Eigenstate Zero – The Malthusian Review

After a six-month hiatus from writing (and most everything else), I couldn’t resist reviewing an artist with eigen- in their name. My excitement for linear algebra drew me to Eigenstate Zero’s third record, despite my inkling that “eigenstate zero” was a nonsense phrase.1 Unsurprisingly, Eigenstate Zero is a solo prog project, and The Malthusian offers 78 indulgent minutes of off-kilter death metal from Sweden’s Christian Ludvigsson. The album is full of surface-level variety, mixing riffy goodness with keyboard melodies and copious genre experimentation. And yet, its strengths and weaknesses are exactly what you’d expect, for a 78-minute prog-death album with a sci-fi name.

The Malthusian combines hit-or-miss death metal with hit-or-miss prog tropes. The death metal foundation of Eigenstate Zero’s sound is executed with mixed success. Even The Malthusian’s shorter straightforward tracks sometimes misfire with by-the-books riffs that lack the genre’s power (“Serfs & Zealots,” “Reset”). Conversely, The Malthusian slays when it remains laser-focused on engaging its listeners. The title track’s hefty riffs could hold their own against death metal’s best, while its creative rhythms and keys lean deftly into Eigenstate Zero’s prog sensibilities. Meanwhile, groovy bass lines (“Telomeres”) and thoughtfully ballistic drums (“Mindcrime”) make the rhythm section a highlight throughout. Despite those successes, The Malthusian struggles with prog idioms. Digressions like the waltz of “Spiritdebris,” the theatrical clean vocals of “Thingfish Diaries,” and the gratuitous wind sections of “Holomind” feel like weirdness for weirdness’ sake. Echoing Serdce’s craziness without Serdce’s writing prowess, The Malthusian’s proggy bits often lose my interest.

The Malthusian’s frequent lack of cohesion makes it a jumbled listen. The album’s ambition is admirable, but it tends to long jump between disparate styles without the requisite effort to glue them together. The Malthusian’s proggy shenanigans often feel jammed between unrelated neighbors, like the cabaret melodies and keyboard detours of “Black Pages.” At their worst, these aren’t just isolated missteps; rather, tracks like “Orch Or” fall flat by cobbling together jigsaw pieces from different puzzles for their entire runtime. Still, The Malthusian’s choice cuts demonstrate songwriting excellence. Album highlight “Mindcrime” channels Alustrium with caveman riffs, proggy rhythms, an acoustic break, and soaring solos, blended together perfectly and tied up with a thoughtful bow. I wish the rest of the record had followed suit.

Now for the elephant in the room: The Malthusian is elephantine. Even the better songs could use a trim, like the fluid but beefy ten-minute title track. The back half of the record is particularly bloated, housing all but one of the album’s chunkiest pieces. As a result, The Malthusian is a tiresome listen, extending for nearly eighty minutes with only enough compelling material for half of that. Adding to the excess, the album’s crushed production makes it difficult to identify interesting melodies above the din. Exhausted by both sonic clutter and a glut of content, I struggle to distinguish or recall much of The Malthusian. Indeed, it took me multiple spins to realize that the promo materials included an extra copy of “Telomeres” in place of “Reset.” Some more restraint would go a long way for Eigenstate Zero.

While The Malthusian doesn’t have any single fatal flaw, its missteps hold it back. The album’s riffs and melodies suffer from inconsistency, especially when they veer into prog exhibitionism. On a macroscopic level, the lack of restraint in The Malthusian’s composition and production hampers the final product. The record’s apexes display a talent for melody and composition that’ll keep me hopeful for Eigenstate Zero’s next release. But despite its ambition, The Malthusian hasn’t left much impression on me. In the linear transformation of my ears, Eigenstate Zero’s newest release has eigenvalue zero.2

Rating: ​2.0/5.0
DR:​ 7 | ​Format Reviewed:​ 320 kbps mp3
Label: ​Self-Released
Releases Worldwide​: May 17th, 2024

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I’m clueless about physics so I had no idea what an “eigenstate” is, but I googled it while writing this review. It just seems like a special case of an eigenvector, when dealing with quantum states (whatever a “quantum state” is). Right? Why did they make up a different word for this??
  2. Corollary: I am a singular listener.
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