For a band that has, up to this point, released only a three-song, twenty-four-minute cassette demo, Irish quartet Malthusian certainly have a ton of hype behind them. That’s to be expected, though; the band put out one hell of an exciting demo a couple of years ago, and their drummer J.K.’s connection to both Abaddon Incarnate and Altar of Plagues is reason enough for excitement. The recent announcement that they’ll be playing Martyrdoom Festival has generated enough Internet buzz to turn this Tuesday night show in November into a must-see event. But until then, let’s digest their upcoming debut EP, Below the Hengiform, which will be coming our way early next month.
Below the Hengiform is another three-track release from Malthusian, though this time on more than cassette. As a good friend of mine suggested, the length of their releases is part of their brilliance—it keeps their sound from becoming monotonous. Instead, their releases are succinct and consistent. The opening track, “The Gasless Billows” is probably the most lively on the EP. There are hints of doom and atmosphere but overall, this is a raw, blackened thing, complete with blast beats and tortured vocals. “Slouching Equinox” opens faster than anything on the album but, at just under nine minutes, the overall result is exceptionally balanced and spacious. Finally, we get “Forms Become Vapor,” which is—despite being the shortest track on Hengiform at just over six minutes—the behemoth of the album. Dense as a flourless chocolate cake and just as filling, the song will leave you satisfied and ready for a nap.
Malthusian cannot be pigeonholed as merely a blackened death metal band. They also take inspiration heavily from doom metal, and the way they are able to build tension in their songs is something unique and utterly tied to that sound. But Malthusian also employs guitar sounds that border on sludge, and drums that are quite Neil Perry-ish and experimental. (Or in other words, that term I hate: “post-metal.”) The murky sounds only serve to enhance the tension that Malthusian is able to create—tension that’s usually broken with a blast beat and old school black metal vocals that just rip.
Although short, Below the Hengiform is certainly the beginning of something terrific. Where doom bands, as well as black metal bands, can occasionally bore you with excessive song lengths, Malthusian have found the ability to edit and include enough diversity throughout each track that the songs never feel as long as they are. That’s a good thing. As they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” These guys—and this album—have certainly taken that to heart.