With beatdown hardcore becoming a trend, many practitioners have tried various methods of standing out from the pack. Some, like Paleface, go the nu metal raught. Others, like Enemy Mind, double down on a death metal quotient. But UK upstarts Malevolence have always had a trick up their sleeve: sludgy, groovy Southern metal. In between the mosh-ready chug riffs, it’s hard not to hear the crushing drudgery of Down or the rip-roaring doom-rock of Baroness in the mix. Even when their riffs lean harder into the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, it’s more Lamb of God than Machine Head. This metal leaning much a prominent difference for what Malevolence have delivered on their third album Malicious Intent.
Malevolence maintain a love for their beatdown roots as heard on the short, lethal title track. These guys aren’t quite ready to leave behind the simple, intense slam riffs that so permeate the UK beatdown scene, but “Life Sentence” quickly proves how far they’ve pushed themselves this time around. While it’s possible to strip a long like this to heavy hardcore essentials, there’s simply too much going on with guitarists Josh Baines and Konan Hall for it be lumped in wit the likes of Nasty and Gassed Up. This is a mean hardcore band trying their hand at mean metal, and it works—even the barrel-chested singing from Hall.
Ironically, the melodic singing ends up dragging Malicious Intent farther toward sludgy doom and gloom, namely the morose deep cut "Higher Place." As strange as comparisons to the ballads from Mastodon or Pallbearer might seem, the unison singing, sustained guitar harmonies and soaring guitar solos speak for themselves. It's certainly a welcome contrast to the hard-grooving party metal of "On Broken Glass." To clarify, "part metal" doesn't mean a lack of chops, heft or tightness. It's just easy to imagine cracking open a beer and head banging with the crew before bashing each other's brains out to the mosh part.
Alex Taylor's screaming technique help maintain the roots of Malevolence as they flex more metal influence. His touch on a cut like "Still Waters Run Deep" hark to Jamey Jasta in Hatebreed, letting the band bring more pizazz in terms of fret-work and rhythmic synchronicity while holding true to bullet proof hardcore delivery. But still, his gruff, unfiltered delivery has enough range to adjust to the Pantera-ish swagger and battering breakdowns of "Do or Die." But in both cases, he can bring Malevolence full circle back to good-old-fashioned beatdowns with the tenacious intimidation that makes the genre so endearing.
Arguably the best examples of Malevolence successfully expanding their influence are "Above All Else" and "Salvation." The former features Matt Honeycutt of beatdown heavyweights Kublai Khan, while the latter features Matt Heafy of modern metal heroes Trivium. The former capitalizes on that extra oomph through some well-placed mosh parts. But actually shares an atmospheric intro with the latter, as Heafy's virtuosic shredding works wondrously against the low-end thud. It goes to show the technical nature of what Malevolence have achieved. It's not just about the breakdowns, as caveman-ish as they can get.
Surely, Malevolence don't apologize for what they are. It's customary for a band like this to carve out one third of "Karma" for primitive violence. What's even better is the fact these guys fill the time before said primitive violence with something other than filler. Listening to "Armageddon" simply for the bone-snapping slow down in its midsection neglects the fact the beefy chugs and grating panic chords come sandwiched in some of the best leads and choruses Malicious Intent has to offer. The powerful melodies and empowering riff-changes prove just as effective as the calls to turn pits into crime scenes.
Malevolence has proven that high-voltage heavy metal can exist within a beatdown framework—not only exist, but flourish. Malicious Intent may not be the most inventive album, or the most extreme. In many ways, the emphasis on singing and Pantera riffs should've gone full red state rock. But frankly, if this is butt-metal, then it's seldom sounded better than this. These guys are good at what they do, and if Malicious Intent gets more people into UK beatdown then it's automatically a net positive.