One of the architects of Florida death metal, Malevolent Creation issue their 13th full-length recording, appropriately titled The 13th Beast. Early recordings The Ten Commandments and Retribution are viewed as genre classics. The group hasn’t slowed up musically or issuing albums, putting out a new record about every two-and-a-half years. With such longevity and an established style, the band faces a catch-22. Do they want to play it safe and release what fans expect or throw a curve ball?
The 13th Beast doesn’t throw many curveballs. However, playing it safe seems the wrong phrase for describing Malevolent Creation. They play dangerous music filled with murder and mayhem. The 13th Beast is fast and bludgeoning. Hammering grooves (think Suffocation) alternate with speed picking, buzz saw guitars and blast beats. The tempo swifts are impressive and sometimes surprising. “Agony of the Chosen” moves tremendously fast, but abruptly pauses between each chorus line. The occasional down tempo makes an appearance on “End the Torture” and “Mandatory Butchery.”
Phil Fasciana is the sole original member of the band and it’s easy to see his fingerprints all over The 13th Beast. His signature guitar sound is one of the main facets that brought people to the band in the first place (Rob Barrett wasn’t too shabby, either), and he doesn’t forsake it here. He did, however, bring in all new members in 2017. South African Lee Wollenschlaeger replaces original vocalist Bret Hoffman, who passed away in 2018 from colon cancer.
Wollenschlaeger has a similar pitch to George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher of Cannibal Corpse. Compared to other Malevolent Creation vocalists, his voice isn’t as high as Hoffman or as low as Jason Blachowitz. Like the other vocalists, though, the lyrics aren’t hard to decipher. He doesn’t have the range of Hoffman or the creativity, but he’s efficient.
The rhythm section of drummer Phil Cancilla and bassist Josh Gibbs is one of the album’s strongest points. The two work brilliantly on “Born of Pain.” Gibbs’ bass is up front in the mix, adding a powerful punch to the pounding groove. Cancilla joins an alumni of primo blasters Dave Culross, Alex Marquez and Derek Roddy. The group didn’t slow down a bit with Cancilla’s fast swift limbs.
The rhythm section is one of the album’s best qualities. With fresh faces, come fresh sounds. The bass sounds terrific and adds heft. Fasciana plays his trademark riffs with an occasional thrash breakdown. Wollenschlaeger has tough shoes to fill, but gets the job done, and the discernable vocal refrain (“I will end you, now!”) makes the record memorable.
Looking at The 13th Beast from a collective, career-spanning standpoint—at least in the latter era—Malevolent Creation doesn’t offer many new ideas. However, the unrelenting speed and murderous chorus lines result in a strong showing when viewed on the record’s own merit.
(released March 1, 2019 on Century Media Records)
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Watch Malevolent Creation – “Decimated” Video