Depravity – Grand Malevolence Review

We all know how pivotal that second album can be. Time after time, history has made an example of the all-important sophomore sway. When an inaugural record successfully seduces the masses, all eyes immediately turn to what comes next. In 2018, Australia’s Depravity took great pleasure in repeatedly slamming my face into the wall with their brilliant debut Evil Upheaval. The fact that it did so with such aplomb in a year dominated by death metal ensured its place on my end of year list. Now, follow-up Grand Malevolence arrives with something to prove. But instead of chasing lightening in a bottle, these fuckers are looking to set a sun in your chest cavity…

In my review of their debut, I perhaps made a little too much of Depravity‘s influences. However, I maintain that Cannibal Corpse and Monstrosity‘s rotten blood prominently courses through Evil Upheaval‘s veins and the record is all the better for it. Brutal death metal combined with the familiar Floridian strain and a wave of battery ensued. Grand Malevolence is no exception, but the method is a little different. This material is heavier, more technical and often exists as an examination of death metal as a whole. Even those with a passing appreciation of the genre will identify Suffocation‘s hand, while the density of the Italian and Polish schools are present in some of the dense blasting. But what is absolutely clear is that Grand Malevolence is its own creature. And these Australians are more depraved than ever.

What Depravity do best is riff. Their capacity to transition comes a very close second. Guitarists Lynton Cessford and Jarrod Curley are clearly keen to showcase their skills and the proof lies in the breadth of their rhythms. The duo’s disdain for skeletal integrity is painfully clear on “Indulging Psychotic Thoughts” and “Invalid Majesty,” while “Hallucinations Aflame” is an essay in technical riffing and deconstructed melodies. “Castrate the Perpetrators” lashes out with self-contained tremolos and is a great example of how engaging Depravity‘s work is. But “Cantankerous Butcher” is arguably the jewel atop this visceral crown. It not only prolongs metal’s preoccupation with maniacal meat vendors, but insanely propels with an increasingly volatile immediacy.

Although Depravity‘s writing is as potent as ever, it has changed tact. Where Evil Upheaval reveled in huge choruses, Grand Malevolence deals in minutia. Those massive hooks that littered the debut have been replaced with a multitude of tiny barbs. Repeat listens reveals memorability more in the shape of riff-samples and bridges. Unfortunately, this illustrates some issues. At first blush, I felt Grand Malevolence sacrificed variety for brutality, but that isn’t the case. There is a prominent Eastern theme in some of the leads, especially on “Epitome of Extinction’s” chorus, while closer “Ghosts in the Void” is a taught and dramatic finale. Instead, the album’s problem lies in pacing. Grand Malevolence has a tendency to corral the songs that actively alternate tempo. As a result the album feels overlong and less distinct than its predecessor. These are minor grievances, and it’s difficult to complain when cuts like “The Coming of the Hammering” are busy choking back my words with sheer heft.

Evil Upheaval was one of my favorite death metal albums of recent years. Grand Malevolence is certainly no disappointment, but it must be held to a higher standard. But make no mistake, Depravity have, once again, grafted and gored their way to the upper echelons of another year defined by their genre. Whether burning along with Jamie Kay’s vocal furnace or falling victim to Louis Rando’s drum battery, there’s a lot to enjoy here. This is death metal with a mind bent on violence and employed by a band who insistently seek to improve and evolve. A philosophy that defies criticism. When you’re busy forging a festive Yule with carols aplenty, cast an eye to calamity and include these psalms of thunder in your chorus. You won’t regret it. But your nervous system might.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: December 4th, 2020

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