After their cataclysmically heavy and utterly monstrous doom/death/black hybrid demo ‘MMXIII’ took the underground by storm back in 2013, selling out almost immediately and putting the Irishmen on the radar, Malthusian rested back on their laurels, content to ride the acclaim while they continued to hone their sound. The band’s ‘Below the Hengiform’ EP is the product of that patience and reserve, another short, sharp battering of the senses that takes the band’s early work and further refines it into a denser, more depraved array of deathly atmospheres, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always extreme.
Opening track ‘The Gasless Billows’ characterizes this description, beginning with an ominously oppressive tone cultivated through obscenely distorted guitars and plodding percussive efforts of JK (previously of Altar of Plagues), before stretching the atmosphere into an utterly noxious blanket of noise. The density is only exacerbated as the band explode into an unrelenting barrage of blastbeats and down-tuned, low-end obsessed guitar work, with a dual vocal display layering rancid screams and an almost-spiritualistic droning growl over the top with terrifying results. The overall effect is one that evokes some form of post-apocalyptic, ravaged land inhabited by a cult of death-worshippers, prostrating themselves under a black sky between plumes of smog and ash; an image only reinforced through the remainder of the EP. It’s truly merciless music, devoid of any hope or redemption and sneering in its rejection of life. Inevitably the comparisons to Portal or Antedeluvian will come to mind, and while such connections are valid, Malthusian’s incorporation of funeral-doom vibes into ‘Slouching Equinox’ and moments of creeping black metal pace demonstrate the band has more than technical ability and dense production in its arsenal.
Compulsive genre labellers will find ‘Below the Hengiform’ a frustrating listen. Veering from rancid, festering death metal one moment to impossibly bleak doom the next, while traversing the most unforgiving corners of the extreme metal map on the way, the only consistent factor in Malthusian’s music is its uniformly nihilistic character. While listeners will no doubt call for a full-length upon this release Malthusian are clearly a band that favours quality over quantity, and if their approach means they continue to offer music of this caliber, the extreme underground metal is all the better for it.