(Austin Weber reviews the new album by the German band Maladie.)
My problem with bands such as Slipknot is not merely a distaste based on personal likes and dislikes, but one rooted in the fact that their music has never seemed to sound like the collective efforts of their many members. It seems limited and small, compared to what might actually be possible had a band with that many members truly tried to include and incorporate each player’s talents in a way that added richly to the band’s sound.
While they are worlds away from Slipknot, I think this is part of the reason why I love the German metal super-group Maladie. They truly make full use of each of their nine members, to create an ensemble effort that defies the norm in search of a highly progressive musical path that never loses its venomously monstrous aggressive edge in the pursuit of this enlightening and forward-thinking aim.
For those unfamiliar with the band (and missed my write-up last year of their debut album, Plague Within), they fall within the paradigm of avant/progressive black metal, though that tag is a bit outdated as a description of the band now, as they went through several lineup shifts that saw them add several new people, including a saxophone player who provides the record with numerous memorable solos; a new bass player; a new drummer; and a third guitarist.
As for their current sound, it’s a bit different since they now have two guitarists whose other bands dwell in the realms of technical death metal. As a result, the music on …Still… sees Maladie infusing their multi-faceted black metal core with a fair bit of tech-death, largely in ways reminiscent of bands such as The Faceless and Anata. This is an interesting twist on the current trend of technical death metal bands embellishing their music with elements of black metal for more variety. Here, it’s complex black metal with technical death metal influences woven in, and the result is both brilliant and fresh-sounding.
There are many recurring melodies and motifs that thread all of it together, primarily on the two longest tracks of the album, which together make up close to half of its runtime — the 18-minute “Inexistentia” and the 15-minute behemoth that is “Semivivus”. While the piano playing of band member and singer (growls and screams are present, do not worry) Déhà was definitely a big part of why I enjoyed their first record, here he is an even bigger part of what makes …Still… such an emotionally charged and resonant record. His piano melodies mimic the guitar lines on “Inexistentia” in perfect fashion, offering a haunting musical motif that speaks to listeners far below the surface level, in a way that few metal records do.
And lest you think the piano is integrated solely to build up the music in epic fashion, it appears in several places as a way to actually amp the aggressiveness of their music, as on tracks such as “Asperitas” and “Discrepantia”.
Very rarely, I have received an early reviewer’s promo in which the entire album or EP is formatted as a single undivided file, and often that is a detriment to my ability to deconstruct the record at hand. While this is the format in which I initially received a copy of …Still…, I think it works in their favor due to the many shifts in mood, tempo, and style that the album contains, which equate to a mind-boggling contrast that is best represented in one singular start-to-finish piece. Taken as a whole, as I was required to hear it, it truly comes across as one stunning, flowing piece of music, one that is truly a journey and an exploration of many ideas and concepts, all knitted together with care and love to create something truly memorable and important.
As in any album, there are parts and songs that are my utmost favorites among all the mind-numbing brilliance that …Still… consists of. But when you consider how Maladie construct their songs to slither and shift frequently, and also to drop out into orchestral, saxophone, or lengthy, inspired piano melodies, I think it works in their favor to try to intake all of it at once. …Still… is truly amazing; it makes my mind weep with longing and misery, yet also inspires it with a burning light and furious passion, as well as a ravenous anger, and it all comes together in a highly progressive manner that forms a unity from its duality.
In crafting a sound that encompasses a cascading arrangement of lighter and darker emotions, it serves to fully portray life and reality as it is, and for that …Still… is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It’s a gut-wrenching experience of sheer visceral truth and trembling that really touches the soul in a way that’s stunning. It cuts deep, and yet its triumphant moments soar infinitely high, aloft and forever abounding in a sense of wonder at the possibilities of will floating within darkness and silver linings.
This is a record that pushes the threshold of modern metal’s duality-focused songwriting between light and dark, between beauty and unending bleakness. And in this balance there lies a full representation of what it is to live and experience the full gamut of emotions that cross all our paths.
Hearing a record like …Still…, which delivers all that, plumbs emotional depths in a powerful way, its split focus between heart-wrenching melancholy and ravenous hate ringing true, with a painful authenticity in its delivery. …Still… is a stunning achievement, the heights of which even I, already a fan of Maladie, could not have predicted. Yet it’s exactly the kind of record which shows that further progress and experimentation are not only alive and well in metal, but pushing things forward in a truly interesting way.
Maladie’s …Still… is out today through Apostasy Records. Buy it!