Feb 192011

I think of metal as an island haven in an ocean of musical dreariness. I also like real islands, in addition to metaphorical ones. You probably never would have guessed that.

Malta is an archipelago of real islands, with an incredibly rich history, located in the Mediterranean about 58 miles (93 km) south of Sicily. It’s also an independent nation. According to The Font of All Human Knowledge, it’s total land area is only about 120 square miles (316 square km), making it one of the smallest and most densely populated countries on earth (with a total population of about 410,000).

Simply because of its size, it’s one of those places, among others we’ve covered in the past, that’s probably not an ideal launching pad for a metal band. But that hasn’t stopped the two bands we’re featuring in this post: Abysmal Torment and For the Godless.

Those bands share a drummer — Max Vassallo — with whom we had the pleasure of swapping e-mails recently, and both bands also happen to play badass metal. We’ve got some news about these bands, plus some of their music, after the jump.


Abysmal Torment has an EP (Incised Wound Suicide) and two full-length albums to their credit, Epoch of Methodic Carnage (2006) and Omnicide (2009), on the Brutal Bands label. I don’t remember where I first read about Omnicide, but I bought the album in 2009 and thought it was killer stuff.

Genre-wise, it probably fits within the category of slam-oriented brutal death, but it’s not a completely tailored fit. The music is generally blisteringly paced, but loaded with time-signature changes, breakdowns, vicious grooves, and even melodic passages here and there. The band also features a dual-vocalist attack, mixing rampant roaring and gurgling gutturals.

The production on the album tunes the music in a way that pushes the big, deep grinding riffs way forward in the mix, and the superheated drumming is more in the background than is typical in modern production — except for the occasional bass-drum explosion.

Omnicide is an album of visceral, explosive, body-slamming music. It’s not for the timid, but even for someone like me, who’s got a limited appreciation for brutal death and slam, it’s pretty fucking sweet. Here’s one of my favorite songs from Omnicide, with an appropriately disgusting title:

Abysmal Torment: Colony of Maggots

Max told us that the band will be headlining three tours in Europe and Russia later this year and will definitely be releasing a new album in 2011, and he says those songs are “probably the best we have ever written.” I’m looking forward to it.

For more info about Abysmal Torment and more music to stream, their MySpace page is at this location.


Max Vassallo is also the drummer — and vocalist — for another band called For the Godless, which also includes two talented Maltese musicians named Cedric (guitars) and Ben (bass). According to Max, they’ve been playing together for quite a while and have at last reached the point where they’re happy enough with their material to begin recording a full-length album, which they hope will be ready for release later this year.

So far, what’s available for listening is a song called “Save Our Strength”, and I’m diggin’ the hell out of it. It includes elements of thrash, groove, and death metal and it’s a howling trip in a fast machine with the pedal on the floor.

Compared to Omnicide, the production on this song is much more even, and Max’s drumming shines — but so does the dynamic riffing that makes the song such a headbanger’s delight — and Max’s mid-range howl is suitably furious for this impassioned blast of modern death metal.

There’s a pro-quality video of the band performing the song that’s available on their YouTube channel.  In addition to the song being a kick in the head, it’s fun to watch Max Vassallo play some fiery drums and sing at the same time. Here it is:

This song is also featured at the band’s ReverbNation page (here). We’ll be waiting for the album release whenever it comes.

  13 Responses to “METAL FROM MALTA”

  1. I’m always impressed when a drummer does full vocal duty, even more so when the music is as good as For the Godless’, which is a great name, I see that name and think ‘oh, this is for me’.

    • Yep — great name. And I’m also really impressed when I see a drummer doing lead vocals while drumming, and doing both well. Of course, I have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, so maybe I’m too easily impressed. Who else comes to mind who does both?

      • Peter Criss and Eric Carr come to me first, of course Kiss lucked up on getting a second drummer who could sing the songs. I’ve seen broadcast performances of Phil Collins and Don Henley doing both. But the only other extreme metal example I can think of is Jeff Riddle from Crucifer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYUohTKeCpg&feature=related still though, this Max Vassallo guy is killer.

        On a side note, I saw Black Tide in ’08, my son used to love that, and their drummer played the keyboard part to Light from Above with one hand while slill drumming. It blew my mind.

        • I didn’t know about Crucifer. I thought of Chris Reifert (Autopsy and Abscess) and through a little internet poking around, found a couple more examples: Proscriptor (Absu) and Shagrath (on Dimmu Borgir’s “For All Tid” album, though I don’t know if he ever did lead vocals and drums live).

      • Others I can think of are are Dan Beehler from long standing Canadian speed metal band EXCITER, speaking of Canadian bands I think the drummer from TRIUMPH sang as well, also I believe the drummer from KREATOR throws in a song or 2 ‘riot of Violence’ being one that comes to mind. And total freak drummer / singer combo award would go to Dean Castronovo not only one of the most accomplished muso session drummer drummers also has a set of pipes that could have many power metal vocalists envious..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gomgFZsG-0

  2. Omnicide is one of my favorite albums….but I didn’t realize that it was their latest. I’m gonna have to do some Amazon visiting tonight….

    And a drummer singing (that fucking well) is…well…really, it’s just not fair.

    I also like that the drummer is so good he literally shines so bright you can’t see the rest of the band.

    • Also: slam orientated death? I’m still not sure what slam is….but I think of emmure and that association seems incorrect here.

      Wikipedia calls them deathgrind…I like that personally, though it seems like it might be a strange delineation…

      • I don’t think I can give a good definition of slam, but Emmure definitely isn’t a slam band. I think of it as a form of brutal death metal that’s mid-paced, features uber-low gutturals and pig squeals, with big, downtuned, “slamming” riffs providing a groove in the breakdowns. The band that most people seem to credit with starting the genre is Devourment from Texas. Abysmal Torment plays faster than what I think of as prototypical slam, but they’ve got a similar use of “slamming” riffs. But I hasten to add, I’m not an expert in this genre. Maybe other readers will toss in their two cents’ worth about what “slam metal” is and which bands they would recommend.

    • “I also like that the drummer is so good he literally shines so bright you can’t see the rest of the band.” Gold.

  3. These guys are awesome! They’re not only top bands, they’re also great dudes and we’ve always loved playing with them!

  4. I’m really digging both of these bands. As far as For the Godless goes, that drummer is really good. Exactly how he can keep rythmn while doing vocals is a mystery to me. Not only that, but it sounds like the guy is actually singing. By that I mean you can hear him hit distinctive notes, which differs from a lot of death metal where the vocals are brutal but mostly monotone. I might have to pick some of this stuff up.
    I like islands too. I live on one called Idaho.

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