Replicant – Malignant Reality Review

Three years have passed since their Negative Life debut, and by the sound of it, Replicant spent not a moment of them fucking around. With a sound newly honed to scalpel precision, the New Jersey trio radiate a septic valor, the fearsome pride of the canny skid row pugilist whose sweat-slicked wounds repel as many challengers as their calloused knuckles. They dominate each bout and dedicate the win to those who taught them: Steve Hurdle and John Gallagher. Malignant Reality combines the outre dissonances of Obscura with the unsparing puissance of Reign Supreme for a record as dominant and disgusting as they come.

Malignant Reality immediately separates itself from its predecessor in sound and intent. The tonal palette is more modern and cold, rejecting the fuzzy, organic tones of Negative Life and most throwback death metal in favor of precise and piercing production. The new sound serves a new goal: collecting teeth, fresh from the floor. “Caverns of Insipid Reflection” introduces a record built on mutated pit riffs. Eighty seconds in, the first two drop in succession. Mike Gonçalves releases a tortured Hurdle howl while the guitars swing through Tomb Mold figures delivered with the nastiness of a Nails breakdown. Yet in the same song’s back half – just four minutes into the record – Replicant indulge in an unexpected melodic revelry, stopping the beatdown almost mid-strike to follow a simple, echoing guitar line.

These turnarounds aren’t common in Malignant Reality, and the record is all the better for it. Replicant’s sonic breadth does them no harm, but the band know what they’re here to do, and they do it with an expert meanness. Malignant Reality is all about groove and methods of disfiguring it. Early in “Excess Womb,” the band lay into a fast-paced, angular riff only to melt it down to a frenzied pick scrape in the manic race to the following beatdown. Late-album highlight “Chassis of Deceit” applies the band’s fury to a few choice Demilich riffs and absolutely explodes when James Applegate switches his attention from cymbals to snare. Seconds later, Gonçalves’ bass leads the band through the next twisted groove. The song stutters to a near halt under his howl before reviving a commanding riff to close. Even in the album’s sole instrumental piece, “Rabid Future,” Replicant are terse in their progressive digressions, ending with a brief but compelling sample from playwright Arthur Miller.

If there’s any complaint against Malignant Reality likely to stick, it’s that Replicant are fence sitting. Too groovy for the hook-hating dissodeath devotees, too abrasive and abstract for the slobbering slam squad. Of course, it’s not true. The band tie death metal’s kinetic, meathead id to its Stravinsky- and Schoenberg- curious superego, but their work – unlike many others – completes the knot. Bangers like “Chassis of Deceit” and “Relinquish the Self” don’t recycle tropes but bind them, directing impulses from the buzzing minds of death metal’s most philosophical ponderers to the swollen limbs of its decrepit body. Though soaked with the reek of the avant-garde, there isn’t a song on Malignant Reality that you can sit still for. Every minute twists the trio to a new position, feet firm and knuckles bared with sinewed grace.

Despite their charms, Negative Life-era Replicant were famished for identity. That album contained all the pieces of a great record—this record, really—but they were spread in a film of nasty death metal tropes in order to meet the requirements of a nasty death metal record. Now, washed of the ‘90s grease, the band set out not to make a nasty death metal record, but to make a Replicant record. Knowing now what that is, I want more.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: September 10th, 2021

« »