Who are Malacoda? Well, the Canadian quintet have been together since 2015 and they've released one self-titled album along with an EP just last year. This of course, is a review for that EP. You can grab it on Bandcamp right now and it's definitely worth it if you like Gothic, doom and power metal. The band is composed of current and former members of Annihilator, Phear, Echoterra, Pyramaze, Structure Of Inhumanity and Universal Mind Project, but it doesn't have a very strong budget yet and needs some level of promotion in order to possibly get further in the game. That being said, this blog probably won't be much help. (Chuckles) In any case, we first have to wager as to whether or not Malacoda are actually worth being a big name act in their own right and in my book, I was quite surprised by what I thought was going to be some kind of generic metal album. I'm already aware that if you'll look at the Metal Archives review for the record, you'll find that the score is relatively low at 60%. But judging by the inexperienced nature of the writer, I wouldn't trust it. Seriously, looking at that load of proverbial chicken scratch tells me that he doesn't have the faintest idea as to what in the hell he's talking about.
So let's get down to brass tacks – Malacoda are an act worth watching. Not only do I hear resemblances to Candlemass, Ihsahn and even Nevermore within the powerful clean vocal structures of frontman/guitarist Lucas Di Mascio, but I'm also noticing superb keyboard atmospheres from Jonah Weingarten which really add to the whole gothic nature of the piece. Adding to that, we have some pretty killer solo work as Mascio and secondary axeman Brad Casarin prove that they can recreate the same incredible effects with their guitars that Weingarten is creating with his keys.
Malacoda aren't just a band that excell mainly in their dark and gloomy keyboard atmospheres, as they also hit strong choruses (there are no ten minute epics here, so it's mainly verse/chorus) in nearly every track that will actually get stuck in your head if you give them enough time. It feels a bit rock sometimes (I Got A Letter) but that's a large part of classic/heavy/power metal anyway, so you can't blame them for wanting to make catchy songs out of this. I do think they should branch out a little more, maybe offer some longer pieces in which the guitars and keys can have a free-for-all, but I'm definitely not unhappy with this. Di Mascio still needs a little work in his clean lines, but don't we all. I definitely can't pull off those highs in “Pandemonium” without sounding like I've grown breasts. I'd definitely have to compare them to Ihsahn's clean lines as well, which is what I was most reminded of when they came into place. This EP feels like an experiment, with every song offering something new from the band. It seems that they want to show what they're capable of and sort of find a middle ground for all of it. I'm guessing the first record was a bit of a mess because there were a million ideas utilized on it, only few of which will be further carried on. When we continue listening, we find that “The Wild Hunt” actually comes across as one of the band's strongest by far, pulling off a familiar sound and style that fans of darker power metal acts will catch right away. The only real piece I could do without is “Linger Here” which is mostly a little piano ballad that never catches on due to it's unexpectedly short length. I guess I was expecting a “November Rain” moment with this, where the guitars are finally turned on and we manage to get a brilliant solo out of it. Even BabyMetal did that with “No Rain, No Rainbow” which still surprises me to this day. I have never really cared for piano based ballads in this fashion and this one didn't win me over either. Fortunately, the record ends with a heavy-hitter called “There Will Always Be One” which is appreciated, as the prior cut nearly put me to sleep. Not only does the piece contain it's share of awfully creepy keyboards, but it features as strong of a chorus number as that of opener “Penny Dreadful” and “The Wild Hunt.” We also get several infusions of guitar, like we wanted from the very beginning.
I think Malacoda know what to do, they're just not exactly doing it. What I'd like to hear from a future release is much longer songs with more guitar influence, less of the teary piano ballads and without question, an album worthy of the title of gothic power metal. There's so much promise in Ritualis Aeterna that labels should be taking note, and I'm sure they are. I really just hope that the band are able to evolve naturally and don't end up getting thrown into the core and djent trends, of which I'm proud to say that I'm not hearing one bit of throughout the entirety of this release. Thank the metal gods for small favors. As I said, you can pick this one up on Bandcamp and you should, especially if you're interested in a couple of catchy dark tunes that have me hopeful for the future of this genre. You see, gothic power metal is not all that prolific within the heavy metal spectrum, nor should it be. I like to see that bands like Malacoda are trying new things within what has seemed to hit a sort of a slump as far as the power metal genre is concerned. Many of the bands are putting out good albums, but no one is really putting out anything all that unique. At least these Canadians are trying, and that's saying something.
(6 Tracks, 24:00)