The Malkuth Grimoire
Review by Ryan on July 25, 2015.
Timing is damn near everything. You don’t want to show up too early at the party, that’s just rude. But being late carries a lot of risks. You can call yourself “fashionably late,” though you might just as easily transcend a barrier of crass and obtrusive tardiness. You don’t know the offense until you see those pained expressions; it’s like smelling your own farts in a crowded elevator. The doors have closed. It is too late. Upon hearing about the new technical death metal project Alkaloid, I worried about such a state of affairs.
Arriving “too late” for a party is signified by the crumbs and drops that used to be food and booze. People have already settled into groups for conversation and flirting, and the duel of the music playlists is over and done with. Alkaloid is very late to the tech death party, coming more than a decade after the genre’s revival. It’s still -in the words of Curtis Mayfield- “alright to have a good time,” but Curtis isn’t playing and that dance floor is awful crowded.
And it did take some wrangling to get all those folks in the room. In the past 15 years we have moved through a rebirth of (an admittedly small market) sound, to a backlash, to attempts at reimagining, to further backlash. Now Alkaloid want to carve their own identity from this mess. I do not envy them, though with The Malkuth Grimoire they’re off to a damned fine start.
What is that identity? Comparisons to Meshuggah are inevitable, because they dominate the landscape of tech death like nobody this side of Chuck Schuldiner’s tombstone. This is unfortunate, because I see Alkaloid more along the lines of Gojira by way of Amorphis. Their solos feel finely structured and painstakingly elaborate, and one discerns regal melodies flourishing over and between the rhythmic beds, with just the proper context of baroque excess. They employ the occasional multi-tracked chorus vocal, using the absurd robot voice effect that harkens back to Cynic’s Focus. It might seem beyond cliche by now, but Alkaloid use the trick sparingly and to concise effect.
This album has many strengths and shows great promise, but it’s not quite a masterpiece. Alkaloid has many journeyman musicians, some of them presumably session players. In several passages I can perceive familiar motifs or melodies that are tweaked ever so slightly from formula.
The popular templates and the presence of so many hired guns clustered around a recognized vocalist gives the impression of a “vanity project.” Perhaps this is. I can forgive egomania when it’s done with such style and cleverness. The Malkuth Grimoire is smart, well-played, and even fun. Given the current state of tech death, such qualities are tantamount to a glorious and merciful release. I say let the after-party swing a little longer, the people who stick around make for the best conversation.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Review by Adam M on April 23, 2015.
Alkaloid is a very interesting project featuring Hans Grossman, former drummer of Obscura, amongst others. The Malkuth Grimoire is a progressive death metal album that is very thoughtful in terms of song construction and execution. There are moments of almost jazziness combined with others of very intelligent aggression.
The pacing is consistently varied in speed and tone, leading to an album where no two seconds seem the same. The songs are elaborate, but, unlike some extreme death metal albums, always maintain cohesiveness. There is music here for fans of progressive bands ranging from Cynic to Coroner to Edge of Sanity. The complexity found here is such that multiple listens will be required by the listener and this is more than welcome with the endless amount of excitement to be found around every corner. The musicianship is certainly impressive, but always there to complement the songs, rather than partake in any measures of over-indulgence. Like the best progressive music, the pieces fit into place eventually and make every moment one to savour. There are still many occasions when there are huge chops from the guitar-work like Chthulu. The only small problem with the disc is that some moments veer a little too close to Obscura’s material. However, the album seems like a beginning of an expansion away from that band’s sound into something that is different and at times even more interesting. This is saying something considering the excellence that I believe Cosmogenesis contains.
Alkaloid sufficiently pushes themselves towards realms of uniqueness around almost every turn, however. The timing of The Malkuth Grimoire is incredibly appropriate for the progressive death metal sub-genre. This is a highlight from this year’s metal crop, make sure you don’t miss it.
Rating: 9 out of 10