Assumptions. No matter how hard we try not to make them, we always end up drawing conclusions about something without checking it out beforehand. In this case, with a description in our promo list as “melodic death metal,” and seeing that they hail from Sweden, I grabbed Monolith of the Malign, the debut album from Pale King, expecting some twin-guitar Gothenburg melodies. And man, was I off. After much investigation, Pale King is a side-project of Jonny Pettersson and Håkan Stuvemark of long-running death-dealers Wombbath, aiming to capture an old-school melodic death metal feel, but with modern-day songwriting chops. So is this melodic death metal worthy of praise, or is this “melodic” death metal that you’re better off avoiding?

It depends on how you want your melodic death metal served. Do you wish Amorphis kept the path that The Karelian Isthmus laid out? Do you yearn for classic Unleashed in your aural artillery? If so, Monolith of the Malign‘s got you covered. Opening with a melody that modern-day Rotting Christ would kill for, “The Last Hour” lays waste with pummeling drums, Pettersson’s raspy growl, and riffs piled upon tasty riffs. It doesn’t take long for the song to bury its hooks in you and drag you along for the ride. Pettersson and Stuvemark possess a knack for good riffs and melodic sections, making the song’s almost five-minute length feel like an adventure. Add Jon Rudin’s thundering drums and fills, and you too with be windmilling in approval.

That’s not to say that Monolith of the Malign isn’t varied. Both “Ominous Horrors” and “The Curse” have clean vocals buried in the mix during the chorus, adding a majestic air to the brutality. “Resurrected” sees the band dipping their toes into the same ritual chalice that Samael drank from in the early 90s, featuring a keyboard section that recalls Blood Ritual to amazing effect. And none of the eight songs overstay their welcome, which is a huge change of pace for a new band, whether or not they feature scene alumni. At a crisp, almost-40 minutes of total run time, the songs bludgeon and rage, incite thrown horns and banged heads, and then leave when it’s time to go. New bands around the world, learn from this.

But not all is rosey in the realm of the Monolith. The production is definitely a throwback to the sunny (Sunlighty?) days of yore. It’s heavy and (ahem) monolithic, especially where the drums are concerned. The drawback comes in the lack of dynamics and breathing space. Plainly put, this fucker is LOUD. Even at low volumes, any attempts at tremolo picking, such as in “The Last Hour,” results in a screechy, feedback-drenched blur. As such, bassist Hannah Gill gets lost in the mix more often than not. Also, the band loves to hang onto the anthemic parts of their repertoire to the point of exhausting their potency. That opening riff to “The Last Hour” is indeed monstrous and horn-throwy, but not when it’s repeated over and over again.

Despite its flaws, Monolith of the Malign showcases a promising path ahead for Pale King. If they can work on tightening the songwriting a bit, and not crank every setting to 11 in the studio, they will definitely level skulls in no time. If you miss the olden days of death metal with a pinch of the epic, you could do far worse than Monolith.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Soulseller Records
Releases Worldwide: April 21st, 2017

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  • Mikko_Kukkonen

    Judging by the embedded track, this sounds muddy as hell! Too bad, since the music itself sounds pretty promising. I can’t see myself sitting through a whole album of this kind of fuzziness.

  • Westpaceagle

    Great review. Not something I would typically have on my radar, but I’ll give it a go.

  • Excentric_13073

    Holy crap, I want to like this but I can’t really… perceive… the music being played except in occasional moments. If they backed it off just a teensy bit this would be a winner.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    Wow, this production sounds like a slightly better version of the DR4 Henry Kane album I reviewed a couple months back. But like that album, there’s definitely some good stuff lurking under all the murk. Good review!

    Edit: I almost missed the fact that Jonny Pettersson is also in this band – Henry Kane is his solo project. That explains a lot.

  • Jeff Manteiga

    This sounds like listening to Be’lakor B-sides with steel wool in my ears.

  • Chris

    I picked up this album and tried listening to it a few times over the weekend. I mostly just came away with a big ol’ meh.

    Feels like something I should like, but it’s just not clicking with me for some reason.

  • Asral

    I quite like the embedded tracks, they show a lot of promise although the production really is obnoxiously loud.

    Don’t know how I would feel about a full album with this production, but it might be worth investigating at least.

  • Same with everyone else – love the songwriting, but the production kinda gives me a headache. A pity. Definitely a band to watch though…

  • Drew Music

    You people and vinyl are ruining music for me, I swear I notice production over anything else now and it certainly impacts many an otherwise killer album.
    Give me back my ignorance, damn you!

    • You wot m8?

      It is odd how obvious the various levels of fucked production become once someone points it out. Kinda like misheard lyrics you can’t unhear, or trick photography.

      • Drew Music

        Oh man, tell me about it with the misheard lyrics.
        Off the top of my head:
        KsE – Hope Is… : The chorus sounds like he’s addressing the great people of the Hopi tribe.
        Meshuggah – I Am Collossus: “Infallible dictator” as “Infallible potato”
        Mudvayne – Dig: Every use of ‘dig’ heard as ‘dick’
        That’s all I can think of right away, but damaged hearing and brain cells have lead to so many more, sometimes it breaks my tiny little heart to learn the real lyrics. Ulcerate, my God… if they only knew the ridiculous things my mind turns their apocalyptic prose into.

        • [not a Dr]

          “Dead by dawn”: “Des patates” (french for “some potatoes”).
          WOAHHHHH!!!!!!!! DES PATATES!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Grymm

          In Flames, “Crawl Through Knives”.

          Actual lyrics: “It’s in my hands, the sky…”

          What it sounds like he’s saying: “It’s in my ass, this guy…”

          • Drew Music

            I have also always heard that bit as such, that is hilarious but probably not the greatest factoid for ole IF.
            The greatest moment is around 1:28 when he just shrieks it. So many years of hearing it, I cannot be convinced that he is saying anything other than “It’s in my AAAAAASSSSS!!!!” and in apparent duress to boot(y.)

  • Wilhelm

    They need to remix and properly (un)master this thing. The music sounds great, but woah does this sound like shit.

    • Jan Trębacz

      Fully agree. Great music, totally shit sound.

  • Paul VH

    This is called “The Wet Blanket On The Monitors” mix.
    Too bad….