Alkaloid The Malkuth Grimoire 01When guitarist Christian Muenzner (Spawn of Possession, ex-Necrophagist) and drummer Hannes Grossman (Blotted Science, ex-Necrophagist) departed Obscura last year, needless to say I was pretty bummed. The duo was an integral part of the band’s sparkling technical and progressive death metal formula that yielded back-to-back masterworks in Cosmogenesis and Omnivium. So while Obscura’s future looks uncertain, the gifted pair have forged ahead with a brand spankin’ new outfit called Alkaloid featuring an all-star line-up comprising Danny Lunker (Aborted, ex-God Dethroned) on guitars, Morean (Dark fortress, Noneuclid) on vocals, and Linus Klausenitzer (Obscura, Noneuclid) handling bass. So do Alkaloid deliver on the promise of a ridiculously talented group of musicians, or is The Malkuth Grimoire yet another example of a star-studded line-up weaker than the sum of its parts?

Well first and foremost Alkaloid are clearly not content to slip into a comfort zone here. To the contrary, the band seems hellbent on making a lasting impression on the current metal scene with a fresh and unique sound that’s bravely adventurous, musically complex and downright exciting. No, this is not another indulgent wankfest of superior musicianship masking sub-standard song-writing, nor is it a run of the mill tech death album by any stretch of the imagination. In fact the term ‘technical death metal’ only scratches the surface of the Alkaloid experience. A fluid progressiveness and strong melodic sensibility is firmly embedded into the song-writing, while dark atmospherics and hypnotic and adventurous musical passages compliment the band’s burly death metal base. Speaking of which, there’s no shortage of warp speed thrashing, bruising double bass, and well placed blasts to satisfy the death metal fiend in us all. Despite the generally weighty length of many of the compositions, there’s an ample supply of catchy and interesting moments to recall and revisit.

Alkaloid’s deployment of monstrous grooves are some of the finest I’ve experienced in the wider death metal genre in recent years, such as the asteroid smashing groove on multifaceted opener “Carbon Phrases” or the doomy, space-age Morbid Angel lurch of “Cthulhu.” So as musically flashy, restrained and melodic as this album can be, the band’s heavier death metal urges are never far away. The Malkuth Grimoire is a stunning showcase of not only the immense talents of the individual musicians, but the overall experience and band chemistry they share as a unit. A point that bodes well for the future. Alkaloid’s music is rich in song-writing dynamics and innovation that shatters genre conventions and lends the album so much character. Although they differ significantly in execution, I’m fondly reminded of Wormed’s brilliant Exodtomos opus in regards to the album’s mind-bending musical traits, cool guitar effects and bleak futuristic tone. Grossman’s drumming is an overflowing well of creativity and stylistic variation, the inventive guitar work and fusion shred solos bend space and time, while Morean’s vocals comfortably match up with the album’s strong dynamics. His thick, formidable growls take center stage, however, he mixes things up admirably through his admittedly weird robotic cleans and half sung, half growled melodic vocal styles.

Alkaloid The Malkuth Grimoire 02

Unfortunately the drawn-out length of The Malkuth Grimoire takes away the enjoyment of experiencing the album in one complete sitting. The subject of poor self-editing and overblown album run times has been broached here at AMG on numerous occasions, and for good reason as it’s a frustrating blight on the current metal scene. Realistically with the daily grind and general busyness of everyday life, finding a whopping 73 minutes to dedicate to one album in a single sitting is an unrealistic expectation for the average metalhead or music fan. Obviously the band members had an absolute blast recording this material and getting the creative juices flowing, but perhaps they could have thought of alternative options for splitting the material up.

The spacious and vaguely experimental four part “Dyson Sphere” sequence could have been released in EP format without detracting from the cohesive flow of the album. On top of that, shave off the short and pointless solo shred of “C-Value Enigma” and you are left with a still hefty but much leaner and palatable 55 minute run time. Anyway, that’s just some food for thought and in defense of the band the material rarely dips below an exceptionally high standard from start to finish. The largely self-produced album, with mixing and mastering by V. Santura, captures the band’s sound very well, with the instruments nicely balanced in the mix and equipped with sharp, heavy tones and plenty of low-end muscle. However a more consistently dynamic recording, particular during the blastier sections, would have been welcome.

I was a little slow on the uptake on the release of Alkaloid’s debut album, following a successful crowdfunding campaign. So this mind-bending juggernaut of doomy, progressive and experimental technical death metal has surprised and subsequently floored me. Alkaloid have crafted something special and unique here that should not be passed up by fans of highly original and inventive technical and progressive death metal.


Rating: 4.0 /5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
WebsitesAlkaloidOfficial | Facebook.com/Alkaloid
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 03.17.2015

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  • spheric666

    long story short:
    “wow”.

  • Malev Draizhen

    It’s surprising that these guys aren’t in the metal archives yet

    • Scourge

      I think it should be pointed out that these guys used Crowdfunding to fund the recording of this album which means they took contributions from the general public to pay for recording, mixing and mastering this specific album and pledged that all funds received would be used for that purpose alone and not personal enrichment. I imagine that could have something to do with the album length, as the more contributions they received, the more they were able to record I’d assume.

      Malev, that wasn’t meant to be a direct response to you, sorry.

  • tomasjacobi

    I usually agree with the whole “make short albums” thing, but I wouldn’t like a single second of this album to be left off. And that includes C-Value Enigma!

    • Luke_22

      Yeah my problem isn’t that the album lacks quality but as I stated a follow-up EP to break up the length would have been a good move. Either way it’s an amazing album.

      • proglover37

        You really should’ve invested more time with the album before writing this review, because now it just reads like you’re too lazy to invest time in a record that warrants that time thousandfold.

        • Luke_22

          I disagree entirely. Like every single album I’ve ever reviewed I invested a considerable amount of time into this superb album, through multiple listens of in dividual tracks and numerous times from start to finish. My complaint as i stated during one of the other comments is that while the quality of the album is outstanding throughout and the replay value is great, personally I don’t think it willl be a regular occurrence that i have a completely uninterrupted listening session across the album’s 73 minutes.

          If you don’t have an issue with the length that’s great. it certainly isn’t an issue that will prevent me playing the shit out of this album for hopefully years to come or strongly recommending it.

          • spheric666

            as much as I like this album and progressive music in general, I don’t think there is any need for 70+ mins of prog death. It’s not a matter of time required to fully understand it, or of diminishing quality, it’s just that one can absorb so much pounding and complexity in one session.
            This said, it’s a great album that IMHO has no low points and I wouldn’t know what to cut.

  • RandomSoul

    I had some doubts before this album released, but yeah, I’m impressed. The song writing really stands out. They set out to make something fresh and I think they accomplished that.

  • Tentacles

    You know, listening to the embedded track with the Necrophagist connection foremost in my mind, at first I wasn’t really sure.

    By 2:25. Yes. Definitely.

    • Luke_22

      Damn straight! The grooves are absolutely killer.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    …I can’t freaking wait to get my hands on this.

  • gui

    It seems there is a new trend on AMG of bashing albums merely for their length. This is a valid criticism of many albums, but let’s not start devaluing excellent albums just for the sake of checking a box.

    This particular album is excellent and I do not find the length to be an issue.

    • I don’t think we bash albums based on length alone, though we do comment if albums feel too long. It’s a valid point on many albums these days.

      • proglover37

        True. It holds no merit however when the reviewer comments on the fact that the quality is consistently high. He just doesn’t have the time to listen to it. That’s his problem, not the problem of the album.

        • You’re getting pretty worked up on the minor complaint in a very positive review. Maybe you have TOO MUCH time on your hands. :)

          • proglover37

            Possibly. I’ll spin the album a couple more times.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            ha I just said the almost exact same thing :)

        • Luke_22

          Disagree again. It’s not that I don’t have the time to listen to the album, it’s purely about enjoying the album as it is intended by listening consistently from start to finish without interruption. I was certainly never bored or too lazy to appreciate the album. As once again my review reinforces.

        • Though I would argue that it defeats the purpose of a full-length record to produce something that can rarely be consumed in a single sitting. Completeness is part of what makes a great album great.

    • Luke_22

      I’m looking at this very much in the context of the whole album experience. I’ve been blasting this through detailed and casual listens and will continue to do so. I do however believe it will be a rare occasion that I find the time to listen through its entirety in a singular session. This album is phenomenal and it does differ from other overlong albums in that the quality remains at a high standard throughout. And it will be a strong contender when it comes time to year end list time.

      • proglover37

        I see what you mean, but saying that all material is really strong and then nitpicking on the length of the album (even though all of it is really strong) because YOU don’t have time to listen to it is hardly fair.
        I wouldn’t want to lose a single second of this album and the sheer IDEA of them leaving ‘Dyson Sphere’ of the album because (once again) YOU don’t have time to listen to a long album is just plain sacrilege.

        Seriously, I checked the album out after reading your review and after listening to it 6 times in full i can only go ‘WTF’ at that part of your review.

        Once I again I stagger at the fact that you want them to gibe less material to the fans because you don’t have time to listen to the album. `that, right there, is maybe an indication you should NOT review music.

        • So to sum up: his glowing review directed you to an album you now love, but because he quibbled with the length, he shouldn’t review music? Gotcha.

          • proglover37

            Yeah, because seeing the review was only a reminder it had already come out and got me worried. You gotta admit though that saying the material is consistently strong but then the length is a problem because he doesn’t have the time to listen to it is absolutely ludicrous. That’s like saying ‘oh shit, my christmas bonus was double what i expected it to be but I don’t have time to spend it right now’.

          • I don’t have to admit anything of the sort. Most of the writers on this site (myself included) find albums these days tend to run too long. Even a great album can wear out it’s welcome due to sheer length. It has nothing to do with being lazy or not loving music enough. Some albums just run long, be they good, bad or average.

          • Luke_22

            I’m not complaining about the abundance of quality material the band has delivered here, or that I don’t have time to listen to the album, but in the context of the ‘album experience’, shaving some time off would have created a punchier impact in my opinion. Your boiling hostility over this point astounds me. I projected my opinion, gave the album a very positive review which you can agree or disagree on, now it’s time to move on dude and enjoy the album.

          • The only thing that is absolutely ludicrous here is the amount of time that you’ve devoted to whining about the one negative aspect of an otherwise glowing review, plus the aspersions cast on the reviewer and his professionalism.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I don’t think it’s fair to say L.Saunders ‘bashed’ or devalued the album, thats a pretty darn glowing review really. In principle I definitely agree with the comments about album run lengths. Maybe having a producer on board could have helped a bit here with the editing process…

      Similarly, Panopticon’s “Roads to the North’ (also 75min) a brilliant album that the experience of listening to and appreciating as an album could have been improved by it’s centre piece “the Long road…P’s I – III” (at 20 mins) being dropped and released later as what would be an excellent stand alone EP…

      I would imagine when a band like Alkaloid or Panopticon has a wealth of quality material, that there would be some commercial and promotional advantage in staggering its release. For me 40mins is a good length for an album. it’s easier to find the time to listen to it in its entirety and if your enjoying it go back to back and build a familiarity with the material.

      • proglover37

        The band is giving more material for you to familiarize yourself with for the same price as a 40 minute album, so you won’t HAVE to buy 2 releases. It means you pay less and get more to enjoy. The reviewer here has commented that all material is really strong, but nitpicks the length because he doesn’t have the time to familiarize himself with all of it. I honestly don’t know how that works. So the band has to give less material to fans because some people are too damn lazy or just don’t want to invest time in an album that deserves that time more than any release I’ve heard in a long time? Something that really has never been done before. Finally an original act comes along again!

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          I think you might be getting a bit too worked up over this…
          L.S wrote a compelling review with a minor criticism noting that the release is long…which has nothing to do with laziness, more to do with having the uninterrupted block of time to concentrate on or dig into an album…not only that having that block of time coinciding with the appropriate levels of mental energy for a 75min one artist marathon. The long albums I own and love, I listen to in full less than albums with shorter run times. That Im sure would be the case for most.
          Maybe the artist doesn’t intended for the work to be appreciated as a whole…then you’d have to question the sense in such a massive dump. You’d have to think it makes more sense economically (for everyone) and promotionally to stagger releases. I think your wrong about it being better value for the fan, if you consider digital purchasing or particularly vinyl… I would much prefer two lower buy ins over a year or two than one hefty buy in. I have a long wish list at band camp and often it’s the more expensive releases that get held over till next time.
          it can also be the case with a long release that it’s the artist that’s been ‘lazy’. Not investing enough time into quality control and editing. I thought Priest’s last release was a perfect example of this. Too many sub standard songs and songs that go on and on..and on. It would have made a killer 35min Album rather than the rather tiresome 70+min affair it ended up being.
          Anyway to each their own I definitely prefer my albums shorter.

          • proglover37

            All your points re valid, except the price of the album. This 73 minute album costs as much as a 40 minute album by other artists. So you get a really long album for under 10 bucks (on itunes). As far as I know this is not out on vinyl.
            Agree on the Priest album, but that doesn’t apply to this album because it never meanders. Which is also pointed out in the review.
            Look, we’re probably not going to agree on this, but this album is strong from start to finish and leaving anything off it would be a blemish on a now perfect release.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Im a big Hannes Grossman and Obscura fan, so I have no doubt I will love this release (and appreciate the virtue of its length), so we can definitely agree on that :)
            I just down loaded this from bandcamp…and you are right. For $10, an amount only a fraction more than what I pay for albums of half the length and production value…The truth for artists these days is that almost regardless of who you are, It ain’t cheap or easy to make 73mins of quality music. and I think the artist suffers here, and for what?
            Is the experience of the fan critically enhanced by the extra 20 or 30 mins of material? Usually, no.
            Could the work still have been appreciated minus a chunk or with serious editing. Usually, yes.
            Would a shorter run time have increased their media options i.e. vinyl…yes.
            Would a shorter run time have forced them to really examine and prioritise their material…Absolutely!

      • gui

        I agree the review was overall fair. In and of itself I have no issues with it, not even the length comment. I was speaking more to the general trend of AMG reviewers and commentators seeming to fall into groupthink of late regarding album length.

    • Greg Hasbrouck

      Noting a record’s length becomes a valid criticism whenever the album reaches that point at which it becomes more work than joy for a reviewer to sit through.

      • proglover37

        That’s why it’s not valid in this case because he nots the quality of the material. The only point he gives is he ‘doesn’t have time’ to sit through the album. Absolute hogwash.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    …must…get

  • Wilhelm

    Killer song, I hear classic YES when those clean vocals kick in.

    • John Thornton

      Morean’s breakthrough musical moment in his life was getting and wearing out Yes’ 90125…

  • andrew macdonald

    Really great. But would definitely benefit by being trimmed by 20 minutes or so.

    • proglover37

      100% disagree.

  • Norfair Legend

    Listened to a sample and passed, listened to a song on lunch at work and passed, went to iTunes to sample some more and decided to just download it on a whim…Jammed it in the car with proper volume and holy shit is this album great. I’ve listened to it about five times through already and it just keeps getting better and better. Reminds me of a modern Nocturnus which is a great thing!

  • Lasse Momme

    this. this is how you make interesting prog. death.

  • Martin Knap

    album of the month?

    • TrackMyBehind

      Yes please! What an excellent album.

  • Ahh, this is so good. But it really is quite long. I do love how well they’re developing the sound that Grossmann started playing with on his solo record from last year.

    • Martin Knap

      will it be the “record ov the month”?

      • Oh, hard to say. So many records in the running for March.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Yet again Hannes Grossman comes and floors! Can this man ever be less than GODLY?!

  • sir_c

    An album of this caliber with such long runtime is like having made a double portion of lasagna: there’s plenty for tomorrow to enjoy.

    The conclusion I can agree with: cutting some out would have increased the impact.

    But still, this shit is pretty massive.

    • Luke_22

      Certainly not complaining about the quality or large load of material, but more about how it runs as a single album. Otherwise, nearly every aspect of this album is exceptional. Glad you dig it.

  • peter panda

    seriously dedicated a paragraph to complaining that the album is too long? i disagree strongly, and maybe you should reflect on that failure to self edit part. I think your daily grind of listening to albums for review is likely swaying you here, consider that many of us have quite a bit of time to listen to music and we maybe aren’t so jaded as to be tired of an album after 60 minutes.

    • Luke_22

      Ha, fair point, perhaps I harped on it too much, as I certainly didn’t mean to turn anyone away from the album. I love this album a great deal and while i listen to a lot of music on a daily basis, unless I’m having a ‘do nothing’ type of day, it is difficult to listen from start to finish without interruption on an album of this length. Otherwise this is amazing stuff. Furthermore I see it as a privilege to write about music, particularly of this calibre so I am most definitely not jaded. It’s only a rare occasion where reviewing material becomes a chore (e.g. weak albums that I don’t enjoy). Thanks for reading.

  • ProgBen

    Long album, but every song is superb & varied. Sure, it could have been sub 1 hour, but I quite like having to listen to it in two halves or devote the full 73 minutes to it.

    Much like Parallax II (BTBAM), the album ends very strongly and the middle remains engaging, so I have no problem with the runtime.

    Metal AotY for me so far

  • Óðhinn

    Meh.

  • Ssswing

    That ending solo’s on Funeral for a Continent…. my god!! Loving them!

  • Paralian

    I agree with a lot of things in this review,

    BUT one or two things.

    There are different audiences for everything. If they felt like they had to make a 2 hour album then they could have by all means. Don’t hold it against them that they are not appealing to the “average” listener, whoever that is supposed to be (definitions vary wildly, one definition of “long” is another’s definition of short, etc.). Criticizing the album length is like criticizing the band for not writing in a different genre. It’s an intentional stylistic choice.

    If one doesn’t have the attention span to listen to a long album, or cannot enjoy listening for long periods of time, that is not the artist’s problem. There are different bands out there for those who enjoy shorter songwriting.
    One more point, try applying this logic to symphonies or long concertos, how does that hold up? The artists deemed the length necessary, therefore it is.

    PS. I thought C value enigma was short, innovative, and fit the theme of the album. It is an example of what guitar sounds like at ridiculous, impossible to play tempos. I’m not sure if the writer of this article knows that it is unplayable. It is a short comment about synthetic music. As a composer myself, I know that our kind ALWAYS write things that we cannot play, and I love it that they had the balls to say, yeah, we do that, so what? It’s cool. Writing is not all about “can I play this?”.

    Beside these few points, overall a good review.

  • Rasmus Steinke

    Review sounds more like a 4.5