Malison – Death’s Embrace Review

Upon the wings of angels doest righteous triumph ride. Divine melodies invigorate thy soul and empower thy heart, for a battle of ages fast approaches. Valiant warriors charge in the name of thine kingdom. Courageous acts of valor abound. For millennia battle rages on, but at last the dust finally settles. Victorious, countless warriors enjoy the warmth of Death’s Embrace, those angelic wings granting sweet ascension to the fallen and the exhausted. Yet, one soldier remains steadfast in his resolve, still hungry for battle and glory. That soldier, emboldened by the rush of wictory and wengeance, goes by Malison.

All fantasies aside, Malison—a young band in a growing line of thrash-oriented power metal acts—arises from San Diego, California in a valiant attempt to revitalize a genre riddled with mediocrity. For their sophomore effort Death’s Embrace, the quartet delivers speedy power slashes forged in the fires of heavy metal and tempered in a brief soak of thrash metal. No synths. No choirs. No autotune. Just metal and mettle. Across the board, performances explore the gamut of the classic heavy metal spectrum, only offering tiny snippets of more extreme fare in the form of a brief blast beat or two. These cats clearly revere the days of olde, but wish to bring new life to their ancestral roots. By splicing branches from more modern trends into their traditionally aligned metal, they successfully create something that blooms fresh without appearing too alien for the purist.

“Reborn” opens the album in fine fashion, blasting out of the gate with thrashy riffs and triumphant heavy/power leads. A catchy chorus and a tight runtime solidify my interest in the track and, in turn, the rest of the record. Those who like their metal to be fast and ferocious enjoy momentous tonnage for the next three songs, with touches of progressive flair (reference the time signature shenanigans on “M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction)”) to pique the intelligentsia of the metalverse as well. The drumming in particular across the board enhances the material, with plenty of tempo switch-ups and tasty cymbal play stimulating synapses left and right. Additionally, Death’s Embrace offers an immense array of styles integrated in subtle ways—”Death’s Embrace” feels like a modern interpretation of a trve blve classic heavy metal track, and “Lifehunt” goes full thrash as Malison goes so far as to adopt more traditional thrash vocal approaches as well, while “Oblivion” touches on the lighter side of melodic death metal on the instrumental front—without ever abandoning their distinct identity. The production sounds pretty solid as well, compressed and slick but nevertheless satisfyingly chunky and lively.

While I have very little to criticize about the instrumental performances on Death’s Embrace, I do feel like the vocals need some work. Vocalist Steven Rondina has a truly unique tone and style, with a deceivingly wide range available to him and a thick layer of grit over the top. However, there are many instances across the runtime where he sounds strained reaching for his highest pitches. He only misses the intended note one time (on “M.A.D.”) but based on what I’ve heard so far, I fear that without tweaking his technique he risks hurting himself sooner rather than later. Furthermore, there are certain songs, like “Corrosion” and “Absent Earth,” which lack the same enthusiasm or creativity present in the rest of the album. Coming in right at the end of the album, these two songs kill the momentum on the spot, creating substantial drag in the face of the admittedly enjoyable closing track and tarnishing my desire to spin the album again.

Power metal and heavy metal both desperately need transfusions of the kind of energy and verve of which Malison clearly possess a surplus. Despite my sharing (and often oversharing) nature, my advice to them is to hoard that mana which invigorates their material thus far and seek out greater caches of the same as they continue to develop as a band. Their application of thrash into a heavy/power foundation effectively sets them apart, which, if taken full advantage of, should greatly aid them in gaining greater traction from here on out. If the band takes the time to massage those vocals a bit and bring their A-game to each and every song they craft, Malison will rapidly evolve into a reckoning force. Until then, rest assured that Death’s Embrace is worth your time—and perhaps even your money—despite the unlikelihood that it earns a spot on anybody’s year end lineup.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192 kb/s mp3
Label: Metal Assault Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 3rd, 2021

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