When you take two names like Hannes Grossmann (ex-Obscura) and Christian Muenzner (ex-Obscura/Necrophagist) and put them in a band together, great things are expected. More than that, specific great things are expected: unrelenting technicality, brutality and an overall “old school” quality. To be sure, all of these things can be found on Alkaloid‘s debut, The Malkuth Grimoire. However, the true genius of this album is its ability to transcend these expectations, and indeed all expectations, and declare with full audacity: I am my own creation.
The most surprising quality, and the one which serves the above purpose most efficiently, is how avant-garde this album is. It’s by no means a strictly avant-garde album but it contains many unexpected elements which shuffle the standard death metal formula. First off, the clean vocals are down right disturbing. Never quite taking the tone or the place in the mix one would expect, they catch the listener off guard. Whether they are the creepy opening to ‘Carbon Phrases’ or the insanely deep intonations of ‘Cthulu’, they leave you no space to predict the future of the track, let alone the album.
The second randomizing quality to this album is that it’s subtly conceptual. While it’s hard to detect a story-line as such, it definitely contains two main themes within it. The one, being the occult and magic, is less surprising. However, the second is a dedication to hard science fiction a-la Larry Niven or Frederik Pohl (two names we didn’t expect to ever see on the blog) which infuses the album with its own direction and lyrical underpinning. This influence can be found in both track names and lyrics, with the epic, four-part ‘Dyson Sphere‘ for example or the bizzare ‘C-Value Enigma’. The two themes combine to hook the listener in, making him attentive to every piece of data on this shrouded meta-plot.
Last but not least are the meat and bones of this album and that’s the deliverance of the materials described above. Beyond its avant-garde qualities and conceptual overtones, it’s simply an exceptionally well performed, progressive death album. Where other albums in the genre might forgot this part, of composition, performance and recording, it’s obvious that a lot of attention and care have been put in to make this album as accurate and pristine as possible. It’s replete with memorable riffs that do not need to resort to groove in order to hook one in, precise and dynamic drum work and a dedication to exceptionally written guitars that we might have expected from an album bearing the names we mentioned in the beginning.
All of the above coalesce into a whole that bears the quality of truly great creations and that is how fast it goes by. An album this technical and laden with complex themes, both musically and lyrically, can easily find itself dragging on. Both run-time and “ear-time” can be protracted, causing the entire busy whole to collapse. Not here; the first few listens breeze by, leaving behind an insatiable taste for more. Since the themes are hinted at rather than thrown in the listener’s face, they don’t grow tired at all with repeated listens. The Malkuth Grimoire is the proverbial event horizon, utilizing complex and varied motifs to drag one closer and closer to the singularity. What manner of beast waits for us there? Only the brilliant minds beyond it fully know, but its hinted movements are captivating and beautiful.
Alkaloid’s The Malkuth Grimoire gets…