Interview with Malleus guitarist The Hammer | By Hutch

Boston’s Malleus self-released a tape in 2016. Blood Harvest resurrected the seven ornery tracks and committed the vile violation to tape, CD, digital, and, of course, vinyl on Oct. 25. Their guitarist, known professionally as The Hammer, acknowledges the excitement of finally re-releasing Storm of Witchcraft. “Blood Harvest has been great,” he says. “We were actually pretty familiar with [label owner] Rodrigo [Alfaro] from his punk label, Putrid Filth Conspiracy, in the early 2000s. So, when we made the connection that he was behind Blood Harvest as well, we were pretty psyched. [We] feel like he knows where we’re coming from as far as our background and inspiration goes.”

The Malleus guitarist reminisces about the origin of the mysterious Boston trio, recalling, “At that time, everyone we knew in the Boston punk scene was obsessed with Discharge and really raw D-beat. So, all these uninspiring Dis-clone bands started popping up everywhere, which only fueled our discontent with the current state of punk. I was absolutely obsessed with the [1983] Satanic Rites tape [by Hellhammer], and Discharge as well, and decided that instead of just doing another boring D-beat band, I’d take my obsessions in a different direction.”

That obsession spawned Storm of Witchcraft. “We spent a few years writing, really poring over every little detail of the songs and trying to make the best possible demo we could,” The Hammer says. His reluctance to spew retreads of worn paths has resulted in a classic release. Malleus’ sound embraces Discharge’s legacy of low-tuned sonic exuberance with crushing riffs that summon Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Bathory. The Hammer takes pride in this release. “A lot of time and effort went into making Storm of Witchcraft what it is,” he says.

The sound is brutal, low and gritty, but mixed and mastered well. Clear, clamorous, and—well, not shitty. While many D-beat or black metal bands think crappy production is a hallmark, it’s antithetical thinking. Be gnarly, be subversive, but still sound good. The production here is thorough, elevating each component while keeping the music raw and crusty.

Hammer reports, “We recorded with Chris Corry of Magic Circle at his practice space, and we had our friend Ryan [Abbott at Side Two Studios] do the final mixing and mastering. The whole thing took two days to record. We did the music on one day, vocals on the next. C.C. was recommended to us by a mutual friend, and although we didn’t know him personally at the time, we were familiar with him through growing up in the same circle of the local punk scene. We did know that C.C. was obsessed with being able to emulate tone and capturing the same sound of bands from the past, so we thought he’d be able to nail early Hellhammer / [Celtic] Frost, and we think he did with Storm of Witchcraft. We wanted to avoid a lo-fi sounding demo at all costs, but still come out with something that was abrasive, raw, and energetic. The music itself is super riff-driven, and we try to vary the tempo as much as we can, and all that would be completely lost if we decided to record this with one mic and a four-track.”

The opener, “Winds of Wrath / Ire,” aurally depicts a chilling wind, gathering intensity and leading to a panning of eerie sounds. This two-minute seduction is quickly interrupted by the crashing of a grinding riff, punching and punching. The final minute of the “Ire” portion is a flogging mid-paced riff that pounds away. “Blackened Skies” begins, recalling an epic, but quickly charges forward with purpose. A twisting, belligerent riff in the middle—for the chorus—is malevolent and bold.

While many have emulated the aforementioned forefathers of black metal, Malleus have remarkable accuracy in combining homage and originality. In a genre where most ideas are simply reworked executions of the masters, Malleus take the Discharge model and apply it to the Satanic ferocity of Bathory and Hellhammer. Even diehards grow weary of citing Tom G. Warrior and Quorthon’s early work, pining to infuse a wider reference spectrum, but these just fit so perfectly. The music is invigorating in two ways: the pure spirit of the music, but also the refreshing aspect of new takes on this style.

The Hammer advises that when looking to forefathers, one must be sure to inject their own fluid into the mix—and do it well. “Just keep the focus of the band very specific rather than drawing from all these various subgenres and convoluting the sound and direction of the group,” he says. “Nowadays, it’s so easy for anyone with a computer to record their own demo and everyone needs instant gratification, so instead of taking their time to create something worthwhile, they rush into making a demo and posting it on the internet. Then, they complain when it gets passed over and people move on to the next shitty demo. A lot of time and effort went into making Storm of Witchcraft what it is.”

Besides the redundant riffs of D-beat clones, The Hammer also complains of uninspired metal lyrics in vapid party anthems, stating, “I would hope that Storm of Witchcraft—and anything else Malleus does—evokes more emotion or provokes deeper thought than just wanting to party or get fucked up. If people can listen to our music and gain some sort of enjoyment or satisfaction from it, that’s great. But for us, metal has always been more than the soundtrack to heavy drinking. As far as Storm of Witchcraft goes, it’s obvious that we take direct cues from the likes of Quorthon and Tom Warrior for our sound, but in the early ‘80s, bands basically had Overkill [by Motörhead], Lightning to the Nations [by Diamond Head], and Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing [by Discharge], and look what they came up with, so what can we do with those records? And that’s always been our approach.”

The Hammer reports Malleus’ plans to finally spread their unholy gospel. They embarked on their first tour of the West Coast in September with Witchtrap from Colombia, whose 2015 release, Trap the Witch, is equally carnivorous. They joined Hirax, Xoth, and Witchaven for Seattle’s stacked Famine Fest on Sept. 22. Most recently, they supported Merciless from Sweden at their only East Coast show—in Brooklyn on Oct. 20—with Antichrist Siege Machine. The Hammer continues, “Feb. 16, we will be supporting Morbosidad and Blaspherian in Baltimore.” Other shows aren’t booked yet, but Malleus are ready to mesmerize when they are. “We’re going to continue to play anywhere people will have us,” The Hammer assures. “Hoping to get in the studio again by this fall [or] winter to record a couple tracks for a 7”.” 

On Storm of Witchcraft, the back to back tracks, “Demonology I” and “Demonology II,” combine to last over nine minutes. Part one drags through its parts in a true Celtic Frost atmospheric sludge. Slow and ringing guitars set the pace; the thunderous rhythm section dutifully obliges within a few minutes. Listeners are then treated to a stomping bridge with a solid groove. Part two again delves into a long strain of feedback before a speed-fueled riff propelled by unrelenting drums. “The Wolf” follows the same pattern for its three minutes, while “Act of Faith” is a slower, heavier jam. The Celtic Frost vibe resurfaces, that same tone and distinguished guitar sound Corry extracted to emulate Tom G. Warrior. The low-end and bass drums weigh in, boasting a sinister gravity on the track. The imagery and lyrics all tie in with wolves and demons and faith.

Snarling all this demonic terminology, Malleus have a platform to share their views. The Hammer is concise and candid. Again, he eschews clichés and token references for an opportunity to expose his deeper beliefs. “True evil doesn’t actually exist,” he says. “All people are slaves to their needs and desires and only act in a way to satisfy them, even ‘good’ people. Altruistic people are motivated by innate feelings of empathy, in which they feel pain when others suffer and feel good when others feel good. In the end, everyone is motivated by internal selfish desires. If ‘evil’ was only used to describe actions that cause more harm than good, I could get behind it, but too often, ‘evil’ is just a word used to describe others whose actions conflict with one’s own.”

“That being said, many groups such as Christians truly believe in evil, so the word can be useful if you’re trying to antagonize them.”

Purchase Storm of Witchcraft here

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