Malachi Album Pushes Limits

Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Malachi has sported the labels of crust, doom, and black metal, but they go far beyond any of these. The instrumentation is bass/vocals, two guitars, drums, and cello/vocals. They take their name from the Book of Malachi, a prophet from the Old Testament, which translates from Hebrew into “Messenger from God.” Their self-titled album certainly sounds vast and heavy enough to be some revelation of apocalypse from on high.

The first track, “Execution is Our Legacy,” opens with amorphous microtonal cello parts weaving in and out of clouds of formless feedback. But when the beat finally kicks in, it hits you like a knockout punch. It has the energy of crust punk but they don’t rush the tempo – this is a band that wants you waiting with baited breath, anticipating their every move, not just admiring their technical ability. Riffs melt into new variations as the vocals start to cut into your ears. 

The transition into the next track “Attended by Bloodshed,” is smooth enough that you barely notice it’s a new song.  However, they use a trick talked about more in symphonies than in metal by mirroring the opening cello riff to this track at the end of the album – developing it in different directions.

What stands out the most about this band is their ability to use classic ideas and give them a new twist. They use slow, heavy double bass grooves but mix them with tribal drumming. While they love the so-called “devil’s tri-tone” and the Phrygian mode so commonly associated with metal, they get creative enough with the harmonic rhythm and the overall tempo that at times it sounds more like harmonic minor scales with hints of the blues. At the same time, they don’t give the listener enough time to be overly analytical before ripping you apart with another pulverizing riff. Track three (“Worse than Creation”) even uses what would be, with any other band, a Ronnie James Dio-esque galloping guitar part, but again the cello is able to kick it up with soaring harmonies that take it into completely different territory. 

Malachi mostly sounds like it’s been recorded live and raw, with all the happy (and noisy) accidents that happen when a band plays several large amplifiers loudly in one room – musicians playing off of each other and turning mistakes into new ideas without the strict map of a click track or Pro Tools grid. However, it’s mixed well enough that you can hear every element perfectly even though they blend together. The occasional atmospheric drones and reversed tracks add yet another flavor to this already dense album. Diane Douglas