Malakhim – Theion Review

Black metal is my mac ‘n’ cheese. It’s something I can consume at pretty much any time. First thing in the morning? Delicious! A quick lunch at work? Get that puppy in the microwave! When I’m hungry and don’t know what to have for dinner? There’s always mac ‘n’ cheese! Best of all? It goes with pretty much anything. Even ice cream. Trust me on this. The downside is that I don’t remember most of my mac meals; one has to be pretty special to stand out. 2021 has brought me my first go-to meal, courtesy of Theion, the debut album of Malakhim, a Swedish black metal quintet formed in 2017. Their earlier demo and EP were enough to convince me that this could be a tasty treat. Surprise! It’s mac ‘n’ cheese! But is it the instant stuff, or the 5 star gourmet dish with chili and bacon and peppers and…

When we look at the ingredients, we see a tasty mix of black metal, with an emphasis on melody. While there is clear inspiration from early Swedish bands like Marduk, Theion falls on the more melodic, better produced side of things. Think of compatriots Wormwood being the macaroni, with the pagan and satanic elements of Nazghor forming the cheese. Add just a tiny dollop of the black ‘n’ roll of Tribulation and some garnishings of blackened death metal, and you begin to get the idea. Those are a lot of name drops, and should give you the idea that Malakhim are heavily – perhaps overly – indebted to a multitude of predecessors. Theion, in other words, is not an original dish.

The album is strongest when the band fully embraces its melodic side. These melodies shine when songs are slowed down to allow them space to breathe, and the results are potent and compelling. “His Voiceless Whisper,” and “Slither O Serpent” both benefit from a strong, catchy base, upon which the band creates twisting, slimy riffs that drive the songs along in entertaining fashion. On “The Splendour of Stillborn Stars” (what a great title!) the rapid tremolo lends an air of malevolent majesty to what is already a thunderous track. Crucially, this isn’t atmoblack: Theion brings the riffs. From the crunch of “There is a Beacon”1 to the final twangs of “Theion,” Malakhim pack in more than enough killer chords to keep those neck muscles flexing. The songs are disciplined, never outstaying their welcome, or burning through their goodwill, which enhances the impact of the record. The top production is a huge bonus, ensuring the melodies aren’t buried in reverb, and lending heft to E’s vocals and punch to AN and AK’s guitars.

On the downside, the lack of any truly original ideas is nosebleedingly apparent. There is a line between homage and aping, and Theion too frequently falls on the wrong side of it, with an aesthetic lifted from any number of melodic black metal bands. There are echoes of Immortal and Skeletonwitch which become more apparent the longer you listen. Furthermore, when Malakhim strays from their general blueprint in attempts to be faster and more brutal, the results are more miss than hit. “Hammer of Satan” is too monotonous, and gets lost without the firm melody of the first half of the album to anchor it down. The band clearly realized this and threw in an ill-advised death metal breakdown at the end to push the song over the line. It comes across as forced and unnecessary. The band is still nailing down its sound, but distracting elements like these do occasionally stick out.

Theion is, nevertheless, a darkly good time. When Malakhim plays to its strengths (which it does for the most part), this is melodic blackened death metal of good quality. It’s fun and catchy and never outstays its welcome. It’s not original in the slightest, the songwriting is occasionally confusing, but when it embraces melody over brutality, it works. If you’re tired of the same names cropping up on end-of-year lists, and looking for a quick hit to sate those stomach pangs, this is a rock-solid plate of mac ‘n’ cheese. Let’s be honest: that’s never a bad idea.



Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites:  |
Releases Worldwide: January 8th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. My mind reads this as “There is a bacon.” – Steel
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