The Malkuth Grimoire
It’s getting ridiculous how large the list of “super groups” has become. Any time a decent musician leaves his or her main group, the next band seems to automatically get the tag, so it’s fair to be suspicious of claims of the status. Well, when your band is made up of current and former members of Obscura, Spawn of Possession, Necrophagist, and Aborted, any self-respecting fan of metal is sure to be interested. With all that pedigree, you’d assume that the resulting super group would bring all sorts of fast-paced brutality, right?
Well, that’s arguably the best part of Alkaloid: they subvert your expectations in the best way possible. Sure, there are some all-out bangers; “Alter Magnitudes” is the type of melodic and riff-based tech death you’d expect from its members, in a catchy and succinct tune. Sections of the four-part “Dyson Sphere” are insanely technical. However, take a listen to album stand-out “From A Hadron Machinist” to grasp part of what makes Alkaloid so impressive. It starts out with an ominous sci-fi atmosphere and a wonderfully dextrous lead played over blazingly fast blast beats, up until the point when it doesn’t. The track is much closer to Job for a Cowboy’s style of organic prog, only even more aggressively melodic. Morean has a wonderfully versatile voice, that can shift from all over the metal spectrum, but here his surprisingly effective clean vocals steal the show. Yes, if you weren’t clued in, Alkaloid is alarmingly more prog than tech. The song (and frankly most of the album) shares a kinship with Between the Buried and Me’s sense of sonic adventure, where death metal is the main and prime ingredient. Alkaloid isn’t quite as wacky or random (which works in their favor), but hearing clean melodies next to top-tier tech death is both a tad surprising and wonderful.
That’s probably the best way to describe The Malkuth Grimoire. The band plays around with sounds and atmospheres at will. “Cthulhu” sounds like a lost Morbid Angel track gone bonkers, with a foreboding aura befitting the legendary creature. The aforementioned “Alter Magnitudes” sounds like a potent blend of all of the members’ past bands melded into one track. “Orgonism” is a gorgeous prog rock epic that wouldn’t be out of place on a record put out by Kscope. Then, closer “Funeral for a Continent” somehow seems to tie everything together.
What’s most impressive about Alkaloid is how united The Malkuth Grimoire sounds. This is clearly made from the perspective of talented musicians who made what they wanted, not what fans expected. Despite the moments that are gleefully technical, Alkaloid has created a truly progressive style of modern death metal that feels lasting. It may disappoint those looking for impossibly fast music, but Alkaloid has released one of the best progressive death metal albums in recent memory. I think that’s more than good enough, eh?