The new year has just begun and things already look promising from a Metal standpoint. Sweden takes the Black Metal lead with MALAKHIM, a newer band whose name dually involves angels and messengers. They’ve released two EP’s and a live recording since their formation in 2016, and these have finally led up to the Jan 8 release of Theion, their first full-length album. After proving strong intent and ability with the preceding material, this new offering shows that 2021 is off to a properly sinister start.
“There is a Beacon” sets a vicious tone and shows variety coming from all points in the composition. The drums come on with a groove before shifting to a snare and kick combo that adds an interesting rhythm change to the song. The guitars play right along and create a wall of layered tremolo melodies that occasionally breaks into more intricate blackened riffs. The vocals are monstrous and energetic with a wide range of harshness, and the rugged production compliments all these sounds to create an infernal and cavernous atmosphere, as if this is all coming from the depths of a bottomless black pit.
“Merciless Angel of Pestilence” continues in this vein with lots of groove and dark arpeggiated chords. The pace changes with a slow melancholic beginning on “Slither O Serpent” that builds before raging into a tempest of blast beats and malignant riffing, and then a guitar solo carries it to epic heights. The menacing dissonance goes further on “Chalice of Ruin” with a section that breaks down into more brooding arpeggiations. The drums and guitars work in desolating synchronization on “His Voiceless Whisper” while oscillating between sections of hypnotic flow and bludgeoning force. More guitar soloing kicks off “Hammer of Satan,” and this is one song that drives its attack with some Thrash elements. “The Splendour of Stillborn Stars” is a relentless track that creates a bleak and haunting soundscape, and it also has some punchy riffs that are especially heard before going into “Theion.” This epic closer brings everything together, and fades out with the sound of clean guitars, atmospheric effects, and spectral whispers.
The song titles immediately give an impression of what it’s involved thematically, and within there are plenty of references to fire, death, destruction, and glorifying Satan as he triumphs over the Church. Songs like “Merciless Angel of Pestilence,” “Chalice of Ruin,” and “Hammer of Satan” are particularly ruthless with these topics. The fire in “There is a Beacon” likely has simultaneous meanings. “Man is but a vessel of clay to be filled by the raging adversarial fire” could be referring to our divine essence or “soul,” while internal drives toward exploration and attainment are expressed in “There stands a beacon ignited by unquenchable hunger, to explore beyond the reaches of life.” This is revisited on “His Voiceless Whisper” when describing a “shining spark to lift the veil and illuminate the path.” Songs like “The Splendour of Stillborn Stars” and “Theion” also portray death as a necessary cleanser that destroys old falsehoods and illusions so that liberation and enlightenment can ascend in their place.
“Slither O Serpent” may be referencing the Kundalini Serpent and the search for wisdom and enlightenment with “Uncoil from the abyss of the mind.” MALAKHIM’s lyrics on previous works have also focused on mysticism and occult influences as discussed in this interesting interview with Vocalist, E. The interview also elaborates on the meaning behind “theion,” and E adds that the lyrics have a general concept of “reaching a higher state through ordeal and fire.” This speaks for itself but could also reflect the general idea of acquiring gains in life by persevering through its challenges.
Whatever our future may hold after the events of last year, Theion makes it clear that Black Metal is showing no mercy in 2021. This isn’t about breaking new ground, because sometimes waging an onslaught of well-executed musicianship and songwriting is enough, and there are many memorable riffs and hidden gems to be uncovered in its mix. The lyrics match the intensity of the music while also striving for something higher. MALAKHIM has further solidified their promising discography here, and Theion is a welcome beacon of sulphureous divine fire that will light the path through this “dark winter” and the future beyond.