet the start is anything but the visceral avalanche of sonic destruction that is rapidly unleashed. “The Tempest” is a 90 second, melancholic Baroque composition that abruptly fades as the mother of all riffs erupts out of nowhere. This, combined with a devilishly evil roar introduces you to the sheer firepower that Malleus possess. “A Dark Sun Rises” is then a vicious, bruiser that tells you all you need to know about this band. It’s muscular, aggressive, and a bit tasty if you like your music treading the unruly line between control and chaos.
This is an album that draws deep into history with lyrical themes that centre on the arrival of Europeans to New England in the 17th Century. The Fires of Heaven explores the tragedies that awaited them and the challenges of cultural interactions with other settlers and the native Americans. It’s a dark topic, especially the ferocious title track which deals with the Puritan perception of salvation and grace (heaven or hell) and this central pillar of the album flicks between all-out mayhem and slower, thrashing riffage which provides a slower, yet heavier delivery.
From the classical intro, this is an album that works on every level, and improves on every listen. Initial presentation suggests another crazed riotous outing, uncontained and with musicians that are simply thrashing away at their instruments with a brutish force. But unpack it, treat it with respect and it’s a rewarding listen that increases in quality on every play.
Of course, if you can’t get past the gnarly, croaking rage of The Channeler, then it might be a bit of a challenge. But there’s no escaping the fact that this approach is simply the right one to match the sheer onslaught that’s delivered.
Highlights are many. The blistering “Beyond the Pale” draws’ influences from Scandinavia and Europe, the band clearly steeped in the 80s and 90s thrash and black metal, with the likes of Sodom, Bathory, Celtic Frost and Venom as well as a little Motörhead lurking beneath. “Into the Flesh” is balls out thrash, a punishing short and blistering track that provides a short, sharp shock and a contrast to three much longer songs, which includes the sprawling title track, and the atmospheric and monstrous duo that close the album. Penultimate track “Awakening”, which is the bastardised offspring of an unholy alliance between Candlemass, Slayer and Hellhammer, surprises as it’s a lengthy, doom-soaked, and harrowing journey that sits at odds with the remainder of the album. The tempo change continues with the concluding “Mourning War”, which opens with acoustic guitar before launching into another curved ball with symphonic elements that add layers to a thumping Sabbath-esque riff.
The Fires of Heaven is an album that needs both time and an appreciation of the blend between black, death and thrash metal. But, if you are willing to spend time with it, then the overall package – which includes a solid production and Adam Burke’s eerily crafted cover artwork – is something a bit special indeed. 9/10
Maelleus’ The Fires From Heaven is released via Armageddon Label on 27th January, 2023.