A little of Erik Rutan's HATE ETERNAL brutality must have rubbed off on the members of THROUGH THE EYES OF THE DEAD during the band's time spent at Mana Studios recording "Malice", an album that leaves 2005's "Bloodlust" in the dust. "Malice" is elephantine in its modern death metal power. It is amazing what a big boost in the songwriting department, together with a healthy respect for the death metal rudiments and a new vocalist in Nate Johnson (ex-PREMONITIONS OF WAR) did for the group.
I struggled with the review of "Bloodlust", mainly because of that pesky "something's missing" bug. The pieces were there, but did not seem to be assembled for maximum impact. Then again, my opinion of the album, one I found to be better than average, yet lacking that certain something, did not appear to be with the majority. So who the hell knows?
Regardless, "Malice" is 11 chunks of bloody meat sure to tickle the taste buds of most death metal devotees. The band does a fine job of fusing blinding hatred, tunefulness, technicality, and groove. Rutan's clinically precise production/engineering/mixing job may not sit well with the old school death metal purist, but the attention to detail is part and parcel to the band's trampoline-tight delivery. It is the kind of sound that works so well for acts like BENEATH THE MASSACRE. Every lick, bass line, and drumbeat has its place, and I am not just talking about the sonic rage harnessed by Rutan. The guitar duo of Justin Longshore and Chris Anderson bust out sickening riffs and harmony parts that are just melodic enough to stick to the ribs. A general comparison point for the kind of guitar sound/style heard on "Malice" might be CANNIBAL CORPSE's last few albums; the lethal precision, the unsettling tones, the sickening crunch, etc. Finally, Johnson's guttural growl is thick and relatively decipherable, the occasional scream double-tracked or punched-in for emphasis. But most importantly, the tunes are just a hell of a lot better on this album, whether we're talking about memorable lyrics or the dark melodies.
My expectations were not particularly high for this release, but as always, the proof is in the pudding. As far as the new wave of modern American death metal goes, "Malice" is beastly.