Malformity – Monumental Ruin Review

Malformity have been lurking around the American death metal scene since 1991, dropping their first demo in 95. It took them until now however to finally get their debut full-length out of the dark and into the light. Generally such a low wattage release schedule speaks to a band’s overall quality and a 30 year inability to produce is a big fat red flag. Though the band’s been prodigiously unproductive up until now, I noticed Glenn Sykes of General Surgery and Regurgitate fame was on board, so I took a risky flyer and grabbed the promo. What Malformity delivers on Monumental Ruin is almost an hour of old school death mixing elements of doom and grind into the stew for variety. With influences from genre greats like Carcass and Morbid Angel apparent in the writing, this should go down like whiskey aged for decades. Or did something else get in the barrel?

After the obligatory creepy ass intro, the death train gets rolling with “Perverse Apotheosis.” It’s an aggressive, ugly beast with a strong grind element and at times it reeks of CarcassSymphonies of Sickness salad days. Dueling death vocals only enhance that impression and they work excellently, trying to out gruesome each other for our entertainment and betterment. The problem is, it’s a great 3-minute death ditty stretched to five minutes, and by the end I’m the one feeling expired. This is a problem that infects a goodly portion of what follows as well. “Facemelt Bloodgrinder” is a Cannibal Corpse song title that ran away from home, and it starts off as a vicious, blasting monster that grabs your attention and takes your lunch money. It too runs way too long though, crossing the 6-minute Rubicon without looking back. This seriously maims the impact and there’s a point around the 4 minute mark where it should clearly end but refuses to do so. It doesn’t help that what comes after that point feels less interesting and compelling.

The band gets full credit for shifting tempos regularly. “Into Ruin” is a slow, grinding doom piece with disgusting, slithering riffs Morbid Angel should have written in 1988. There are parts of the song that really work for me and the doomy, sludgy approach is a nice shift, but by the song’s end nearly 6 minutes later the overall impression is a shrug and a realization it’s too damn long for its own good. “Monument to Decay” ropes in some stoner doom ideas before dumping them quickly in favor of a rudimentary old school death rumble, and the missteps keep coming as song after song either fails to leave an impression or starts strong and peters out over protracted runtimes. Despite the band’s efforts to keep things fresh with frequent tempo shifts, things all too often feel stale and uninspired. At around 48 minutes (58 with bonus tracks), Monumental Ruin feels twice as long because the songs tend to drag, making it a slog to endure from start to finish. There’s probably a rock solid 25 minute album in here, but as it stands it’s not an easy or engaging listen.

There’s no doubt the band features talented players. Glenn Sykes and Dan Ratanasit can play the hell out of their guitars and they fashion some pretty ripping riffs drawn from several genres. Sadly, they also fall back on a goodly amount of chugs and basics riff-work too. Both Ratanasit and bassist Eric Snodgrass handle vocals and both are good at the grunt and gurgle game. The vocals are the best element here by far and I wish the band managed more consistently engaging songs to layer them over like grave gravy.

Monumental Ruin is a frustrating album because there’s enough the band does right to make you root for them and want to like the material. There’s also enough done wrong to make that task challenging. The potential you hear is not realized and it’s a shame. This isn’t a terrible death metal album, but it’s often dull and by-the-numbers with far too many songs falling flat when they should flatten the listener. I suppose this explains Malformity‘s 30 year odyssey to get material released. Unessential and only for the most hardcore of death metal completists out there. Better luck in 2050.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Unspeakable Axe
Websites: malformity.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/malformity
Releases Worldwide: April 19th, 2021

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