Mahakala - The Second FallThere’s hardly anything that excites me more when discovering music than stumbling upon an unlikely and successful fusion of genres. I’m (mostly) not picky in regards to my taste for metal sub-genres, and when two or more of my favorites are effectively spliced together, I’m likely to remember the band in question for years to come. Yet as much as I’d love to hear an album that can pull off a mixture of doom, power, and traditional metal, with a side of thrash and accents of death and black metal without feeling overstuffed, I acknowledge that this desire is little more than a pipe dream. Except, oh wait, that exact album practically fell into my lap, and it’s actually really goddamned good. The band is Mahalkala, they come from Greece, their sophomore album is called The Second Fall, and it’s​ quite the meaty and satisfying offering. Let’s dig in.

Mahakala drafted many sub-genres in recording The Second Fall, but their approach is deceptively simple: take a big, ballsy power/traditional metal sound in the vein of Dream Evil, mash it up with huge ‘n’ heavy classic doom riffs and a general atmosphere of dread, and lace it with occasional spikes of extreme metal. This makes for a sound that’s far more cohesive than I would have ever expected, and when the band veers across genre lines, it always feels like a natural extension of their core sound rather than an aimless gimmick. And that’s the amazing thing about The Second Fall: no matter what unexpected turns Mahakala’s songs take or how many subgenres they stuff into a single track, it still establishes and maintains a singular identity, perpetually anchored by huge, drop-tuned power chords and a distinctly Ozzy Osbourne-like performance by vocalist Jim Kotsis. The album is totally unpretentious, and it fucking rocks.

The Second Fall is at its peak when Mahakala is at their most adventurous and experimental. “Redemption Denied” sees the band lurching from gargantuan, deathy doom riffs into a rocking groove metal tempo with a vocal performance that hints at glam rock; the final refrain of “Purgatorium” builds into a finale of exhilarating blast beats and blackened tremolo riffs; and “Better to Reign in Hell (Than Serve in Heaven”) cycles from creeping doom to power metal and then to thrash before coming full circle. These are all fantastic compositions, and the only thing preventing The Second Fall from being an excellent record front to back is its final two tracks. Though not bad songs by any measure, “Blessed Are the Dead” and “War Against Mankind” are somewhat underwhelming representations of Mahakala’s sound at its most basic, concluding TSF without any of the bombast or inventiveness that defines the rest of the album. It’s a shame because if these two tracks had been up to snuff with the rest of Mahakala’s material, this album could’ve been a shoo-in for my year-end list.

Mahakala 2017

Don’t take this to mean that The Second Fall possesses no merit outside its experimental leanings. “Army of the Flies” and “Unholy Fight” follow a path as straightforward as the record’s closing numbers, yet these tracks excel through powerful and more complex vocal arrangements. The vocal hooks are a huge draw overall, but I wish the guitar riffs were always on the same level. John T.’s guitar work is always at least serviceable, but occasionally the riffs can sit in the background as window dressing to the vocals. This makes the choice to crank the guitars in the mix feel like a questionable decision at times; The Second Fall goes for a massive sound that’s more akin to a death metal production job than a doom or power metal one, but it doesn’t typically have the crushing instrumentation to match the relentless volume. Even so, I kind of like this sound as it’s unique to this sort of record, and it’s fun to blast as I’m barreling down the highway.

Mahakala is scraping right up against 4.0 territory with The Second Fall, and aside from some minor nitpicks, a couple of weaker tracks are all that’s stopping it from breaking through to indisputable greatness. Even so, this is a special and immensely enjoyable record likely to appeal to a wide audience. If you like your power metal heavy, your doom metal melodic, and your songwriting exploratory, I can’t recommend The Second Fall enough.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Supreme Music Creations
Release Dates: GR: 2017.04.14 | WW: 05.26.2017

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  • Eli Valcik

    Sweet Christmas!

  • Ta2dlam

    Totoally diggin’ on this. Wierdly, I just ran across Goatess II – Purgatory Under New Management today and was listening to it when I opened this review. I thought that was kicking some doom ass, and it was, but I like this far better with it’s penchant for flowing musical and vocal changes.

    • Eli Valcik

      Goatess, that’s a good one. I still quote The Goon’s review of it on their bandcamp page to weird out my friends.

  • Sharp-Blunt Boy

    That was a really refreshing listen – definitely checking the rest of the album out.

    And, love the use of the old film for video – the high drama matches the music. Thank Beelzebub they didn’t go for another trite lyric video.

  • Horsepower Elite

    The embedded track is really good! I’m definitely going to have to check this out.

  • VikingSchism

    I’m definitely going to need to check this out in a few days when I get back from camping, because unfortunately the data connection isn’t good enough to stream albums

  • metalcasket

    Great review! Wish you had given this that 4.0 though… “War Against Mankind” has one of the best choruses on the album.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      I prefer the chorus to “Unholy Fight” myself. I love that they paired it with one the album’s heaviest, crunchiest riffs. Really glad I’m not the only one loving this though.

      • Eli Valcik

        This is pretty great, loving Unholy fight as well as Better to Reign in Hell. This band kinda reminds me of a doomier A7x and that is a really good thing.

  • Nukenado

    I don’t know why there’s a genre switch at the 2 minute mark, but I’m okay with this. Very okay with this…

  • WhamBamSam

    I was all set to be disappointed in the music not living up to the review until around the 2 minute mark, but I apologize for having doubted you. Seems like the sort of record that’ll really reward repeat listens too. Definitely something I’ll be picking up at some point.

  • Treble Yell

    Quite like this, at least based on the embedded track. Bought.

  • drug_genosh

    invisible oranges ran a piece on these guys a month or two back and ever since its been in my regular rotation. Great straight up metal that you could probably get your uncle to listen to, while still actually enjoying it yourself. But I gotta say, the comment on the youtube for the album, “master shake vocals”, is painfully accurate/hilarious…but only makes me love it more!

  • AnnieK13

    Really like this one, good review.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The video is really unsettling and disturbing… like the video for Curse Of Denial’s Night Terror. Early reel footage seems to have a disturbing quality in itself, no matter the subject.

  • The Unicorn

    Ooof, that albvm cover is creepers.

  • h_f_m

    Solid.. extremely solid…

  • Tofu muncher

    namedropping Dream Evil. That’s low, as now I have to check this one out and see what the fuss is all about.

  • Check the singers back. I’m betting he has a pull string and slots for the first 3 Saxon albums in there.

    But damn am I digging this.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Looking back at this…shoulda been a 4 or 4.5 all day long. Listened to it again, it really is something special, like a mix of Candlemass, Sabbath and Down.